By Milan Perera, Deputy Editor
It has been reported that the University of Bristol student volunteers have given 23,000 hours for various community projects in the city.
The new figures indicated that over 1300 students have volunteered through Student Union (SU) organised schemes during the academic year of 2022/2023.
The report further indicated that more students have volunteered outside the University-coordinated programmes.
The projects vary from working with teenagers with learning difficulties, tutoring disadvantaged children and fundraising to planting trees. A local hospice welcomed the student involvement and said student volunteers provided an ‘extra pair of hands, positive attitude and a fresh outlook.’
Among the students who took part in volunteering was Debby Olowu, a Psychology with Innovation student who gave up her Saturdays to volunteer for a youth mental health charity.
On her experience, she said: ‘Giving back to your community is really nice – you feel good because you know you’re doing good. At uni, it’s so easy to stick with people you know and not get out in the community. It was great to meet so many nice people in Bristol and hear new perspectives.’
Through volunteering, Debby has achieved a Level 2 certificate in Mental Health, which will help realise her dream of improving people’s well-being as a clinical psychologist.
As the new academic year begins this week, many students are looking to sign up for volunteering roles.
Medicine student Mercedes Hobkirk-Capps volunteers for – and co-chairs – Pitstop, a student society that takes teenagers with learning disabilities on days out. Recent trips have included pottery painting, bowling and the Bristol Zoo Project.
On her experience with Pitshop, Mercedes said: ‘When I moved to Bristol I wanted to be involved in the community. And it’s been so rewarding – you talk to everyone: young people, their parents, community organisations.’
She further said: ‘Volunteering really made me feel more at home in Bristol. I hope it’ll also make me a better doctor.’
Some of the most popular places for students to volunteer over the past academic year were Oxfam, Bristol Hub and St Peter’s Hospice – all of which are organised through Bristol SU.
St. Peter’s Hospice has been serving the Bristol community since 1969, offering palliative care and a helping hand to those facing life-limiting illnesses.
Regarding the renewed energy brought to the outfit by student volunteers, a member of St.Peter’s Hospice said: ‘Apart from the obvious help that comes from having an extra pair of hands, all of our volunteers from Bristol Uni always bring a positive attitude and a fresh outlook to their shifts at our shop. They are all very switched on and quick learners, more than happy to help with any tasks that need doing.’
Speaking on her involvement with Bristol Hub was the PhD student Saba Faisal. Bristol Hub is a local branch of the national charity, Student Hubs, which ‘aims to mainstream local student social action in higher education.’
On her positive experience, she said: ‘I’m a PhD student, which gets lonely sometimes. It was good to be a part of a team, work together and make friends. I think it really impacted positively on my social wellbeing.’
Many students use their volunteer hours to achieve the Bristol PLUS Award, the University of Bristol’s employability award that rewards extracurricular activity.
Others volunteer through the University’s City Challenges programme, which links student volunteers with local charities to help them solve real-world problems.
Are you planning on volunteering this year?