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Carol Paige, a UCL student and Sabbatical Officer for Democracy, Operations and Community, has been volunteering as a Soho Angel with Westminster City Council End Night Right. Read to find out how she found volunteering on nights out, what she learnt as a Soho Angel and how her volunteering complemented the academic and professional areas of her life.

Soho Angels are a team of volunteers offering support to vulnerable people in Central London on a night out, in a variety of ways. It can be quite scary and isolating for people late at night, especially when they’re drunk, so we’re the first point-of-call for people in those situations. Our duties can range from giving directions, to charging people’s phones, to helping anyone who has passed out on the pavement. Before becoming a Sabbatical Officer, I used to work at the Union bars here at UCL, so I’ve definitely had my fair share of working with drunk people and late nights! I am someone who is community-oriented, so I wanted to keep that sense of community by becoming a Soho Angel volunteer.

With Westminster City Council End the Night Right, volunteering shifts are from 10pm to 5am, for one night per month, so it’s definitely manageable. During our shifts we go around in groups as we’re not allowed to work alone, so there’s that extra level of safety and a sense of camraderie. We basically explore the area, make sure people are safe and offer help to anyone in distress or having a difficult time. We split off into teams to focus on different areas which is a great way to get to know other volunteers and meet people with similar interests to you.

Top tip for helping those who are drunk: if there’s someone slumped on pavement - lollipops are the way to go!  Another important secret weapon to help those on a night out are flip-flops. You’d be surprised how many people are grateful when we give them flip-flops (after a night of wearing heels, they’re definitely a lifesaver!). I also got to work closely with the local police authority, as there are lots of victims of pickpocketing and we help intoxicated people with identifying pickpockets. I was also taught how to offer adequate support to victims of crime, as well as working with the police to provide assistance to those who have been targets of sexual abuse. I couldn’t help but see the value in the work I was doing, knowing that I was making a difference to someone’s life.

I couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment whenever I helped someone get home safely. For me, helping people is like food for the soul.

I’ve spent a quarter of my life at UCL, from my undergraduate and postgraduate studies to now in my current role as a Sabbatical Officer. I’ve realised that the areas I’m interested in really tie-in with one another; during my my Masters degree I focused on assessing risks, hazard prevention and how it affects people; my time working at the Union bars is the more social side of what I’ve been studying by helping people in difficult situations; and being a Soho Angel has definitely given me some practical experience with thinking on my feet, prioritising needs and remaining level-headed - I’m really happy that all these experiences has shown me what I enjoy doing! Even now in my current role as a Sabbatical Officer, I hope that the work I do can ensure students enjoy their time here at UCL. 

As a Soho Angel, you meet people outside your own experiences and it’s definitely different from your typical idea of volunteering, but it was such a great opportunity for me to help others in a crisis. Being committed to volunteering is different to being committed to a job - you’re not there because you have to be, you’re there because you care.

If Carol’s story has got you inspired to volunteer, check out our volunteering directory where there are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved in. If you also want to make a positive impact on the student experience at UCL, like Carol has as a sabb officer, applications for the Union’s Leadership Race are now open!