Student volunteers from the University of Exeter have been given their time to worthy causes throughout the year.

Exeter students among most active community ‘volunteers’ in the world

Christmas may be a traditional time for giving, yet student volunteers from the University of Exeter give their time all year round.

Exeter University students, in Exeter and Penryn in Cornwall, clocked up around 34,000 volunteering hours this year, ranging from organising activities for the elderly in care homes, to putting together food packages for the homeless.

LinkedIn has ranked Exeter graduates as the second most proactive in the world, based on activity recorded in the ‘Volunteering and Causes’ section.

Among the student volunteers is Hattie Hayes, a second year psychology student, who as part of the ActiviTeas organises, events, meals and other social activities with local elderly residents, some of whom may be lonely or isolated.

“I wanted to get to know some of the locals better and give something back to the community. I also wanted to be involved with a project that works with people who might experience loneliness or isolation. We do games and quizzes, and we had a lovely Christmas dinner this month!,” she said.

The Homeless Action volunteering project spend their time preparing food and drinks which they give out to the homeless community in Exeter. They provide them with food and company each week and are hoping to expand this project further.

Those involved in the Action After Stroke student society can be found at the St Luke’s campus gym and have provided a safe and supportive environment for stroke patients to exercise and rehabilitate after the NHS can no longer fund them. They can  also connect and find social support from other stroke patients.

Project leader Alexander Cowley, a second-year PhD student in cancer cell biochemistry, remarked: “It is inspiring to see the commitment and warmth displayed by both our members and the volunteers who join us for sessions week-in week-out and to see the marked improvement in members’ motor function as the months and years pass.”

Meanwhile students from the Cornwall campus have been braving the freezing temperatures to help with the yard work at the Flicka Foundation Donkey Sanctuary in Penryn, and this year have put on a Christmas carol concert in the barn with the donkeys.

“Watching the recovery of the donkeys both physically and mentally, often from shy and timid to cheeky and confident while helping the full time staff at the foundation is so satisfying,” said Sasha Pinto, a second year zoology student.

Lydia Allegretto, a final year environmental sciences student, is the volunteering officer for FXU (Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union) based at Penryn and has been involved in the Beach Clean Project which picks up litter on the Cornish beaches. “I love knowing what I’m doing is worthwhile and making a difference,” she said. 

The award winning Exeter Medical Leadership and Management Society students have visited local primary schools leading workshops on hygiene and using UV gel and teaching children about bacteria and how it spreads.

Daisy Kirtley, a second year medical student said: “It was really sweet as the children loved seeing the UV glow in the dark "bacteria", but were also learning how important hand-washing is in disease prevention!”

The student Islamic society in Penryn has collected food and clothing for the local community, led a spit sample donation for bone marrow on campus (and registered over 40 students), and volunteered at Penryn Memory Café as part of the Believe Good Do Good campaign.

Professor Mark Goodwin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (External Engagement) of the University of Exeter, said: “Student volunteers play a vital role in supporting the local community across Cornwall, allowing students to try new experiences, developing their skills and to make a difference in their community. Our students lead student projects and volunteer with a range of local partners from community arts projects, young people in and out of the school setting, environmental projects, conservation projects, Adult Social Care, and animal welfare. The University is extremely proud of the impact that our student volunteers have on the community and are committed to continuing to support volunteering projects to all of our students and campuses.”

Students researching art as part of their degree have also volunteered at the award winning Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery explaining in detail paintings in the BP Portrait galleries to visitors.

“Helping visitors engage with the art, and the opportunity to talk with elderly guests on day trips was so rewarding” said Anna Greenwood, 21, completing her theology masters degree.

Simon Tootell who coordinates the volunteers at the RAMM said: “We were delighted at RAMM to continue the National Portraits Gallery’s goal of engaging young people with the BP Portrait Award Exhibition with a Careers Development project for young people that was funded by the Arts Council England.  The students’ participation not only provided an invaluable development experience but also helped to deepen visitors’ engagement with the exhibition through conversation.”

Students, trained by St John Ambulance in conjunction with the First Aid Society, regularly go out to community events, including music festivals and sports events to administer first aid.

Jenny Lawrie, a third year Zoology student at Penryn leads the Generation Wild Project which goes into local schools in Cornwall to teach children about the environment and help them develop outdoor skills through activities such as rock pooling, bat walks, wildlife-themed games, and natural material crafts. One of the children in a recent activity session said the team made it “into the best day ever!”

Many students help dog owners in the local Exeter area who are unable to walk their own dogs. Some of these dogs have been walked by the Dog walking project for years, and the volunteers who walk regularly form bonds with the dogs - as well as their owners.

In addition to helping local organisations, students are giving their time to others around the world, including those who volunteer with Engineers Without Borders, are part of an organisation which travels to developing countries, to help with engineering projects, including building bridges.

Date: 19 December 2017

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