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Bookings Open for Charities & NGOs Week 2021

By Joe O'Brien, on 11 January 2021

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Sarah Sirrell, Information Officer at UCL Careers.

This year’s Charities and NGOs Week kicks off on Monday 25 January 2021. The main focus this year is on getting into the sector and making a difference. Whether you are committed to pursuing a career in a Charity or NGO, or just exploring your options; join our virtual panel sessions and workshops to hear from professionals working in the sector who are keen to share their experience and tips with you. This year we are excited to welcome speakers from Save the Children International, Unicef UK, British Heart Foundation, WWF-UK, The National Trust, and many more.

View the Charities & NGOs Week event schedule for more information and booking links.

Want to hear from someone with firsthand experience of working with a charity?

We heard from Sam Huddlestone, a UCL student who recently volunteered remotely with Age UK offering virtual poetry classes for older adults. Sam told us about his experience of volunteering and the impact that volunteering had on his career aspirations.

Please provide a little further information on your background; what are you currently studying and when did you do your internship/work experience?

I am currently a third year BA English Literature student and I volunteered with Age UK Kensington and Chelsea over the course of the summer of 2020.

Why did you choose to work for this organisation?

The combination of the COVID-19 lockdown, my having nothing to do over summer, and the advertisement of the volunteering position on the Student’s Union website all sort of directed me towards the placement. Age UK Kensington and Chelsea are also my local branch of Age UK and so I wanted to help out the best I could, in any way that I could – volunteering for them seemed the best way for me to be able to do that.

How did you get the job with the company? Is there anything that you would recommend to any students should they wish to get into this Sector?

I applied for the position via the Student’s Union volunteering webpage – I would recommend that students at UCL who want to volunteer consult this facility as it has some excellent opportunities available.

What were the main project(s) that you were working on during your time with the company?

I hosted weekly online poetry sessions for thirteen weeks via Zoom for Age UK Kensington and Chelsea. This involved choosing several individual poems or poets to discuss with the group every session, much like a book club. My session was part of a whole host of others that Age UK had been providing their members with over the course of the COVID-19 lockdown, during spring and into the summer, ranging from Yoga classes to Spanish classes.

What were the biggest challenges?

I think the biggest challenge was attempting to overcome my own technical ineptitude and lack of Zoom expertise (turns out not all young people are good with technology). Getting the chance to join other sessions before hosting my own was certainly a good introduction.

How did this affect you personally, working within the Charity/NGO Sector?

I think it affected me a great deal. I developed a real connection with the members in the sessions, I think because we had all been brought together by two very disparate and yet somehow conducive entities: a passion for poetry and a global pandemic. And yet, for an hour a week, we were able to forget about the latter and just enjoy reading poetry, and I must say, for the time that I hosted those sessions, they were the thing that I looked forward to most in my week.

What measurable benefits have you seen within the Company, or within the certain areas of the business that you were working in?

I can’t speak to the overall running of Age UK, or even to the Kensington and Chelsea branch thereof, but I do know that as an organization they relied, and still rely, on volunteers to help out with the running of these sessions for their members. I would hope that my volunteering with them meant that they were able to offer one more session than they had before and that by documenting my fantastic experience with them – in a way such as this – will help to encourage other students to get involved and volunteer with organisations like Age UK, and by doing so benefit organisations such as Age UK by, perhaps more importantly, benefitting its members.

What was the most rewarding element of your experience?

The most rewarding element was – as clichéd as it sounds – the feeling of making a difference, even if that difference felt infinitesimal in the grand scheme of this horrible pandemic. It seems to me that I’ve unduly gained more out of the experience than all the work I put in during my time as a volunteer, which is testament to the experience itself, and to the people I’ve met over the course of doing it.

How has this experience affected your career aspirations/plans?

There’s no doubting that my being able to lead weekly classes on poetry, fairly independently, certainly honed my teaching skills and led me to consider academia as a career option to a greater extent than I had done before. However, it has also opened my eyes to how a charity like Age UK operates and, having now seen the fantastic work they do first-hand, I would happily work for them again in the future.

Check out the UCLU Volunteering Service for volunteering opportunities big and small and don’t forget to sign up for the exciting events at UCL Careers Charities and NGOs Week 2021.

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