I have this terrible habit of being drawn into the glamour and glory of award ceremonies. Watching the BAFTAs, I find a newfound passion for my 15 year old self’s ambitions of being a writer/director like my heroes (Wes Anderson and John Hughes) and imagine myself rubbing elbows with David Fincher and Benedict Cumberbatch and Mel from Bake Off. Perhaps it is a bit of a pipedream, but the wonderful thing about the Sheffield Volunteering awards on Monday is that it was equally inspiring and motivating but also entirely achievable.
Listening to Evette Prout talking about how Sheffield Volunteering contributed to her newfound confidence that led her to apply to be our new SU Development Officer, and the poignant story of how the Dance Society’s lessons helped the women at Snowdrop escape their daily struggles and worries, I cannot see why a student would not dedicate some of their time to volunteering. We may not have much disposable income at our fingertips, but most of us have the time equivalent to spend.
Volunteering has the potential to raise aspirations of the under-privileged and give hope to those who have become isolated and disillusioned with society. But selflessness is also wonderfully selfish; volunteering has been shown to combat depression, as well as an excellent way to make friends and, yes, fill up that CV. Even if the latter is your initial motivation in signing up, I can promise you that when you find a project that captures your imagination, there will be a far more worthy reason driving you to return each week.
In my speech at the Volunteering AGM, I mentioned that on the infamous YikYak, I had seen one from a student who ‘often forgot that people other than students live in Sheffield’. As a born and bred Sheffield lass, I think this is such a shame. I love the University of Sheffield, but it can be so easy to live in the bubble of the university rather than the city and never really go beyond Broomhill and West Street. While I was walking along the latter only a few weeks ago, I got into a conversation with a lovely and polite man who was homeless and was very hurt that I was only the second person who had spoken to him that evening. He insisted that it was not a problem if people had no change to spare or didn’t want to give him their money, but it was just upsetting when people walked past without acknowledging his presence.
And I think this sums up why students should volunteer if they can. There is a world beyond the Students Union and giving back to a city that welcomes all that come to it (after all, we are the friendliest and happiest city in the UK and have the highest retention rate for students) is a hugely fulfilling use of time especially when over a fifth of households in Sheffield are living in poverty and there are now 12 food banks compared with just three in 2011. There are so many worthy causes and fun and interesting projects to get involved in.
Go to the Sheffield Volunteering website to find out more.