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Getting involved in charity work at university

There are so many ways to help local charities as a student, and so many different local charities to support depending on your own interests.

By Lily O'Donovan, Fourth Year French and Russian

In the wake of covid-19 charities are struggling to fundraise the money they need. They need our help more than ever and getting involved is much easier than you think. There are so many ways to help local charities as a student, and so many different local charities to support depending on your own interests.

So, how do you go about finding a local charity that you are interested in? Perhaps the best way to learn about local charities and the work they do is from the SU. The Bristol SU website has a large section dedicated to local volunteering opportunities. Both student-led and local charities use the site to spread the word about their work and to advertise for the fundraising positions they need to fill. These opportunities are filtered by the area of interest, required availability, skills to be gained, and required skills, so you can find the perfect volunteering opportunity for you.

Talking to Cordelia Apold, a fourth-year French student who currently works for the organisation Bristol Women’s Voice, it’s interesting to hear how she divides her time between the final year of her degree, and her intern role at Bristol Women’s Voice. BWV is an organisation run by Bristol women for Bristol women, which works to empower local women, and to ensure that women’s voices are heard by local decision makers.

Amongst a number of recent projects, the organisation has been collecting data on the impact of coronavirus on local women. Apold’s work for the organisation has ranged from social-media strategy to interacting with local new outlets to share the results of one of the organisations’ recent projects, and she has balanced this with her university commitments by working for the charity for several hours a week.

Perhaps a weekly time commitment is unfeasible. That is no problem, as there are a number of exciting local organisations that need student’s help on an ad-hoc basis. For example, the Bristol branch of The Gleaning Network, an organisation which works to reduce local food waste.

The Gleaning Network gives volunteers the opportunity to visit farms directly, and to collect surplus fruit and vegetables in order to redistribute them to local organisations which are in need of food. Not only does the network do valuable work reducing food waste on a national level, being involved with the harvest can be great fun!

Another exciting student volunteering opportunity is through the Bristol branch of Students for Global Health. The premise of the organisation is to educate, advocate, and to act. Through free short courses, talks, conferences and training programs the group educate the local community about important health issues. Just last term they ran short courses on BAME Women’s Experience of Healthcare, and the Effects of Climate Migration on Health amongst other topics. Their next upcoming event is a short course on refugees and their access to healthcare, which will take place on Wednesday 24th February 2021.

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Volunteering as a student for a local charity is incredibly rewarding for a number of reasons. Of course, first and foremost it is wonderful to be able to see the tangible impact of your work on the local community, but it is also such a valuable experience in terms of personal development. Whether you are arranging events, co-ordinating with local businesses to collect food that would otherwise be wasted, or working in a soup café, there are so many valuable skills to be gained from this experience, especially if you are looking to work in the charity sector in the future.

Featured Image: Epigram / Cordelia Apold

Featured Image shows a food cafe that Apold ran in the University of Bristol Multifaith Chaplaincy before covid-19