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Even before the academic year had begun, UCL students were busy volunteering. Our welcome events proved really popular – including a Portacabin Paint Party with Calthorpe Project, a Canoe Clean Up with the Canal & River Trust, and a Taster Technology event at the Abbey Community Centre. Perhaps it was our way with an alliterative title that drew the students in…

UCL student holding canoe paddle standing next to a canal

group of 17 students standing outside a portacabin

Group of female students standing outside Abbey Community Centre

Our Volunteering Fairs were also busy, with over 3200 students attending, up 16% on last year. On top of our Big Volunteering Fair at the start of October, we ran a series of specialist events throughout Term One, covering areas such as Health, Sustainability, Museums & Heritage and Mental Health. These are always a great way for students to meet charities face-to-face and find the perfect volunteering opportunity.

Two students talking at a volunteering fair

stall holder and student talking at volunteering fair

Student-Led Volunteering Projects

Students at UCL have tonnes of ideas, lots of leadership potential, and a passion for social action – which is where our Student-Led Volunteering programme comes in. Our dedicated team help students set up and run their own community projects across London – this year these included:

Dance It – a spin off from UCL Dance Society, who run dance classes in a variety of community settings, including sessions for older members of Holborn Community Association.

People dancing

Origami Volunteering Project provide fun and engaging activities for children and young people at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCLH, teaching them a new hobby and providing a welcome distraction during their hospital visit.

Students and children doing origami

UCL Baking Project bring together UCL students and local older people around their love of baking (and their love of eating baked goods), including a session of mince pie making at Castlehaven Community Centre just before Christmas.

UCL student and older person making pastry

A lot of our Student-Led Projects work within London schools, helping to enrich the curriculum with a really diverse range of workshops. One example is Healthy Planet UCL, who work with year 5 and 6 primary school children, teaching them about environmental issues in an accessible way.

UCL student speaking to primary school child

Engineers for International Development run fun engineering activities in schools as a way of enthusing children about science and its role within the wider world.

four primary school children making a machine out of cardboard


Collaboration is at the core of what we do at the Volunteering Service. We work with around 350 volunteering organisations across London – most of these are the small charities and community organisations who make such a big difference to life in the capital.

Holborn Community Association is one of our oldest partners – we’ve worked with them since the Volunteering Service was set up 17 years ago.  This academic year, students have volunteered as befrienders, Healthy Living Volunteers, and at HCA’s after school pottery club.

children and voluntees at pottery club

Our students are active with many of London’s education charities. At Action Tutoring, students volunteers provide additional tutoring support to young people facing barriers to educational success. At Coachbright, volunteers act as personal coaches to secondary school students taking part in a 10 week programme to improve their confidence, grades and aspirations.

UCL student and young person looking at a laptop screen

At East London Connect, our volunteers act as mentors to young people from Black & Minority Ethic backgrounds, as well as taking part in talks and workshops. We’re increasingly working with east London charities like this, so we’re well prepared for the opening of UCL East in 2021.

group of sitting students laughing

The Literacy Pirates is another east London partner. They help children aged 9 – 13 who are falling behind with their reading and writing by engaging them in creative activities like publishing books, creating films or making audio projects. Back in the spring, we were pleased to learn that two former UCL student volunteers - Tommy Bower and Yoko Lohrer - are now working for the Pirates in paid roles.

Tommy Bower and Yoko Lohrer

One Housing’s support team work with vulnerable adults. For many years we’ve connected UCL students to One Housing’s befriending roles. Building on that history, three teams of UCL students collaborated on ‘The Bigger Picture’ project, working with people who’d experienced homelessness on a variety of creative projects, which culminated in an exhibition in Camden in February.

large group of students standing in front of photo  display

North London Cares aims to eradicate generational divides, loneliness and isolation within the community. That sounded like a mission UCL RUMS Women’s Football club could help out with – so they organised an inter-generational cocktail making workshop.

Students and older people talking

In Part Two of Our Year In Photos, we revisit our Social Hackathons, networking events, community research, our Volunteering Awards, and someone dressed as a giant dog…

Photos by Anoushka Gandhi, Josephine Mizen, Anais Fiault, Dione Sarantinou and Sarah Boddy