At Surrey, there are many programs and platforms to help you develop new skills and become more employable. Many students choose to find a part-time job, but they are also encouraged to volunteer as a way of enhancing their CVs and giving back to the community. As Realtor Tiff Iden notes in her article, Top 5 Reasons Why YOU Should Volunteer, “your experience can be listed in your resume or LinkedIn profile to help bridge the gap to potential employers.”
In 2018, University of Surrey launched Surrey Volunteering, a portal of opportunities from charities and local organisations all looking for enthusiastic helping hands. Students can login to the platform with their usual Surrey credentials and have access to a wide range of possibilities.
Remarkably, the platform is so widely used that, in 2022 alone, students volunteered 29,008 hours to charitable causes. Those hours not only helped them gain essential skills, but also positively impacted the Surrey community as a whole.
Why you should volunteer
Using Surrey Volunteering can have so many advantages. Aside from the employability aspect, you get to meet new people and enjoy yourself. Focusing on these activities can provide a break from University life, which can often be hectic, and an opportunity to make friends you wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Everything you do can be accounted for in the platform, with students able to log their hours and the skills they’ve developed. Afterwards, this time needs to be certified by an approver, for instance your manager, depending on the work you’re doing. This is important in order for the hours to appear on your H.E.A.R (Higher Education Academic Record) alongside your grades.
Personally, Surrey Volunteering has provided me with the tools to find some of the rewarding activities I’ve gotten involved with, such as a Self-Isolation Buddy from 2021-22 and a Student Equality (previously known as Liberation) Network volunteer. Additionally, I have managed to document all of my work as a Course Rep and Society Signatory.
If you’re looking for further reasons to join the platform, watch this video or check out some content created by Surrey Peer Supporters. The team have designed a guide on how Surrey Volunteering works which may prove useful.
How to use the platform
There is a wide range of activities you can do and companies you can work for. Once you enter the website, you can have a view of all that is available. Each opportunity will include the three main skills you can gain and some basic information of what the role involves.
Most often you will need to write a statement of motivation, explaining your reasons for choosing the activity. Depending on the organisation you may need to complete further forms or send documents like DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service).
There are activities which happen frequently, with a specific time commitment. Others might be one-off or more flexible in how long you should be dedicating per week.
For instance, joining Action for Carers Surrey as an Adult Carer Support Hub Volunteer has no specific time commitment, whereas if you offer to be an Asylum Seeker Support at Happy Baby Community (HBC), you are required to work for 3 hours per week.
You can also search opportunities according to your preferred location, including multiple cities in the UK, places worldwide, and the option for remote work. If you already know which organisation you’d like to work for, it is possible to narrow that down as well.
Opportunities on campus
Many roles are offered by the Students’ Union, a registered charity linked to the University. I would certainly recommend having a look at what you can do on campus without the need to commute.
For instance, at the moment there is the possibility to volunteer for Welfare Watch, which involves supporting students during Rubix nights out. Another option is to take part in Positive Minds, a Support Zone initiative aiming to help students who have anxiety, depression or eating disorders.
If you are passionate about diversity and fighting against injustices such as racism, sexism and homophobia; you can join the Student Equality (formerly known as Liberation) Network which is run by the VP Voice.
Importantly, there are certain opportunities which are not directly advertised on the platform, such as to become a Course Rep or Society Signatory, but for which the hours can be logged on Surrey Volunteering as well.
Opportunities off campus
There are many roles with unique skills that can be developed. For leadership, there is the English Development Programme at Travelteers. For communication, you can join The Children’s Trust as an Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Volunteer. For active listening, you can join Nightline or become a Wellbeing Volunteer at The Eikon Charity.
If you’re interested in improving teamwork, you can work at shops like Oxfam. If social media is your passion, you can join Tatsfield Fairtrade or UKAM. For travel lovers, you can join Travelteers‘ multiple programmes, such as Sports and Community Development.
Whether you’re looking to try something different, meet new people, give back to the community or just gain experience, volunteering can be the answer. As students, you should take advantage of these fulfilling opportunities for self reflection and improvement without the pressure of having to join the workforce.
According to Tiff Iden, you just have to think about what drives you, and then find “[…] causes, organisations, and opportunities that are a great match for your unique interests, skills, and personality.”
Volunteering can have a great impact not only in your career prospects but your personal life too, as you find out more about yourself and what you’re passionate about.