Awards ceremony celebrates UCL volunteers
By uczxsdd, on 3 June 2011
The Volunteering Services Unit (VSU) held its 2011 Volunteering Awards Ceremony on the evening of the 26 May in the Roberts Foyer, UCL Engineering Building. Now in its ninth year, this event boasted three special group awards, various speakers, as well as the highly deserved recognition of individual UCL volunteers.
As John Braime, Volunteering Manager started by saying, the awards are one of their ways of saying thank you to volunteers for all their work done in the community. Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research), identified student volunteering as being one of the high points in activities taking place at UCL.
The VSU started in 2002 with 200 volunteers and by the end of this academic year numbers will have grown to 1,350 – a 12% increase on last year.
Alex Karski, UCL Union Sabbatical Officer for Student Activities, noted the volunteering done by clubs and societies in the local community, such as Kite Club’s workshop for a group of people with learning difficulties and the Basketball Society’s games and tea party for older residents in a nearby community centre.
Claudia Frantz from the student-led project and innovation programme ‘Vibe’ gave an address. Vibe matches service users from the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) with UCL student volunteers who provide companionship to engage in activities and gain access to services.
Frantz who assisted Eleanor, a blind service user living in her local area, expressed the fact that she was now more outgoing, confident and had greater insight into issues faced by partially sighted and blind people. Eleanor herself had gained someone in Claudia who equipped her with a better knowledge of the local area by walking her round the local bus stops.
Hammad Shaikh and Will Hickman, project leaders, took us on a journey from the inception of the project, through to acquiring well qualified and highly skilled volunteers, to the pitfalls encountered. In the final stage we learned that the RNIB were so impressed that the project will now be run in other universities.
In a totally unexpected departure and an immensely touching move, the five team members of the VSU were themselves awarded with Volunteer Sneezer! certificates, ‘a small thing which can go a long way;’ created and presented by James Xu, Student Union Volunteering Society president.
In his last address in his dual role as Union Volunteer Officer, Xu thanked the team on behalf of all UCL volunteers for their work in encouraging, inspiring and generally supporting volunteers.
Volunteer certificates were then presented to individual volunteers in local organisations or those in innovation programmes which ranged from ‘Junk in the Trunk’ to ‘Body and Soul’. Club and Society volunteering was also recognised, including activities by the Francophone Society and VOCE Gospel Choir right through to organisations such as the Samuel Lithgow Centre and Association of Jewish Refugees, to name but a few.
The UCL Inter-Hall Challenge (IHC) is a project to get as many student residents volunteering as possible. It was won by Campbell House East and West, whose residents had made 100 cards for older members of the Marchmont Association. Runners-up were Max Rayne House with the First Annual Football Tournament, which raised money for Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity. The IHC itself has won an external award – the Olympic 2012 Inspire Mark for encouraging competition.
The £10 Challenge, a mini innovation programme, was won by Rachel Er for her recycling project.
Spectrum, a project run by UCL medics and in its 29th year, won the Innovations Project of the Year Award for the second consecutive year. A panel of college and UCLU representatives made Food Cycle runner-up. The group use food nearing its shelf life to cook meals for deprived people.
The panel were torn as to whom to award the Organisation of the Year Award, which recognises excellence in volunteer management provided by local community groups to UCL volunteers. Thus they awarded two runner-up prizes to UCL Institute of Archaeology and Westminster Befriender Family, with the winning award going to London Nightline, which provides a confidential helpline service and is in its 40th year.
The awards were a fitting end to yet another successful year of volunteering and as James Xu said, the volunteers should be proud of themselves and, even if they are unable to continue volunteering, should remember that they will always be part of the VSU community.
Images from top: Volunteers from the Vibe innovation programme; James Xu, volunteering society president.