The benefits of volunteering for students

Lauren Eades is a BSc Biomedical Sciences student at Manchester. Here, she talks about why she volunteers, what the benefits are for students, and how you can start getting involved with volunteering.

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Lauren volunteering for Manchester’s Christmas Shoebox Appeal

Volunteering your time to help others is an amazing thing to do. Not only do you get to learn new skills and step out of your comfort zone, but you also get that warm fuzzy feeling knowing you are helping others and making an impact on the wider community.

Volunteering is any unpaid activity which aims to primarily benefit the environment, animal welfare or someone, whether individuals or a group.

My volunteering journey

I began to explore the benefits of volunteering when I signed up to the Manchester Leadership Programme during the fourth year of my Biomedical Sciences degree.

The garden at Maggie’s. Photo: Lauren Eades

The Manchester Leadership Programme allows you to develop skills and experiences whilst giving back to the wider community. By completing a minimum of 20 hours community-based volunteering, you are eligible for the associated Manchester Leadership Award.

By the end of June 2018, I aim to have completed 60 hours of volunteering, achieving my Gold Manchester Leadership Award. My journey started earlier this year when I moved into my new student house in Withington, right next to the Maggie’s Centre in Manchester. After admiring the Maggie’s Centre in passing, I decided to research the ethos of the centre.

The timber lattice architecture at Maggie’s. Photo: Lauren Eades

Maggie’s is a cancer charity based in the grounds of multiple NHS cancer hospitals inside and outside of the UK. Maggie’s offers a non-clinical environment in which those effected by cancer can access free practical, emotional and social support through qualified cancer support specialists.

After reading about various support groups at the centre such as relaxation classes, yoga and ‘Look Good Feel Better’, where women can access free confidence-boosting skincare and make-up advice to help manage the visible side effects of cancer treatment, I felt inspired to volunteer at Maggie’s. I must admit I didn’t know what to expect from the volunteering experience; my aim was to be part of a worthwhile centre and help those affected by cancer in my local community.

After receiving training at Maggie’s Manchester, I was ready to start my volunteering placement. I volunteer weekly, committing around 3 hours a week to the centre – demonstrating firsthand that one of the most appealing parts of volunteering is the flexibility it offers.

My role at Maggie’s involves meeting with people affected by cancer, providing a point of contact for those seeking company or help, or are looking to have their questions answered. I help welcome people into the centre and explain that Maggie’s is a place where you can merely sit quietly with a cup of tea.

Why volunteer?

Admiring the hanging fireplace whilst chatting to visitors with cake and a cup of tea is why I love Maggie’s Centre Manchester. Photo: Lauren Eades

By simply chatting to the visitors and staff, I have gained a new insight into the complexities of cancer treatment and care. I treasure volunteering at Maggie’s, as it has provided me with invaluable life skills and a strong sense of purpose. It has enabled me to become an active and valued member of the community, making life better for those around me affected by cancer.

Volunteering and helping others is a great way to meet new like-minded people, keep you mentally stimulated, reduce stress, enhance your career and bring fulfilment into your life. The more committed you are to volunteering, the more benefits you will experience.

However, volunteering doesn’t have to be a long-term obligation or take a large amount of time from your busy schedule. Freely giving your energy, time and resources to causes locally and around the world can bring about change on a global scale. But by far the best part of volunteering is that it is so much fun!

Stellify (no logo)

Volunteering at the University

The University also encourages volunteering through Stellify, a programme designed to encourage students to pledge to make a difference to local and global communities. Here, a range of volunteering opportunities can be found through the volunteer hub, and these are designed to enhance your university experience.

There are a few ways that you can volunteer and be recognised by the University. For example, at the Students’ Union alone, you can volunteer by:

  • organising Manchester RAG events to help raise money for local charities;
  • running weekly student-led projects aimed at giving back to the community through student action;
  • running educational projects in schools with Access all Areas.

All these projects are based in the Student Activities Office and are aimed at enriching the local community. If you would like more information about getting involved, please visit the Students’ Union website.

What are you waiting for?

Whether you’ve got the volunteering bug or have never volunteered before, there are many unique ways in which volunteering will be the best thing you ever do. Whether you enjoy working with charities, supporting women’s empowerment, education, sports coaching or helping build homes or schools oversees, there is something for everyone, no matter your age or demographic.

So, what are you waiting for? Find the right volunteering project for you and start making an impact on the lives of the wider community today.

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