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“Volunteering has given me a lot of insight and skills I didn’t think I would get at university”

George W X Barker is a fifth year Medical student, and the National Director for the student-led sexual health charity, Sexpression:UK (which had its first branch at UCL). They provide comprehensive relationships and sex education to young people.

I got involved with Sexpression:UK because, as it is for many young people, my relationships and sex education (RSE) was of poor quality, and it often wasn’t relevant to me. As a young, gay man, it was often difficult and it felt like the school didn’t really know how to support me. LGBT+ issues weren’t really covered in our RSE, and I wanted to make sure that young people didn’t have that experience and that they’d be able to ask questions to people who had actually been trained and were comfortable delivering RSE.

I signed up in my first year at UCL and absolutely loved it - I learned a lot very quickly, including teaching skills. What I realised very early is that it wasn’t so much about teaching the young people, as much as facilitating a discussion between them. We’re not going out there to tell young people what to think - we’re making sure they’re well informed, and that they’re able to make their own decisions.

George with his ‘Best Impact’ Award he won at the Volunteering Awards earlier this year

I enjoyed it enough that I joined the UCL Sexpression committee, taking on various roles. I still regularly went into schools and gave workshops - for me, that was the most enjoyable part of the project the most important thing we do as a charity.

I spoke to the previous Externals Director at the national level, Jenny Dhingra (also from UCL), and eventually got elected to that role. When I joined UCL, I did not think I would end up here(!), but the amount I’ve learned through these opportunities has been invaluable, especially with the help of the Volunteering Service. You learn these really important lessons around communication and management, which I now deal with in a much larger scale way.

I knew stepping up to National Director would be a big ask. It was a huge learning curve - I am responsible for of the day-to-day running of the charity, keeping up with all the regulations and paperwork that come with that. Luckily, I am able to pick and choose when I have to do most of the work, and make it work around my busy schedule as a fifth-year Medical student. It’s definitely given me skills in prioritisation!

George talking about consent classes on BBC One’s Sunday Morning Live

Sexpression:UK has been a constant from the very beginning of my time at UCL and it’s nice to have that. I think it’s helped me become a better Medical student as well - in fifth year, you learn about sexual health at UCL and it’s an area that can create some embarrassment and uncomfortableness. I think my work with Sexpression:UK and the connections it’s given me enabled me to approach it from a different and unique angle.

Volunteering at UCL has given me a chance to give back to the local community. I don’t come from London, so it’s been nice to engage with local schools. It’s also helped me with my personal and professional development; it’s given me a great understanding of management of a large organisation; and how charities operate. All these skills are really useful and transferable across to the NHS, so it’s been a great experience.

George Barker

You can find out a bit more about Sexpression:UK, or take a look at other projects led by UCL student volunteers.

You can also browse other LGBT+ volunteering roles and opportunities to volunteer with young people.