This year marks the 15th anniversary of Student Volunteering Week, taking place from 22-28 February. Organised by Student Hubs and the National Union of Students (NUS), SVW will see students and staff from over 100 colleges and universities celebrating not-for-profit work throughout the UK. SVW has grown from a small campaign to a truly national one, with more than 10,000 students expected to take part in over 500 events across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Activities will include student-led volunteering opportunities with community partners, such as providing support at homeless shelters in Essex and renovating the community running track in East London’s Victoria Park. Networking and celebration events will connect student volunteers with local groups and recognise the impact these young people make.
Student Volunteering Week will highlight how student social action helps to tackle key social issues, such as educational disadvantage and elderly isolation. According to research by Ipsos MORI, 42% of 10-20 year olds took part in meaningful social action in 2015 and 70% of young people surveyed said they are likely to participate in social action in the future. With pressures on local services throughout the UK, volunteering has a role to play in bringing groups together to meet community need.
As well as improving community cohesion in this way, social action adds value to the student experience. Volunteering can help students to develop skills, such as leadership and resilience, that are valuable for their professional and personal growth. A recent report by the Behavioural Insights Team and the Cabinet Office found “compelling and robust evidence that young people who take part in social action initiatives, such as volunteering, develop some of the most critical skills for employment and adulthood in the process”. It also connects students to like-minded people and helps them to engage with life beyond lectures.
To showcase experiences of student volunteering, the SVW team are asking young people to share their motivations for taking part. Have your say using #IVolunteerBecause on Twitter and Facebook.
Jess Tinkler, Schools Plus Coordinator at Southampton Hub and Student Volunteer of the Year Nominee, said:
Being involved with Schools Plus and Student Hubs has been the the most interesting, inspiring and rewarding part of my university life so far.
I have gained so many new skills, met proactive, energised and determined people, and I have been able to witness the inspirational effect which student volunteers can have on the community.
Volunteering helped me to realise that wherever life after university takes me, I am determined to educate, support and inspire as many people as I can reach out to.
Sara Fernandez, Executive Director of Student Hubs, said:
At Student Hubs, we know that student social action has a double benefit on young people and the communities they work with.
We are pleased that Student Volunteering Week provides a platform to recognise the thousands of students that give such commitment and energy to a wide range of causes.
We are proud to run Student Volunteering Week, celebrating over 100 institutions with more than 8000 students engaging with their communities throughout the week.
Richard Brooks, Vice President (Union Development) for NUS, said:
Society benefits from the selflessness of students every day. By giving up their time and putting their critical minds to work in their local communities, students are changing the world – making it fairer, more equal, more prosperous, more entrepreneurial and more sustainable.
Students’ unions work together in nearly every town and city across the UK to make sure the positive social force of student volunteering is spread locally and felt nationally.
Student Volunteering Week is a big birthday bash to celebrate that and everyone’s invited.
Kate Van der Plank, Business Engagement Director for Step up to Serve, said:
There is hard evidence showing that young people who take part in social action develop skills such as resilience, good communication, perseverance, and teamwork – skills which are vital in the workplace.
Increasingly, employers are broadening their recruitment criteria, preferring young people who have taken part in social action rather than academic ability alone.
Through social action, young people are developing precisely the kind of skills and attributes businesses are looking for, whilst making a positive impact in their communities.
Like Step Up To Serve’s #iwill campaign, Student Volunteering Week is a fantastic celebration of this double impact that young people have across the UK.
Step Up To Serve supports Student Volunteering Week and looks forward to seeing the impact of this year’s campaign.