Lorraine is a second-year student pursuing her undergraduate degree in European Social and Political Studies. She is currently the Project Leader of Impact Initiative a Student-Led Project. Read on to find out how she finds the role of a leader and her experience with an SLP.

Tell us a little about your volunteering

Impact Initiative is a Student-Led Project that partnered with Hopscotch Women’s Centre to provide English lessons to female Afghan refugees. The volunteers were all women to make sure they were comfortable. There are three slots every week which volunteers can sign up to, so it is a relatively straightforward process.

Why did you want to become a volunteer?

Coming to England as an international student, I could share their frustration of not knowing the language. This helped me truly appreciate the project and be involved more personally. Initially, I was more involved with the admin side, but I thought it would be easier to connect with the role if I put myself out there and volunteered with the rest.

As someone who has volunteered before, I knew that I would receive so much from helping people. The more I volunteer, the more I want to keep volunteering. This may seem almost selfish but, a part of me wants to volunteer because it helps me!

What difference do you feel you’ve made by volunteering?

Both my volunteers and I have truly learnt to understand the importance of knowing a language. They told me that beyond caring about houses, learning the English language was a priority for them as they wanted to integrate into our community, convey what they felt and have people understand them.

What impact has volunteering had on you?

At university, we are in such a bubble. We are only exposed to people ‘like us’. There is not much opportunity to engage with different generations and hear all these amazing stories. Volunteering helps you step out and realise there is more to the world.

These interactions I have had during my time as a volunteer has changed my perspective of happiness. I realised that something was missing from my professional ambitions that were only motivated by social success. Having good grades, good internships and then a good job that's probably not the key to making me happy!

I feel like we are all much more privileged than those we are trying to help out, so don’t shut yourself off from the community. Share that time, that knowledge and that smile.

What is the most challenging part? How did you overcome the challenges? 

I would say that as Project Leader, it was initially challenging to fill up all three slots every week. However, once we got more volunteers to sign up, it became a lot easier to fill out empty slots and ensure we had enough people helping out during each shift.

Another challenge (which was expected) was the language barrier. This was made easier with the Refugee advocates that were present at each of the sessions. And I guess sharing a laugh always helps bring down our walls and get comfortable when starting with a new language!

Tell us about something memorable that’s happened to you whilst volunteering

I remember when I was teaching at one of the sessions, it was on the topic of the alphabet. Instead of saying W, I said ‘double V’, and I did not realise till someone brought it up! This led to a good laugh. We even had days where we switched roles, and the volunteers tried learning Farsi, which was hilarious for the tutees! I do have to admit, they are a lot quicker at picking up a language than I am! 😊

The last session we had also resonated with me since they kept reiterating how grateful they were for our help. It was clear that language was their first priority, so helping them inch a step closer to their goal was very fulfilling.

Would you recommend volunteering? If so, why? 

Yes definitely! I would highly recommend joining Impact Initiative if you are struggling to start. The benefits are all that I have listed above, and most importantly, volunteering helps strike a balance with university life. It's a win-win process. You learn to cope in an extra-curricular setting, you meet other inspiring people, and above all, you participate in improving, at least a little, the daily life of others.

They told me that beyond caring about houses, learning the English language was a priority for them as they wanted to integrate into our community, convey what they felt and have people to understand them.

Want to start your own Student-led Volunteering Project? Find out more and share your ideas with us here!