Although my love for volunteering started in my final years at secondary school, it was at University that my passion for volunteering really shone through. Now in my final year, I have worked my way up through the volunteer rankings.
I started in my first year fundraising £3000 for The Children’s Society. In my second year, I led a team of 38 students in their team fundraising effort to raise over £100,000, also for The Children’s Society. Now in my final year, I am the Challenges Officer for Bath’s Raise and Give group, which involves providing fundraising support to every volunteer taking part in one of the societies international challenges. There are also all the other little one-off events I do along the way, ranging from bucket collections at rugby matches to back-office support for the charity hitchhike.
When I started at Bath, there was a hype around volunteering. During Freshers’ Week, people were talking about RAG and V Team and the crazy opportunities they were offering. Everyone wanted to do something, so I felt very privileged to be given the opportunities I was. However, walking around campus 4 years later, things don’t quite feel the same. Students no longer seem to be captivated by the fundraising opportunities presented to them and don’t understand the impact they can have. This year, for the first time ever, RAG had to cancel some of their events and challenges due to lack of interest.
A student’s financial situation, amongst other things, is one of the reasons some seem to have lost interest. Having to spend more money on rent and longer periods of time commuting to and from University could reduce the likelihood of others getting involved. I haven’t got a solution to hand, but what I can do, however, is explain why volunteering and fundraising is still a ‘cool’ thing to get involved in as a student.
Firstly, by giving up your time to volunteer, you are helping a series of fantastic charities, who, without the support of volunteers, would not be able to carry out the brilliant work they do. Currently, RAG are have selected The Children’s Society, Breast Cancer Now, Julian House and HeadLight as their main four charities but work with many many more.
The kinds of charities you can partner with through RAG are broad and wide reaching. If you want to help better the Bath community so you get involved with supporting the local homelessness shelter, check out Julian House; maybe you have been personally affected by an illness so want to contribute to a cause for people who are experiencing the same suffering, Breast Cancer Now; maybe you are an animal lover (Bath Cats and Dogs Home), environmentalist… the list goes on. Whatever volunteering or fundraising opportunity you choose to get involved with through RAG, you are bound to having a positive impact.
Being a volunteer or fundraiser is also a fantastic way to develop both your personal and professional skills. The opportunities out there are endless and so the way in which your skills develop will be very personal to you. For example, if you volunteered as a Dementia Friend (see Louisa Peters in the Volunteer Office for more details), which involves providing social support to dementia sufferers, you would develop skills in communication, empathy and pragmatism, etc. If you decided you wanted to fundraise for a charity through an international trek, such as RAGs trek to Everest Base Camp for The Children’s Society, then you would be learning skills in sales, public engagement and time management. Most importantly, though, volunteering will change your perspective on the world. Working in close alignment to charities exposes you to the full extent of some of the issues facing society right now, which is something you will struggle to get elsewhere.
Linked to personal and professional development, volunteering looks pretty good on a CV. Not only that, but it is something which 1 in 4 employers actively look for on a CV, so it could be enhancing your employability at the same time.
Finally, volunteering with RAG is great fun! Along the way you will meet amazing people who have the most incredible stories to share. Through my volunteering experiences I have made some of my now closest friends. And yes, I know that you could meet new people through a whole host of other activities, but us volunteering lot are a laugh.
You will also have some of the coolest experiences of your life. Whether it be witnessing someone with dementia experience those 30 seconds of remembrance, or helping rehome an animal, seeing a charity you have fundraised for successfully lobby government, or finding yourself at the summit of Kilimanjaro – those are all unforgettable memories and feelings!
So what am I really saying? Basically, I don’t know why volunteering is seeing a decrease in popularity amongst some students, but I do know that it is still something you should be getting involved in! If you want to find out more, make sure you check out Bath RAG on Facebook and the SU website, and come and talk to us!