This is the first part of a series that looks at volunteering, and the ways in which students can become more involved in social change.

I met up with Celsey, a final year Geology student from Kingston University to discuss her experience with Kingston Hub, and all things volunteering!

A: What inspired you to join Kingston Hub?

C: I was originally searching for different ways to get involved, and I came across the Social Innovation Programme. Before this, I hadn’t heard much about Kingston Hub, but considering how much I enjoyed the SIP experience, I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone and apply.

A: What project are you involved in?

C: I am the Local Action Co-ordinator. So basically, I am responsible for organising one-off events. I understand that dedicating time can be a challenge, so what this programme does is remove the element of long-term commitment. We aim to run 3 events per term, and this semester we are focusing on “Monthly-Giving.” And through this, we are hoping to be able to support charities involved in animal welfare, homelessness, and the elderly.

A: Why is it important for students to get involved?

C: I think the main ones are confidence and self-esteem. Being able to connect with other people from variety of different backgrounds has enhanced my social skills. And I believe that in a competitive job market, employers appreciate graduates who get involved in volunteering. Businesses have CSR, so if you have volunteer experience, you are already a step ahead of everyone else, as this shows that you are willing and proactive.

A: What stops students from volunteering? How we can get more students involved?

C: There is this perception that charity can feel very challenging, and something that requires a substantial amount of time invested.

And money. Definitely money. But I can appreciate that being a student can bring many challenges with undertaking work, with limited or no financial incentive. However, there is real value to giving up your time, even if the opportunity is not paid. People have an all or nothing perception of volunteering, but there is middle ground. Because there are so many opportunities, people are quick to cross volunteering of the list in favour of paid work (which I completely understand).

I think that in general people can be quite cynical. Because the question is: Will I make a difference? And the answer is- absolutely! You may not realise the impact of your involvement. So I think that through communication of how people are excelling in charity. But this means talking to students to find out what they are passionate about, as there is no point running an event if there is no desire to be involved. Nothing likes doing something if they can’t see end goal, and with the charity sector, it is definitely more challenging to see end goal.

A: How has been a part of Kingston hub improved your skills? And has career progression has been enhanced?

C: Through the SIP, I learned presentation skills. But I also learned how to talk to companies in business in the right. Because you’ve got to be able to adjust the way you talk accordingly to who you are talking too. And also, volunteering is how I got my first job. I ran a girl guide for 4 years, and I got hired for a job a spec-savers through one the parents. I have gain a variety of skills, such as confidence and professionalism, so even if I don’t have the credentials, I have a lot to discuss in an interview.

A: Is one-off the new way to get more into volunteering?

C: Absolutely, as this leads onto what other projects are available. For me, (I know this sounds cheesy) volunteering should be about having fun- and not like you are confined to a desk. Students can easily become trapped in their studies, so this is a good way to new people, and you never know where this could lead. It doesn’t have to be seen as like work in the traditional sense and just think “I am here to enjoy the experience, rather to think that I have entertain someone.”

A: That’s brilliant, any final thoughts?

C: We are always open to suggestion. This year, we focusing on our social media this year, so if people see something they are passionate about, feel free to contact us.

My thoughts?

The questions are: what environment are charities creating which enables students to get involved? Is a communications issue with the charity sector? And, where is the incentive?

I think that the issue with non-profit sector is that it needs money, but lacks the resources to enable this to happen. The impact from becoming a volunteer can lead to social change. However, there is a miscommunication in value proposition about the idea of volunteering. I found my placement through student hub, so I understand the potential of volunteering.

I love Celsey’s view of making volunteering less structured; the idea of making it more fun, and less systematic. The ability to enjoy the moment, and feeling tied down to a chair, and to feel inspired to become a part of a community. From a marketing perspective, it’s how brands use creative media to create element of getting people out of their seats.

Maybe, just maybe, charities should make volunteering less tedious.

And more fun.

To find more about volunteering- click here: https://www.kingstonhub.org/projects