A recognition program of Queen’s University enrolled students who volunteer.
Each academic year 5 students will be selected from nominations to receive £25 of high street vouchers.
Nomination Deadlines: 9 November 2012, 7 December 2012, 22 February 2013, 22 March 2013 & 19 April 2013.
What inspired you to get involved in volunteering?
I was first inspired to volunteer by all the people around me who dedicate so much time and energy to the different causes they believe in. I guess initially I was inspired by my parents and my secondary school, who always placed a strong emphasis on giving back to the community and helping others, even in small ways. I began volunteering at fifteen in the local Cancer Research Shop in town two afternoons a week and on Saturday mornings. As I was too young to work at this stage, volunteering gave me the opportunity to meet new people and gain experience of the work place and until this day it was one of the most uplifting places I have worked in. From then on, I think I had caught the "bug" for volunteering and it has yet to leave!
What does your volunteering involve? Tell us about what you do.
At the minute, as I am in my final year of University, I am not doing as much volunteering as I would like, or have done in the past. I am the joint President of the Saint Vincent De Paul Society in University and this involves organising meetings, developing partnerships and placements with volunteering organisations, and students, fundraising activities, attending regional and local meetings and conferences, volunteering in diverse placements and also leading, at a university level, Saint Vincent De Paul initiatives such as the hamper, shoe box and coat appeals.
I am also a Volunteer Ambassador for Volunteer Now and this involves promoting volunteering on behalf of the organisation among young people for example through speaking at volunteer and careers fairs, sharing my volunteer story, working with the Youth Team in Volunteer Now to enhance and improve the website and Facebook page. Furthermore, as the Saint Vincent De Paul Society is a delivery partner for the Millennium Volunteer Award Scheme which recognises the volunteering hours, training and skills of young people from 14-25, alongside promoting this scheme, I also sign off and support the members in our society working towards achieving their awards of excellence.
What skills or qualities are required for volunteering role?
I would pick out four main qualities: passion and commitment, energy, integrity and the willingness to sacrifice!
Passion and commitment: I think you have to have passion for the cause. You need to believe that your volunteering makes a difference and the organisation you volunteer for is honest and has integrity. To make a real difference, to make a change, you need to be committed to the cause. Whether you are unloading boxes from a truck in the middle of summer or shoveling snow for the elderly, you need to have enthusiasm and drive for what you are doing.
Energy: Volunteering can take a lot of energy. When I was in Thailand volunteering teaching English, numerous people were getting stomach sicknesses; the work was physically exhausting, and the intense heat and humidity did not help the situation. However, I was amazed and encouraged by the unrelenting energy the group put forth each day. It was one of the most encouraging and exciting things to see. It really showed how much the group believed in what they were doing and the importance they placed on it.
Integrity: One of the most helpful things I’ve seen in our volunteers is integrity. When people are sincere in their every day life it enriches their volunteer work in a way that speaks louder than words.
Sacrifice/Selflessness: Volunteering is just that- sacrificing of one’s time, energy and services without expecting anything in return. In today’s world, the sacrificing of ones time is frequently extremely challenging but I think it is at this point when we have to examine what we are doing- is it worth our time and effort? Because when we realize what’s important, living for ourselves is often not so appealing.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering and what has been your highlight?
I think probably the most rewarding thing about volunteering for me, is how, something that may be so small and may seem insignificant to me, can make such a difference in another persons life! I have met some amazing and inspirational people through volunteering and it continues to surprise, challenge and excite me. It is hard to say what has been my “one highlight” but it would probably have to be my experience with SERVE in Thailand last year. I went to Thailand for six weeks to teach English to women of all ages who were living in a severely corrupt and challenging society. The commitment, perseverance, courage and stamina of the women I met while I was there, living in extremely difficult situations, opened my eyes hugely to the difference a team of eleven can do. A project, which I began as an “English teacher” quickly became a once in a lifetime opportunity with some of the most unbelievable people, whom to this day I have such admiration and respect for.
What advice would you pass onto someone who would like to volunteer?
Firstly, find a cause you are passionate about and that means something to you and take a risk! And, at my own risk of sounding too cheesy (I think I’ve already achieved that), a friend gave me a quote from Benjamin Button, the movie and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate ending:
“It's never too late or, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again”.
I have learnt more from volunteering than I could ever learn from a classroom or a textbook. I would say try it! If its not for you, what have you lost? And if it is, well maybe you could gain so much more than you could have ever imagined!
Degree: 3rd year International Politics and Conflict Studies
Amy Keegan (on the left in the photo) has been actively involved with RAG at Queen’s ever since she started university in 2010. She has subsequently devoted countless hours of her time to helping RAG raise money for their nominated charities. Amy has travelled to Newcastle, Edinburgh and London with RAG, giving up her own free time and enduring the harsh weather, to help raise money for many a good cause.
This year Amy was on the RAG committee and has therefore had a say in the planning of a number of the major events over the last year. This includes such things as the infamous RAG pub crawls, of which Amy was a Team Leader. Amy’s hard-work, dedication and enthusiasm for RAG and what it stands for has recently seen her elected to the prestigious role as RAG Head, for the coming academic year.
Last year Amy successfully raised an extortionate amount of money through climbing Kilimanjaro in Africa in aid of Child Reach International. Amy’s fundraising efforts had not gone unnoticed by the charity as she later received an Award for being amongst the top fundraising individuals for the charity last year. This underpins the drive that Amy has to make a positive contribution to lives of others. This is primarily through volunteering her time to raise money for charities that help those in need.
Since then Amy has successfully recruited a team of 19 people who are to climb Kilimanjaro early this summer, she will undertake the expedition for a second time. To date her team have successfully raised £43,860 and this figure is expected to increase. As a Team Leader for the expedition this year Amy has conducted many inspirational talks for her team, giving them numerous fundraising ideas, all the while keeping them motivated to meet their fundraising targets. One event, the ‘Slave-for-a-day’ auction, which Amy promoted, saw over £1,000 raised towards the climb in one night!
Even amidst revising for her exams, Amy has managed to find time to help out with bag-packing at a local supermarket.
Amy has also made herself available to her team on a one-to-one basis, something that within her role, she is not expected to do. This simply reinforces the fact that Amy willingly goes the extra mile to help people.
Amy’s ardour for helping people extends beyond university life. Following her trip to Peru a few years ago, Amy has been working closely with her local church to raise money to build a school in the slums of Lima in Peru.
Whilst at home Amy also volunteers in the local Cancer Research shop. This year she will also be a steward during the Race for Life campaign, for which Amy also helps to promote.