This week (8 – 14 February) is Student Volunteering Week 2021. A week to highlight all the benefits and enjoyment you can get out of volunteering whilst being a student.

Student life is unpredictable right now and like most things, volunteering this academic year will look a little different, but it is fortunately one of the few things you can still do in lockdown. There are still plenty of remote and virtual volunteering opportunities just waiting to be discovered by you. Whether you’re a creative, sporty or spiritual individual, there is likely to be a group or society out there to help you find your community away from home.

To hopefully inspire any students out there to give up some of their time and start volunteering, we have compiled our Top 5 reasons why being a student is the perfect time to start volunteering.

1. Help to improve your mental health and tackle loneliness
Whilst it may not be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer, volunteering is one way in which students can positively support their mental health and wellbeing. It can provide an excellent opportunity for students to meet others, feel connected with the community that they live in during term-time, and make a positive impact. Volunteering is often associated with the mantra, ‘do good, feel good’ and there are truths to this claim. A 2013 report showed that ‘volunteering had favourable effects on depression, life satisfaction and wellbeing’ – how will you feel after you start?

2. Find your community
With lectures, seminars and events being held virtually this academic year, it is more difficult to meet other students. Volunteering can provide a new way to find friends. By donating your time to a cause you feel passionate about, you will be able to meet people who share similar interests. These shared passions could form solid foundations of long-lasting, meaningful friendships.

3. Enjoyable experience
Volunteering can sometimes get a bad reputation of being dull or something that you just do to add points to your CV, but that’s far from the truth. You can volunteer by doing fun and meaningful things like phoning up and being a companion to an isolated elderly person or even virtually teach a child a subject you are passionate about to help them succeed at school. By volunteering and sharing your skills, you will both learn other skills and make a difference in social issues that matter to you.

4. Valuable skills and experiences that will benefit your future employment
Students are our future, and volunteering allows them to develop practical skills which are essential for their working career. Volunteering can provide you with hands-on experience in working and can also influence your career choices. Through volunteering roles at university, I discovered social media management and content creation by running my university’s Nightline social media accounts. Through this volunteering opportunity, I learnt a variety of transferable skills which helped to support my application when I was applying for my role within the communications team at PAPYRUS. What skills could you develop?

5. You can do it around your schedule
Whether you have 5 contact hours a week or 15, volunteering can fit around any schedule. If you don’t have the time or energy to dedicate a big chunk of your week to volunteering, why not try microvolunteering opportunities [https://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network/2017/apr/13/microvolunteering-what-is-it-and-why-should-you-do-it] which you can do from your smartphone. If you have lots of free time, you might want to undertake a volunteer role that allows you to see the impact you are making over a longer period of time, such as mentoring a young person on a specific skill. You can contribute as much or as little time as you want to volunteering to fit around your studies!

Feeling inspired?

Why not start your volunteering story today and discover all of the exciting opportunities you can get involved with. For University students, your Students’ Union is likely to offer a wide range of volunteering opportunities; from sports, faith, cultural and academic societies, to fundraising groups and student media, all helping to bring students together.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, why not check The Student Room – https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/wiki/volunteering which provides a list of UK organisations which you could also volunteer for.

Interested in volunteering with PAPYRUS?

At PAPYRUS, we offer a variety of volunteering opportunities to help build suicide-safer communities across the UK. We equip our volunteers with the tools and skills needed to identify and respond to a young person at risk, as we believe we can all have a part to play in breaking down the stigma around suicide. We need passionate and committed volunteers to help us do this.

We currently have a fantastic group of PAPYRUS student volunteers at Bangor University. All study either counselling or psychology, but it doesn’t matter what you study if you want to get involved. They were inducted as PAPYRUS volunteers in November 2020 and have since been working hard to get the word out about PAPYRUS around campus, by putting up posters, running virtual events and social media campaigns to signpost students to reach out if they need advice and support to our service, HOPELINEUK.

If you would like more information about volunteering for PAPYRUS, follow the link to find out more: https://www.papyrus-uk.org/volunteer-for-us/.

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