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UCL commemorates over 36,000 hours of volunteering this year

By news editor, on 8 June 2012

Andrew Chapman, 4th year Medicine

Members of UCL FoodCycle and UCL Marrow

On the evening of the 31May, the Volunteering Services Unit (VSU) held its annual volunteering awards ceremony in the Roberts Foyer, UCL Engineering Building.

This celebratory event is now in its ninth year, and recognises all of the many student volunteers and the time they have generously given over the year. The event was certainly well attended, and we were honoured to host many distinguished guests, including Mayor of Camden Heather Johnson and Vice Provost (Education) Professor Anthony Smith.

John Braime, Volunteering Manager, began his opening address by reminding everyone just how important student volunteering is for bringing together volunteers, staff and people from the community. He passed on a massive thank you to all student volunteers for their hard work and time so kindly donated.

Torch bearers
Amy Evans gave an address, in her role as UCL Union Sabbatical Officer (Student Activities), and recited one of the nominations sent to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) for three of our students to be torch bearers in the Olympic Torch relay this summer.

She was delighted to tell us that all three would be bearing the torch over the coming months. She also noted the work done by UCL Women’s Rugby, for which they had won an award.

Crowd shot

Professor Anthony Smith commented on the dramatic increase in the number of volunteers over the past 10 years and even put it into figures, saying that 1,550 volunteers had given more than 36,000 hours this year. This was equivalent to more than nine years of work, if put in by just one person. He recounted some of the positive feedback the VSU had received from representatives in the community, also noting the skills that volunteers had developed during the course of the year.

A critical eye
Ida Nielsen from the student-led Project Improvement Evaluation Strategy (PIES) gave the audience an idea of what it had been like to set up an organisation that critically appraises other student-led projects in the interest of providing ways to further improve them.

PIES worked with seven projects including MEDucate, who teach basic science to primary school children, and UCL FoodCycle, who reuse food near the end of its life to provide meals for underprivileged people. Ida told us how it had changed her personal outlook on volunteering in London and exposed her to the mass effort of our volunteers.

This past year’s Volunteering Society (VolSoc) President, Rachel Er, handed over to Jessica Ping, telling us all how eventful her time in charge had been. VolSoc is now UCL’s second largest society following a continued increase in the number of students volunteering.

New president Jessica shared with us her strategy to drive forward volunteering next year, and both Rachel and Jessica thanked the VSU team for all the help and support they provided to volunteers.

Certificates were awarded after this, and went to individual volunteers within projects and to project leaders themselves.

Andrew Chapman and Professor Anthony Smith

The UCL Inter-Hall Challenge (IHC) prize was awarded to a group of UCL students within Connaught Hall and recognises the efforts of students living in university accommodation, and the time they have spent volunteering. The team at Connaught Hall raised £147 with their charity Christmas card range.

The UCL £10 Challenge – for students running micro-projects on a tiny budget – was won by Christopher Wong.

The Innovations Project of the Year was jointly awarded to UCL FoodCycle and UCL Marrow. FoodCycle takes food nearing the end of its shelf life to prepare meals for deprived people in London, while UCL Marrow holds events to recruit healthy volunteers onto the bone marrow register. Both projects are in their second year and have had brilliant results.

The UCL Volunteering Organisation of the Year Award, for good quality volunteer management was won by ReachOut, a mentoring charity that works with young people in Hackney.

Inspiring ideas
As the ceremony came to an end and the evening wound down, it allowed me to reflect on my own experience of volunteering at UCL. I had no idea there were so many different student-led projects at UCL, having volunteered with only two this year, Spectrum and MEDucate, along with volunteering at LOCOG.

It truly is remarkable how students come up with some of the best ideas and, furthermore, how they turn them towards helping those in the community. UCL volunteers truly are inspirational.

I was a project leader for MEDucate this year and have learnt so much from the role. It’s difficult to put it into words as such, but I am sure I will take my experiences forward with me. I have greatly enjoyed my time volunteering at UCL and I think that the VSU Volunteering Awards Ceremony was a delightful way to end the year.

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