We had the pleasure of chatting with Tiantian Yu, an Economics and Policy of Energy and the Environment student, about her volunteering at North London Cares.

Tell us a little about your volunteering

I joined North London Cares at the start of the academic year. The programme goes on for over 6 months and we are required to maintain a stable relationship with one older person.

The first event I assisted with was a Halloween party organised for the elderly people in the area. It was quite a delight to see both young and old people mingle and bond over arts and crafts. I was pretty proud of the paper pumpkin I made! We even had a disc­­­o session where everyone got the chance to show off their moves.

How did you find out about the role?

A combination of browsing the website and the Welcome Fairs held regularly. It was quite easy to find a role with all the live opportunities that were on at the time.

Why did you want to become a volunteer?

Volunteering brings a great sense of satisfaction. It is nice to know that I am able to help in some way or the other to bring a difference to the people around me. This may sound funny, but I usually don’t like to wander about when it gets dark here. But if I am returning home after volunteering, I strangely feel invincible! It is almost like volunteering gives me that armour of bravery I need. I can both see and feel how my time and effort gets converted to a special evening for others. The feeling of dedicating your time for others and seeing their overjoyed faces makes you a lot more confident in yourself.

I can both see and feel how my time and effort gets converted to a special evening for others.

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

I had a few other people from UCL volunteer with me. We all share the same sentiment with how we have managed to brighten up an evening for the elderly folk we were with. For them, having a listening ear is probably all they need. So when they see young people like me and my peers engage with them voluntarily, it makes their day so much better!

What impact has volunteering had on you?

What I liked about this role was that in addition to volunteering, it was a role for me to have fun! We mainly held social events and did exciting activities together. It was a great way for me to build a deeper connection with the city and this was important for me as an international student.

It was a great way for me to build a deeper connection with the city and this was important for me as an international student.

What’s the best thing about volunteering 

Like I mentioned earlier, I was volunteering alongside other UCL students. This meant I got the chance to step out of my course and meet a lot more students. Since the volunteering took place close to the area I stayed in, I was able to meet people from the area as well. Through volunteering, I was able to create strong bonds with my peers and I even found my best friend- we even go out every week now!

And the most challenging? How did you overcome the challenges? 

My first language is not English so I would say the language barrier was a bit of struggle for me. However, the people I volunteered with and the elders were all very patient so I didn’t have to worry about it for too long.

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

The slow disco we had definitely tops the list! The energy and seeing everyone have fun made the experience a lot more memorable. I will always remember that feeling.

Would you recommend volunteering? If so, why? 

Absolutely yes! I did tell my friends to volunteer after my first session. Hearing about my experience, they decided to go ahead and I guided them at every stage when they needed help. I would highly recommend getting involved in one-off opportunities if you don’t volunteer or don’t know how to start. It is a great was to step into a low commitment role and taste that self-satisfaction volunteers tend to have.