To celebrate International Volunteers Day 2019 Irish universities and institutes of technology have come together through the Campus Engage initiative to launch their first ever student volunteering annual report to highlight the activities and achievements of their students.
“Student volunteers play such a constructive role in communities, often providing vital services for excluded and vulnerable people. Volunteering is for all and that idea of inclusiveness translates into the work student volunteers do daily across the country. Today is a day to celebrate volunteers and our report highlights some of the students who are helping achieve a more inclusive future for all.” – Colm O’Hehir, Campus Engage Officer
An Impact Assessment of Irish Universities, conducted by economists Indecon, revealed that in 2017/18 over 17,500 student volunteers donated three million hours of their time to causes both at home and abroad, at an estimated value of €28.4 million to the exchequer.
studentvolunteer.ie is an online tool that supports students wishing to volunteer in their communities. The portal is the first of its kind globally – a national volunteering database specifically created for higher education students. It was developed in 2016 by ten third level institutions through Campus Engage.
There are now more than 1000 organisations and 14,000 students registered on the website, with over 4,000 new student registrations in the 2018-19 academic year. Through studentvolunteer.ie, new student volunteers have clocked up a total of 39,746 hours through volunteering opportunities promoted. Overall, students successfully volunteered for 3,391 opportunities.
Some of the students making valuable contributions through volunteering include:
University College Cork social studies student, Vera Stojanovic founded Better Together in 2016. Her charity works to improve the social and emotional well being of women living in Direct Provision in Cork. UCC, through the Quercus scholarship program and the University of Sanctuary initiative, has allowed Vera access to valuable supports and resources that helped support programmes run by BetterTogether. Working with UCC allows the charity access to a group of volunteers with a diverse set of skills and experience. As well as running yoga classes, volunteers also organise a large variety of activities such as summer camps, games nights, accessing employment courses and clothing drives. Recently student volunteers implemented an employment skills training course, which had over 40 women asylum seekers participating.
“There is no greater satisfaction than realising you have made a difference to the life of someone else. Giving your time to help others is giving a piece of yourself, it is food for the soul.”
Institute of Technology Tralee student Conor O’Brien was the President’s Civic Spirit Gold Award Winner in 2019. Starting in secondary school in the Student Council, Conor moved on to volunteering with the Events Society in IT Tralee as its secretary, and then founded the Spark Society, the first mental health awareness society on campus. College volunteering has helped Conor to develop his confidence, allowing him to tackle new and greater challenges.
“The society was so committed to the topic that it was absolutely fantastic working with a dedicated team. I enjoy developing the society’s community to grow and develop into something more than it is. Perseverance and consistency are key for individual volunteering, seeing it through to the end no matter what. When working in a team, getting to know your team outside the volunteering experience is so important to help build a good team dynamic.”
NUI Galway mature access student Michelle Mitchell is a dedicated volunteer, earning the NUI Galway ALIVE Certificate in recognition of her volunteering efforts. Michelle’s volunteering is with organisations that offer mental health, physical and intellectual disability supports. Michelle identified a gap in resources for families who have children with special needs, chronic illness and disabilities, and developed the Special Heroes Ireland initiative that provides educational and recreational activities in Galway. In particular, Michelle and other volunteers organise workshops for the siblings of those with disabilities to help parents who have to spend a lot of time tending to their additional needs child.
Michelle: “We work with families to help the sibling of the child, as parents who have a child with a special need or chronic illness have to focus their time and attention on that child. We create opportunities so they can learn to cook, make movies, do artwork.”
Colm O’Hehir, Campus Engage Officer, 087 7686136 firstname.lastname@example.org
Lia O’Sullivan, Head of Communications IUA 085 7141414 email@example.com