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“There is always something you can do as a volunteer and you may yet be surprised at what you are capable of.”

Whilst studying medicine at UCL, Jasmin Lee volunteered as a befriender with Age Concern. We recently spoke to her how her volunteering has influenced her career since graduating in 2009.

Where are you currently working?
I am currently training as a Histopathologist in Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. I work in the field of investigative sciences and am interested in cancer diagnostics.

What volunteering were you involved with whilst you were at UCL?
I began volunteering for Age UK (then Age Concern) in Camden as a Befriender; my role involved me visiting a delightful elderly lady for 1 to 2 hours once a week. She was housebound and often alone for long periods of the day, so my visits were a change from her routine. I was there to provide her with companionship and during our time together we could be doing anything from knitting or doing puzzles, or simply watching television and having a chat over a cup of tea.

What useful skills and experiences did you gain as a volunteer when you were at UCL?
Volunteering on a weekly basis over a few years suited me as it encouraged me to juggle my time effectively between my studies and volunteering as well as other commitments. I learned to be organised with my time and prioritise my tasks and activities. These transferable skills have remained with me throughout my medical career and shown me that I do not have to sacrifice my personal interests because of my work demands.

As a medic in training, my weekly visits were also a good way for me to improve my communication skills and confidence in interacting with someone from a different culture (I had only moved to the UK in 2002). Gaining these soft skills also enabled me to negotiate the generational gap in a sensitive way. This set me in good stead when I began working in the NHS and needed to form many different kinds of relationships with colleagues, other allied professions, patients and relatives.

Since my graduation and subsequently pursuing a non-clinical specialty, I have remained a volunteer with Age UK on an intermittent basis and my regular volunteering has largely focused on the elderly and the Befriending scheme. This cause remains close to my heart and I always enjoy my time with suitably matched service users.

What would you say to UCL students considering whether or not to volunteer?
It is a privilege to be given the trust of being invited into someone’s home and to share their lives and their stories. I am thankful for the opportunity to give my time and energy towards a simple but immensely worthy cause, and to be able to make a small but positive difference to the lives of others.

I would say to prospective or undecided volunteers, please seriously consider it. There is always something you can do as a volunteer and you may yet be surprised at what you are capable of. I would encourage you to think about the skills and talents (and time) you have, and how you can utilise these in a positive way. Indeed you may gain more out of the whole experience than you had even imagined. Importantly, please do not feel that you have to be over-ambitious in your aims, and your volunteering does not always have to lead towards a large-scale fundraising project (although it would be fantastic if it does!).

There are numerous projects out there to suit your time, temperament and interests. The wonderful thing about being in London and particularly UCL is that you have incredible access to a wide range of activities and projects, and the Volunteering Services Unit exists to support you.

Interested in volunteering? Here’s how you can get started.

Read more stories from our alumni