Sustainability plays a key role in the development of communities. Voluntary organisations make a vital contribution to the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of their communities, and the volunteers that work with them are at the heart of this effort. The UCL Volunteering Service helps to connect students to these voluntary organisations, with over 2000 students getting involved with one or more of our 400 partner organisations every year.
This year we have been exploring the importance of volunteering and sustainability in boroughs across London. This month we have taken a look at the Borough of Westminster. Down the road from UCL’s Bloomsbury campus and full of exciting opportunities, there are plenty of ways for volunteers to get involved!
Developing a Sustainable Westminster
Last year, Westminster Council launched their Fairer Westminster Plan, which highlighted sustainability as a key part of their vision for a more inclusive and supportive community. Their plan not only recognised the importance of environmental sustainability, setting out their goal to become a net zero council by 2030 and net zero city by 2040, but also addressed the importance of Westminster’s economic sustainability:
“Westminster’s economy is rightly seen as being successful, diverse, resilient and sustainable. Supporting these values is vital to creating a Fairer Westminster that provides benefits for all residents.”
In the year since this plan was announced, Westminster has launched the Westminster Green Investment, which gives residents the opportunity to invest in sustainable projects and green initiatives. They have also invested £35m in sustainable transport infrastructure, helping to contribute to their net zero emissions goal.
Sustainability and Volunteering in Westminster
The Fairer Westminster Plan recognises the vital role that the voluntary sector plays in the social sustainability of communities:
“Any community is only as good as the people that help build it, and we want to make sure our voluntary organisations and community groups have everything they need to thrive. It’s only by building and nurturing these strong community foundations, through engaging and listening, that a fairer, more inclusive Westminster can truly grow.”
Westminster Connects was set up by the Council at the beginning of the pandemic in order to support vulnerable people throughout this period. Westminster Connects coordinates voluntary organisations with Westminster residents, allowing over 25,000 residents to access this service since it was created, making it a vital part of the local community.
In the year since the Fairer Westminster Plan was announced, Westminster Council has also allocated vital funding to food banks and food pantries to help the community tackle the rising cost of living.
The work done by voluntary organisations throughout the Borough of Westminster contributes not only to the sustainability of the local community, but to sustainability efforts on a global scale. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlight the key issues faced globally as we move towards a more sustainable global community. Organisations in the Borough of Westminster help in the global effort to address the SDGs and work towards sustainable and strong global communities.
Community Organisations in Westminster
UCL students contribute their time to many voluntary organisations across the Borough of Westminster. Read on to learn more about some of these organisations and the opportunities available to students!
Unfold is a charitable organisation working to support vulnerable and disadvantaged families in the Borough of Westminster. Their aim is to allow families to break cycles of disadvantage and social exclusion, and to promote cohesion and wellbeing through resources and activities.
MSc Sustainable Urbanism student, Nashwa Naushad, volunteered as a mentor with Unfold, supporting a young person in the community with their needs and career aspirations. She spoke about the insights she gained through her experience:
“Volunteering exposes you to different environments and perspectives. It gives you a chance to solve problems in ways you wouldn't normally think of or be used to. Most volunteering opportunities involve working with or reporting to somebody, which is also good for your team-working skills. Also, if you're the type of person who loves to meet new people, then it is highly likely that volunteering is your cup of tea!”
The work being done by Unfold contributes to global efforts to reduce poverty and inequality outlined in SDG #1: No Poverty.
If you are interested in the work undertaken by Unfold, check out their current opportunity for a volunteer to join their Mentoring for Mums Programme.
Salusbury World is an organisation supporting newly arrived refugee and migrant families to the UK. Their goal is to help families navigate and adapt to their new environments, allowing families to rebuild their lives and achieve their personal ambitions.
Salusbury World joined UCL students in February 2021 for a Social Hackathon – a day for volunteers to come together with one of our partner organisations to tackle an issue that the organisation is facing. UCL students helped Salusbury World to improve mentoring session for refugee and asylum seekers.
Hanna Ruhsert, a postgraduate student studying Health Psychology, took part in the Social Hackathon and shared her highlight of the day:
“I was very impressed by the level of energy and enthusiasm everybody showed for the cause ... We all had some first-hand experience with different educational tools and were happy to share our insights.”
Salusbury World’s work helps to contribute to sustainability targets outlined in SDG #10: Reduced Inequalities, and particularly Target 10.2: By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all.
If you are interested in getting involved as a volunteer with Salusbury World, check out their current opportunities as a Tamil/English Interpreter, Summer Holiday Club Volunteer, or Educational Mentor.
St John’s Hospice
St John’s Hospice provides support and care for over 4500 patients experiencing long term illness every year. They support both patients and their families in North Central and North West London to meet their physical, social, emotional and welfare needs.
St John’s Hospice joined UCL student at our Social Hackathon in November 2021, to help improve their online and social media marketing strategy. Volunteers were tasked with looking into ways for the organisation to improve their online reach and engagement and improve their fundraising potential.
St John's Hospice contributes to global efforts to improve the quality and access to healthcare outlined under SDG #3: Good Health and Well-Being.
Volunteers help St John’s Hospice to provide high quality care and support, assisting in the running of their services and also with many fundraising events. If you are interested in supporting their work through volunteering, check out their current role for a Bucket Collection Volunteer.
If you are looking to get involved in some volunteering and make a difference in your local community, the Borough of Westminster is full of incredible opportunities. Volunteering is a great way to make a difference and contribute to global sustainability.