Sustainability plays a key role in the development of communities, and volunteering is a vital way through which social and environmental sustainability goals can be achieved. The UCL Volunteering Service helps to connect UCL students to a huge array of volunteering opportunities across London, through which students take on a hands-on role in promoting sustainable change.
We’ve been taking a look at sustainability and volunteering across London’s many boroughs, and this month we’re zooming in on the Borough of Islington. Home to a thriving voluntary sector and an array of incredible opportunities, Islington is a fantastic place to get involved in volunteering and create sustainable change.
Developing a sustainable Islington
The Borough of Islington highlights sustainable development as a key goal in their Islington Together 2030 Plan, which sets out a vision of the borough for 2030. The council’s vision is to make Islington “a place where people can live sustainable, happy and healthy lives.”
Islington highlights social sustainability as a key priority, planning to “take action to create strong and nurturing communities and cultivate a sense of security and belonging.” Additionally, Islington Council is investing in a flagship Net Zero Carbon Programme with the aim to create a net zero carbon borough by 2030. As part of this, the council have established their Greening Together programme, which will create up to 1.5 hectares of new green spaces by 2030.
Sustainability and Volunteering in Islington
Volunteering plans a huge role in contributing to the sustainability of local communities. Volunteers contribute to all areas of community life, connecting and uplifting communities to achieve sustainable outcomes.
Islington Council’s Islington Together 2030 Plan recognises the importance of volunteers’ work in promoting a strong and supportive community: “We will work with and support local voluntary and community groups and organisations. We will encourage local giving of time and resources, supporting people to help each other.”
Islington Council recognises volunteering not only as a beneficial means of connection, but also as a way to access new skills and promote economic wellbeing: “We will develop clear pathways into employment … actively promoting and creating apprenticeships and volunteering opportunities as a means of building the skills and confidence for work.”
The work being done by Islington Council to promote sustainability aligns with global sustainability efforts, such as those outlined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs highlight some of the key social and environmental goals that require global attention to promote a more sustainable global community. In actively promoting the importance of sustainable communities, the Borough of Islington and its thriving voluntary sector plan an important role in implementing these goals throughout the community.
Community Organisations in Islington
Smart Works is an organisation which supports unemployed women to prepare for job interviews. They help to provide women with the clothing, coaching, and confidence needed to succeed in interviews. Over 50% of the women that Smart Works support succeed in getting the job, making a real difference in the lives of many women across the UK.
BSc Chemistry student Rupa Budha undertook volunteering with Smart Works in an admin support role at their West London office. She had the opportunity to engage in all areas of the office, ranging from information distribution, collecting feedback data, and greeting clients first-hand. She spoke about her personal highlight of the experience with Smart Works:
“Being surrounded by supportive and friendly women was one of my favourite things about volunteering at Smart Works. The constant positivity in the office inspired me to work harder while volunteering and that positive attitude continued after work.”
The work that Smart Works undertakes helps to support SDG #8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, and in particular Target 8.5: By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.
If you would like to get involved in the work that Smart Works undertakes, you can join them as an Admin Volunteer, helping to support the charity with the vital ‘behind the scenes’ work.
Age UK Islington
Age UK Islington is an organisation supporting Islington residents over the age of 16 to manage their health and well-being. They run programs to help those in need to develop support networks and self-help approaches, with the aim of empowering residents and reducing the reliance on public funded services.
Victoria Ngai joined Age UK Islington as a volunteer with their Future Matters programme, assisting at events such as their Death Cafes. These events promote a discussion about death and end of life care planning, with the aim of facilitating difficult conversations. She spoke about the value of these conversations, especially as a medical student:
“I wanted to make the most of my preclinical years as a medical student and do something interesting in the community. I hope to see the topics of ageing and death being addressed more candidly—both inside and outside of the hospital … Hearing their stories and perspectives about death and dying has not only helped me appreciate the people around me right now, but also reminded me of what I may need to handle as a future doctor.”
The work done by Age UK Islington helps to contribute to sustainability targets outlines in SDG #3: Good Health and Well-Being. In particular, their work addresses Target 3.4: By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.
In you’re interested in getting involved as a volunteer with Age UK Islington, they have many opportunities available. Check out their roles as an Art Appreciation Volunteer, Social Media & Communications Volunteer, Wellbeing Caller, and more!
Middle Eastern Women & Society Organisation (MEWSo)
The Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation (MEWSo) is a charity that aims to support Middle Eastern, North African, and Asian women in London. Their objective is to remove barriers of discrimination, inequality, and exclusion, to provide women with safety and equal opportunities. Much of their work aims to prevent violence against women in BAME communities, to offer support to and empower women to rebuild their lives after experiencing hardship.
MEWSo was one of many charities that joined us in the Discover Volunteering: Women’s History Month panel talk in March 2023, where they shared the type of work that they undertake and spoke about the importance of charity-based support for women across London. You can watch a full recording of the panel talk here!
The work that MEWSo undertakes is also important on a global level, contributing to efforts outlined in SDG #5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Their work a supports targets such as Target 5.2: Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private sphere.
Terrence Higgins Trust (THT)
Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) is the leading HIV and sexual health charity in the UK. Their works aims to promote a better understanding of HIV and sexual ill-health, to reduce the spread of HIV and promote better sexual health across England, Wales, and Scotland.
This work contributes to the targets outlined in SDG #3: Good Health and Well-Being, and particularly Target 3.7: By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services.
If you are interested in getting involved in the work that Terrence Higgins Trust undertakes, they have plenty of different opportunities for volunteers available. If you’re interested in a flexible volunteering role that lets you volunteer in short, convenient sessions, you can sign up as a Micro-Volunteer (Community Events).
Get involved with volunteering!
If you want to get involved with volunteering, the Borough of Islington is full of incredible opportunities. Volunteering is a great way to make an impact on the community and contribute to the global sustainability efforts.