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Learning for Life: Emma Theoloosen’s Story


I first became interested in working with Learn for Life as they were advertising having a teaching assistant position available for teaching English to speakers of other languages. This seemed perfect for me as I’m hoping to become a teacher of English in the future, perhaps in another country where English wouldn’t be the native tongue. The position was remote and asked for about 2-3 hours per week, so I could easily fit it into my university schedule.

I’m very glad I was able to work with Learn for Life and I feel they were happy to have me work with them as well. Considering the nature of the classes, speaking with people who have recently moved to the UK from all over the world and are learning more about the UK and adjusting to their new lives here, I think they were happy to be able to practise their English with me because I have a similar experience as I only moved to the UK two years’ ago myself. As such we could speak about common experiences like figuring out the buses in Sheffield (and how they don’t always show up) and learning about Bonfire night and seeing the Christmas Market in the town centre.

I’ve learned an incredible amount from my relatively short time at Learn for Life. Mostly I’ve learnt about other cultures and practices and foods and music and traditional names. I’ve also learned how to approach a conversation when there will be a language barrier and you may have to try and phrase a question differently/in many different ways. The highlight for me was always hearing how people and their children were easing into life in the UK, getting new jobs, making new friends and finding that regardless of the circumstances they might have had to relocate under, they were finding their way and often enjoying it too.

I would definitely encourage others to volunteer, even if you’re not totally sure about it. The organisations that accept volunteers tend to be so very grateful to have your help and you never know how much you’ll come to learn and love your volunteering position. And if it’s not for you that’s alright too, there are so many different positions and organisations ready to receive your help so you can always keep trying elsewhere.

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Supporting Survivors of Human Trafficking: Alban’s Story

Runner-up for the 2022 Lloyds Scholars Volunteering Award, Alban Krashi has spent his time at University volunteering with the Snowdrop Project.

The Snowdrop Project is a Sheffield-based charity that empowers survivors of human trafficking to live free from their past. I chose the Snowdrop Project as I researched their incredible work and wanted to contribute to it. The skills I gained were operating in a new environment, a new service, and a sector. The administrative skills to support survivors of human trafficking are challenging due to the barriers in the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ to asylum seekers and refugees. Furthermore, the experience has developed me and allowed me to further contribute to the community.

At The Snowdrop Project, I was a Volunteer Caseworker providing support and advocacy. Many survivors face overwhelming barriers to independent living, and having a trained advocate to navigate these issues makes these barriers more surmountable. I ensured that I could support staff and clients. My impact reduced the workload for my colleagues, but it allowed me to maximise the value of the hours volunteering.

“The Snowdrop Project provides holistic, long-term community-based support to survivors in the UK to recover from their past, have hope for their future and reach a place of independence.”

Alban

As a Renovation Volunteer, you can help clients create a place they can call home with pride and dignity. When survivors are entitled to permanent accommodation, usually through the local authority, the state of the housing varies. Regardless, all are unfurnished and need a deep clean at a minimum. This transition presents another knife edge to a survivor’s stability and recovery. Snowdrop believes that stable and safe accommodation is a basic need, without which survivors can seriously struggle to move into independence.

“There is more to life than your degree; volunteering is an opportunity to contribute to your community while developing skills and broadening your horizons.”

Alban

The Snowdrop Project provides holistic, long-term community-based support to survivors in the UK to recover from their past, have hope for their future and reach a place of independence. The highlight is watching this happen in real-time. There is more to life than your degree; volunteering is an opportunity to contribute to your community while developing skills and broadening your horizons.

Feeling inspired by Alban’s story? Click here to apply to be a Childcare Volunteer with Snowdrop or contact Snowdrop directly to enquire about volunteering!

Featured

Mental Health & Wellbeing #ActionWeeks

“Mental health is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health.”

World Health Organisation

Mental Health and Mental Wellbeing are two slightly different but interrelated concepts. Someone may have a diagnosed mental illness but still have high general mental wellbeing due to managing their difficulties, the help of good support systems, etc.

In the UK…

  • 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England 
  • 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week in England
  • Women are more likely than men to experience common mental disorders.

Mental health problems can range from the more common anxiety and depression, through to PTSD, phobias, OCD, psychotic disorders (like schizophrenia) and more.

  • Approximately only 1 in 8 adults with a mental health problem are currently getting any kind of treatment. The most common treatment offered is medication.

Most of these stats have been taken from the Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing in England which was last done in 2014. The most recent report showed that prevalence of mental health problems had increased since 1993. This survey is repeated every 7 years so a new one is currently being undertaken.

The biggest overall change since the 2014 Mental Health survey is the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that the prevalence of moderate or severe depressive symptoms among adults in Great Britain rose after the start of the pandemic. This has since fallen, but is still higher than it was pre-pandemic.

The ONS found that people were more likely to have experienced poor mental health during the pandemic if they also fit into any of the below categories:

  • Disabled
  • Clinically extremely vulnerable
  • Unemployed
  • Living in the most deprived areas of England

Mental Health does not exist in a vacuum. It is inextricable from physical health and socio-economic factors like class, race, sexuality, gender etc.

“Black men and white men experience similar rates of common mental health problems but Black women experience substantially higher rates of them than white women. When it comes to psychosis Black men experience it around 10 times more frequently than white men. But despite Black people, in very, very broad brush terms, having worse experience of mental health than white people, the latter are more than twice as likely to be receiving treatment for mental health problems. […] Black people are 4 times as likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act”

Discrimination in mental health services, Mind

One of Mind’s campaigns is around reforming the Mental Health Act, which is the act under which people can be sectioned, subjected to medical treatment without their consent, etc.

Students’ Mental Health…

There has been a 450% increase in UCAS applicants sharing their existing mental health conditions in their applications since 2011. Part of this is due to more awareness and less stigma around discussing mental health. However, analysis indicates that nearly half of students do not share information about their mental health with their chosen university or college.

As with the overall population, the pandemic has resulted in a decrease in overall mental wellbeing for young people. Student Minds found:

  • 74% of students reported that Covid-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing at university
  • 49% of students reported that the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their financial situation
  • 82% of respondents say the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their academic experience

Sheffield context…

After sharing a lot of statistics in this document, which can be a bit overwhelming to read, we also wanted to share Sheffield Flourish’s website. They empower people with lived experience of mental health issues to share their own stories.

They also run the Sheffield Mental Health guide, an online resource which gathers together all available services, groups and charities that offer mental health support in the city.

There is also a growing trend for “social prescribing”.

“The name comes from foundational research by Michael Marmot and Richard Wilkinson that suggests a person’s health is largely determined by social factors, like their work, environment and relationships. Social prescribing aims to address these factors, known as “social determinants”, by offering people prescriptions not in the form of a pill bottle, but as activities in their local community.”

A radical plan to treat Covid’s mental health fallout, Wired Article

Social prescribing is used to improve both physical and mental ailments and is offered by a variety of community organisations in Sheffield including Heeley Development Trust and Sheffield Futures.

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Digital Inclusion #ActionWeeks

One of the 3 themes we are focusing on for our Action Weeks campaign this semester is Digital Inclusion.

Digital inclusion can be split into two areas; improving the lack of access to digital (equipment and connection) and the lack of digital skills.

Digital exclusion affects lots of different groups including older people, disabled people and those in poverty.

Everything is “going digital” and this has been sped up even further due to the need to move things online during the pandemic. Everyone needs digital skills and access to be able to engage in society in so many different ways so the impact of being digitally excluded can be incredibly damaging.

Here are some examples of the impact digital exclusion may have on an affected individual:

  • Not being able to get the best deals on energy providers due to not knowing how to search for the best deals.
  • Increased risk of being scammed due to a lack of digital skills / awareness around the warning signs.
  • Being unable to stay in contact with loved ones when isolating.
  • Being unable to apply for jobs and/or not getting interviews/jobs due to lack of digital skills.

Take a look at Good Things Foundation’s infographic from 2021 which includes an overview of the current digital situation in the UK.

Good Things Foundation Digital Nation UK 2021

The Situation in Sheffield

In 2018, 12% of the Yorkshire and The Humber population were reported as “internet non-users” according to the Office for National Statistics. Sheffield City Council have identified Digital Inclusion as an issue and they held a Digital Inclusion Summit in January 2021 and have since completed a Digital Inclusion Survey from May to June 2021. Over 100 people attended the Digital Inclusion Summit in January, representing over 50 different organisations.

There are a wide variety of services provided by different charities and community organisations across Sheffield that are doing amazing work to tackle digital exclusion and we wanted to highlight a few!

Laptops For All

Originally launched in 2020 as Laptops for Kids to distribute donated laptops and devices to schools across the North of England, Laptops for All has now expanded to serve the wider community. Anyone who does not currently have access to a device at home and needs one to complete activities such as paying bills, completing education courses or accessing online communication channels is able to apply for a laptop from Laptops for All. You can read more about the impact this campaign is having on individuals in Sheffield here.

SYHA (South Yorkshire Housing Association) Digi Friends

SYHA’s Digi Friends volunteers support their customers to develop their digital skills and confidence. The team works with customers to get them set up on new devices, to learn how to call friends and family, send emails, shop online, get connected for their jobs, and so much more.

Quote from a SYHA customer benefitting from the Digi Friends project

287 customers have achieved their goals with Digi Friends so far!

Sign up to be a Digi Friend volunteer here.

Age UK Sheffield Digital Drop-in

Age UK’s Digital Drop-in runs twice a month at Sheffield Central Library. This drop-in session is open to anyone who wants support with digital skills such as using their smart phone or laptop.

The drop-in service is run by Digital Volunteers. You can sign up to be a Digital Volunteer with Age UK here.

Heeley Development Trust

Heeley Development Trust runs a variety of Digital projects helping to improve access to digital devices as well as improving people’s digital skills:

  • The Digital Inclusion Project provides 1:1 tailored ongoing advice and digital support.
  • Device Doctor is a service to try to fix individuals’ broken laptops, tablets, phones, etc.
  • IT Classes run weekly covering a variety of topics to support people to increase their digital skills.
  • Computer Club is an opportunity for people to share skills and repair and reuse old computers.
  • Free Computer & Internet Access is available at Heeley Trust Community Hub’s IT Centre with Digital Champions volunteers available to provide support.

If you would like to support any of the above activities, you can sign up as a Digital Champion volunteer here.

Featured

Food Insecurity #ActionWeeks

Food Insecurity means not having access to enough food of nutritious quality to meet basic needs, due to financial or other barriers. This can lead to hunger and inability to live a healthy, active lifestyle. People who are food insecure may rely on food banks for food, toiletries and other basic items.

The Trussell Trust

The Trussell Trust is a nationwide network of food banks and providing emergency food and support to people locked in poverty. They also campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK. For example, “Help end impossible decisions” is a campaign showcasing the fact that people are currently being forced to choose between fuel or food.

The 3 main factors pushing people into poverty and food insecurity are: Energy, Inflation and Benefit Cuts. Also, delays in universal credit, rising rent costs, soaring household fuel bills and gas prices, rapid inflation of basic commodities.

The Trussell Trust Nationwide Foodbank network

In the last year, the trust’s 1,300 food bank centres have provided 2.5m emergency food parcels.

This is the State of Hunger Report – May 2021 Food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network distributed 61,000 emergency food parcels in 2010/11, rising to 2.5 million in 2020/21.  Compared to this time five years ago, the need for food banks in the network has increased by 128% (Number of emergency food parcels distributed each year)

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In Sheffield there are a few Trussell Trust foodbanks including Burngreave Foodbank and S6 Foodbank.

S6 Foodbank is Sheffield’s busiest Foodbank, provide emergency food parcels, debt support, housing, and benefits advice to support guests. S6 Foodbank operates 11 sites across Sheffield – serving the whole city – feeding around 1,200 people every single week, and giving out around 13 tonnes of food each week.

They are very active on social media so follow them on Instagram and Twitter! The most recent campaign #NobodyGoesWithout – highlights that food poverty is a city-wide problem, and encourages you to play a part to help ensure everyone in our brilliant city has enough food to eat. You can also volunteer with them – register interest in this advert!

Volunteer sorting donations at a Foodbank

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Another national organisation working to prevent Food Insecurity is Fareshare – Fighting Hunger, tackling food waste. Fareshare redistributes surplus food from the food industry to charities and community groups across the UK, including school breakfast clubs, older people’s lunch clubs, homeless shelters, and community cafes. Every week Fareshare provide enough food to create almost a million meals for vulnerable people.

2020/2021 has been FareShare’s biggest year yet, helping 10,542 charities and community groups and providing 1,108,064 people with food. The food redistributed contributed towards 131.9 million meals and saved the charity sector £18.5 million.

Fareshare has links with many supermarkets and food providers, including Waitrose. In South Yorkshire the depot locations are in Barnsley, Chesterfield.

Marcus Rashford (England International footballer) has been an ambassador of FareShare since March 2020. #MakeTheUTurn campaign, which saw the voucher scheme – a replacement for free school meals through the lockdown – extended over the summer, ensuring 1.3 million vulnerable children could continue to access food.

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The Sheffield-based Food Works operates in a similar way, intercepting food that would otherwise be wasted, and repurposing it to make sure bellies are fed, not bins.

Each year, Food Works saves 500 tonnes of food from going to landfill, and makes it available to the people of Sheffield in a variety of ways:

  • Kitchen & Cafe (Sharrow and Upperthorpe hubs) – upcycling quality surplus and locally grown ingredients into delicious food and drink
  • Market (Handsworth hub) – collecting and sharing surplus food
  • Farm – developing hyperlocal food production through community growing
  • Just Meals (available at all hubs and more locatuions, including Our Shop in the Students’ Union!) – environmentally-friendly frozen ready meals created using quality surplus and locally grown ingredients, and no additives! They are packaged in 100% biodegradable and home compostable packaging and can be heated in the microwave or oven at home.

Food Works are always looking for volunteers in the warehouse, kitchen, farm, market and more! Search Food Works on the Sheffield Volunteering website, or read more and fill out the application form here.

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The cost of living for households across Great Britain is rising, and increasing energy prices disproportionately impact people on lower incomes. 

The poorest 10% of households spent 54% of their average weekly expenditure on essentials (housing, food and transport) compared with 42% for those in the richest 10% Read more about this here.

Why are prices of basic food items rising?
Rise in production costs e.g. labour, transport, energy/fuel and fertiliser; Trade issues; Brexit (trade, skilled EU workers leaving); Changing climate and bad weather affecting growing conditions; Rise in demand (e.g. because more people eating at home) reduces supply; Driver shortages

Jack Monroe (@BootstrapCook on Twitter) is a British food writer, journalist food writer, journalist and campaigner against poverty issues and hunger relief. A former foodbank user, Jack recently campaigned for appropriate and fairer recognition of price inflation and how it affects those on lowest incomes the most. The campaign successfully changed the way Office for National Statistics measures inflation, to create #VimesBootsIndex (named in honour of “Sam Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness”).

Jack Monroe has written a range of books about cooking on a budget

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In Sheffield there are many charitable organisations taking action on Food Insecurity. You can get involved and volunteer with them too!

Bags of Taste is an award-winning food education programme working with people living in food poverty to improve their diets, finances and physical and mental wellbeing by cooking tasty, healthy, take-away beating meals from scratch for just £1 a head.

Foodhall is a community space in Sheffield City Centre supporting the health and wellbeing of the people of Sheffield through a kitchen, social eating space, workshops, and variety of other initiatives.

The Sunday Centre serves Sheffield’s homeless and vulnerable in the city centre. On Sundays, there is a particular need for a safe, warm refuge available because many other relief organisations close on this day. The main aims are to provide guests with a warm welcome, hot food and drinks, and the chance to socialise with others as they wish.

The Cathedral Archer Project is a place where homeless and vulnerable people are supported to change their lives for the better.

Featured

#MeetTheCharity – All Inc Trampolining

For our Action Weeks Specials, Liz Clay chatted to us about how this inclusive trampolining club offers a chance to improve mental health and wellbeing, as well as physical health.

Hi Liz, please tell us a bit about All Inc Trampolining!

We are a parent-led club running inclusive trampoline sessions for children and adults with disabilities and/or additional needs. We are affiliated to British Gymnastics and sessions are led by qualified coaches supported by volunteers.

Sport participation among disabled people is around 25% lower than among the population as a whole. Opportunities to take part are harder to find and usually more expensive. We aim to make our sessions accessible and affordable for everyone and our fantastic volunteers help us make that possible.

Great! It sounds like a very worthwhile club. What’s the best thing about being involved with All Inc Trampolining?

Seeing the joy it brings to both members and their parents/carers.

Yes that’s lovely! Can you tell us about a nice thing that has happened in your role recently?

One of our very youngest members brought gifts for ‘the team’ and a hand made card, after being with us for only a few weeks. He had even remembered all our names.

That must have felt very rewarding! How important are volunteers to your club?

The club is run entirely by volunteers. Trustees, coaches, everybody gives their time for free. So all our volunteers are vital. We have members from age 5 to adult, so it makes a big difference to have some volunteers who are closer in age to our younger members.

It sounds like our student volunteers would fit right in, how can students get involved?

We have 3 roles on the Sheffield Volunteering website. Admin Support and Coach Support are active roles. The 3rd role of Befriender is suspended at present as a result of Covid restrictions but we hope to activate it shortly.

Register your interest in the roles here: Admin Support // Coach Support

You can also find out more about us on our website, get in touch directly via allinc@hotmail.co.uk and watch this video (which features a couple of University of Sheffield students)!

And finally, what’s your favourite thing about Sheffield?

Sheffield is like a giant village. It has the community feel of somewhere much smaller but the amenities of somewhere much bigger.

Thank you so much for your time, we hope that our University of Sheffield students will volunteer with you!

Featured

#MeetTheCharity – South Yorkshire Chaplaincy & Listening Service

As part of our Action Weeks Special, Roxy from South Yorkshire Chaplaincy & Listening Service told us what it’s like to work and volunteer with this brilliant charity, ultimately supporting people with their Mental Health & Wellbeing.

Hi Roxy, please can you describe to us what the South Yorkshire Chaplaincy & Listening Service does?

We provide Chaplaincy and Listening Services for people in workplaces and community situations of all descriptions across South Yorkshire, particularly but not exclusively, supporting people through the difficulties of life situations.

We also deliver training on various aspects of listening and support to volunteers, charities and other organisations.

We want to help people to be empowered to improve their lives through our listening & chaplaincy services. We provide a service that has made a difference for over 360 people during the Pandemic & helped them to process the issues that are very real for them through the services we provide.

Wow, that’s an amazing number of people, especially during these especially difficult couple of years. What’s the best thing about working with South Yorkshire Chaplaincy & Listening Service?

The variety of different types of people who volunteer with us. And the great team we now have. Every day working at the charity is different.

But more than anything it is that we make a difference to many people’s lives everyday of the week, from an individual at a GP surgery who lives on their own & has no one to share their grief with, to a school staff member who is struggling because of the trauma of the Pandemic.

Yes it must be really rewarding to make such positive differences to people’s lives. How valuable are student volunteers to your charity?

We value our student volunteers who have always been willing & keen to work with us. Sometimes this is in very challenging circumstances & listening to people in crisis. We’ve also had students do some research work for us which has really helped us to improve our processes.

We value this willingness & availability & hope that more students will choose to volunteer with us. They get amazing training & we provide supervision so nobody feels they are volunteering without support. We hope that this experience will prove helpful to them as they think about life after University too.

Yes, volunteering is a great stepping stone to future possibilities. How can students get involved?

Students can become Listeners with our charity. Listening to staff in schools, in sports settings, & more across South Yorkshire. Students can apply to the Listening Volunteer role on the Sheffield Volunteering website here.

You can also read more about us on our website.

One final question… what’s your favourite thing about Sheffield or South Yorkshire?

I really love the sense of community there is in Sheffield & the many green spaces we have around Sheffield.

Yes! Us too. Thank you for your time, it’s been lovely hearing about the South Yorkshire Chaplaincy & Listening Service and we hope students will join your team.

Featured

#MeetTheCharity – The Steel Valley Project

The days are getting longer so there is more daylight to be out and about in the countryside. The Steel Valley Project have lots of exciting projects coming up in 2022. Andy tells us more and how students can get involved…

Hi Andy, tell us about The Steel Valley Project

Hi! We are a countryside management and conservation charity who have been working around Stocksbridge, Sheffield and the Upper Don area since 1988. We work towards the following objectives:

-Manage habitats for the benefit of wildlife, people, heritage and landscape.
-Encourage access to open green space/wider countryside.
-Deliver environmental/education/interpretation to local schools/wider population.
-Provide support, advice, training & supervision to volunteers, trainees & community groups in countryside management/ conservations skills by working on real local environmental projects.

That sounds great and really worthwhile. What’s your favourite thing about Sheffield?

We love how Sheffield truly is the outdoor city – packed full of folk that want to get out there and explore, people that love the countryside and care about preserving it.

Yes, we are so close to the countryside! How valuable are student volunteers to your charity?

As we have a small team of only 4 core staff our volunteers and student volunteers really play a vital role within the organisation. The scope and scale of conservation and management work that we can take on each week is directly related to the number of volunteers that we have on site with our environmental officers.

What’s the best thing about working for your charity?

Working with the Steel Valley Project means working with a small, tight knit team who are passionate about what they do which makes it a fantastic place to work.

You sound like a lovely bunch of people to get to know! How can students get involved with The Steel City Project?

We are currently very keen to recruit more volunteers as we are taking on some big new projects in 2022. For anyone interested in woodland, flood and countryside management the SVP is a great place to volunteer. We would also be keen to hear from anyone with experience of social media, videography and events.

A big part of what we do is working with locally based volunteers from all walks of life to teach them new skills and help them to feel like they are giving something back to their local area. If that is something you would like to be part of then we’d love to hear from you.

You can reach out to us via our website, social media (see links below) or the Sheffield Volunteering website.

https://www.instagram.com/thesteelvalleyproject/ https://twitter.com/steel_valley https://www.facebook.com/TheSteelValleyProject/ https://steelvalleyproject.org/

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. We hope our University of Sheffield students enjoy getting stuck into your projects!

Featured

#MeetTheCharity – Roundabout

Our #MeetTheCharity Feature showcases local charities and their fantastic work, and lets you know how to join them as a volunteer! We chatted to Jess, Roundabout’s Community Fundraiser…

Tell us a bit about Roundabout?

Roundabout is South Yorkshire’s youth homeless charity providing shelter, support & life skills to young people aged between 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Watch this video on YouTube to see our work in action – Keisha speaks about her experience of being helped by Roundabout, and the charity’s CEO, Ben Keegan explains more about our work.

What’s your favourite thing about Sheffield?

The sense of community!

What’s the best thing about working for your charity?

Seeing the impact of what we do on the young people we work with.

By Their Side is one of Roundabout’s campaigns.

Yes, it must be really rewarding to see the positive impacts. How valuable are student volunteers to your charity?

Student volunteers take on a variety of roles with Roundabout, from helping with donation collections and administration tasks, to working directly with our young people at our Homeless Prevention Service.

Having reliable volunteers is extremely valuable to us as it means that we’re able to share the workload and reach even more young people who need our support and advice.

So how can students get involved to support more young people?

We often have active volunteer roles on the Sheffield Volunteering website (search “roundabout” here), however we also have many ad hoc opportunities so I would recommend visiting our website, emailing me to sign up to Roundabout’s mailing list, or following us on social media (find the links on our website), so that you are notified of all future opportunities.

The list of advertised Volunteer Roles is by no means exhaustive, so if you have any particular skills that you think would be useful to us, or if there is a particular service within Roundabout that you’d like to get experience in please just get in touch and we will try and match you up as best we can.

Gaming for Good – an upcoming event which Roundabout will be participating in

We have lots of events you can attend too – you’ll be supporting Roundabout whilst doing something fun! We have hosted Yorkshire’s first Chocolate Festival, a Musicals Drive-In and Murder Mystery nights, and a few weeks ago we partnered with the Treehouse Board Game cafe for a Board Games Swap Event.

Look at our website for upcoming events, volunteer application form and to find out more. You can contact me via email jessica.hudson@roundaboutltd.org or telephone 07542 679 507.

Thanks Jessica, that’s really helpful and we look forward to our students getting involved!

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#MeetTheCharity BUZZ Child Contact Centre

Kath Mardles works at Buzz Sheffield and tells us about the many animals she sees, and why volunteers are really valuable!

Hi Kath, thanks so much for chatting to us! Can you give us a quick description of what you do at Buzz?

We are a child contact centre, meaning we provide contact services for children to see the parent or family member they don’t live with.

We make the space comfortable and safe, and make it all about the children.

What is your favourite thing about Sheffield?

Hendersons!

Great answer! Can you tell us about a funny or interesting thing that’s happened at work?

We had Reindeers at a Christmas party, a rabbit visiting our contact centre, a dog we visited during lockdown and Alpaca’s, Meerkats and other animals often fund raise for us!

Wow! So many animals. How valuable are human volunteers, especially students, to your charity?

Hugely important. Student volunteers bring fresh ideas, different perspectives and knowledge that we value a lot!

What is the best thing about working at Buzz?

We are a small charity making a big difference.

What that means for you is, whatever your role and however big or small your involvement might be, you can and will make a difference that you will see.

You can also influence our direction as a charity by throwing in ideas, concepts, things that you know work and things that you love. We’re massively open to that!

What qualities are you looking for in volunteers?

If you are self motivated, passionate about making a difference to families, have high standards in everything you do, are non judgemental and very very friendly and welcoming you’re perfect for us.

The work we do is sensitive, confidential and can be distressing. It’s also rewarding, very busy and makes a huge difference to peoples lives.

You can join us by supporting our child contact centre, fundraising, tidying and clearing, gardening on our allotment or doing admin. If you’ve got a skill you think we need, let us know!

And what opportunities do you have at the minute?

You can always email me at kath@buzzsheffield.co.uk.

We’re usually looking for people to volunteer Monday-Saturday for various roles that support the work we do in our child contact centre.

We also run Supervised child contact, Community contact, Handover and Indirect contact sessions, so get in contact or apply on Sheffield Volunteering Website to learn more about these!

Thank you Kath, this was really interesting! We’re so glad you appreciate student volunteers.

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#MeetTheCharity – Greenpeace Sheffield

Hi Holly, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today! Can you tell us a bit more about Greenpeace in Sheffield?

We are Greenpeace’s local activist group – we campaign for climate justice! You can read about what we’re up to on our Facebook page or Greenwire website. talk – watch this video to hear from me (Holly!) and our group chairs, Dawn and Richard.

What’s your favourite thing about Sheffield?

Our wonderful trees!

Yes of course! What’s the best thing about being part of Greenpeace Sheffield?

Protecting the environment and meeting great people!

How valuable are student volunteers to your group?

Students time, creativity, and enthusiasm is very valuable!

How can students get involved?

You can join us in an Active Role or as an informal volunteer – you can make it your own depending on your skills and availability. Find the roles and register your interest on the Sheffield Volunteering website. Search “greenpeace”. We are currently recruiting for a Press Officer and General Volunteers, who will get involved in all aspects of the group, according to your interests!

Here are our social media links:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sheffieldgreenpeace
Instagram: @greenpeacesheffield
Twitter: @shefgreenpeace

Read more on our Greenwire website or email me on sheffieldgreenpeace@gmail.com

Watch this video to hear from me (Holly!) and our group chairs, Dawn and Richard, at Sheffield Volunteering’s Volunteer for Sustainability talk.

Thanks Holly! We hope our students are inspired to join the local Sheffield campaign with Greenpeace and take action for sustainability.

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#MeetTheCharity – Action Tutoring

We chatted to Kellie Coyle from Action Tutoring to find out why she loves Student Volunteers getting involved.

Kellie Coyle-Partnerships Coordinator (Universities)

Hi Kellie, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today! Can you tell us a bit more about Action Tutoring?

Action Tutoring is an education charity that supports disadvantaged young people to achieve meaningful qualifications on leaving primary and secondary school.

We partner our brilliant volunteer tutors with school pupils to increase their subject knowledge, whilst building on confidence and study skills.

We are an official provider for the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), a government initiative to support disadvantaged pupils to recover from the educational disruption caused by COVID-19. Disadvantaged pupils have been hit hardest by this crisis and we want to help as many as we can!

That’s brilliant! What’s your favourite thing about Sheffield?

I visited for the first time a few weeks ago!

My favourite thing though is the number of amazing volunteers we have applying through the University of Sheffield!

A student volunteer enjoying volunteering with Action Tutoring

How valuable are student volunteers to you and your charity?

Student volunteers are extremely valuable to our charity, making up 40% of our volunteer pool.

Just by studying at university they are an inspiration to our pupils and a motivation to achieve academically, and they bring a wealth of subject knowledge and experience to their tutoring sessions.

And what is the best thing about working for your charity?

Working alongside a driven and committed team and working with our amazing pupils!

It sounds like a fantastic atmosphere.

How can students get involved with your charity? Are you currently recruiting for volunteers?

We are recruiting for volunteer (Maths or English) tutors on an ongoing basis, and the advert for this can be found on the Sheffield Volunteering website.

Thank you so much for your time Kellie, we look forward to getting more students involved in Action Tutoring.

We hope you feel inspired to get involved with Action Tutoring; find the link to sign up on our website here!

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Meet The Charity Panel Talk – Get Out Into the Community

At this Meet The Charity Panel Talk, hear from a selection of local charities who are working hard for some key themes in our city, discover some benefits of volunteering first-hand, and find out how you can get involved. Get ready to feel inspired!


Refugees and Asylum Seekers – Hayley, Learn for Life
Homelessness – Jess, Roundabout  
Mental Health and Wellbeing (includes Loneliness & Social Isolation) – Ray, b:friend
Food Insecurity – Rachel, Burngreave Foodbank
Sustainability (includes Zero Waste, Wildlife & Nature and Environment) – Jo, Food Works
Digital Inclusion – May, Heeley Trust 

Watch the video here!

Learn For Life Enterprise look after refugees and asylum seekers who have recently arrived in the city or who have been here a couple of years. The charity, based in Sharrow, offer English language classes, conversation classes, digital inclusion, trips and more!

Roundabout support young people aged 16 to 25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, (currently over 300 people). They have residential projects, hostels and a drop-in centre which are safe spaces for young people to stay or go for advice. The charity also support people in their own tenancies.

Did you know? Loneliness can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. b:friend aim to combat this by offering company to older people aged 65 & over. This is done through volunteer befrienders visiting older neighbours once per week for a chat and company, and social clubs with a variety of activities, including hip-hop dancing. New cross-generational friendships flourish!

Burngreave Foodbank is part of the Trussell Trust network, giving out food parcels and running a weekly breakfast club to people in need, in the Burngreave and Darnall areas of Sheffield. Foodbanks are reliant on donations, so in addition to accepting donations all year round, they run supermarket collections to boost provisions.

Food Works are an environmental social enterprise working to save food from going to landfill. Partnering with supermarkets, businesses, wholesalers, they rescue just over 500 tonnes of food every single year and make it available for people of Sheffield, via cafes, Just Meals, and a food market.

Heeley Trust is a community anchor, based at Meersbrook Hall. The charity includes Heeley Millenium Park, SUM studios (local not-for-profit businesses) and delivers services such as the Digital Inclusion project. At the Doctor PC Drop-In people can be supported using the internet and all things digital, and have a cup of tea & chat!

Watch the video to find out more about each charity here! There are a range of causes, and a variety of roles to suit your preferences (e.g. face-to-face or behind the scenes; regular or one-off/ad hoc) So get in touch, have a conversation, and see how you can get involved to suit the needs of the charity AND you!

After the introductions we discussed some rewarding activities that our panel members enjoy (and what volunteers can enjoy too!) and what volunteers can get out of being involved with the local charity sector.

  • Christmas time donations, presents and being Santa!
  • Socials, meeting people, making friends and sharing experiences with other volunteers.
  • Seeing the difference and positive impact the service and volunteers make
  • Throwing a party for the internet!
  • Make Sheffield feel a bit more like home by finding out about different areas, understanding the city better and feeling part of the community.
  • Be able to volunteer and do something that’s actually actively helping people.
  • Gain something extra in addition to your qualifications, which shows you know about the real world.
  • Don’t worry if you’re not studying something directly related to the volunteer role or charity, you can help out in whatever way and it may help you decide on a future career path!
  • Develop your skills, confidence and build networks.
  • The voluntary sector is really welcoming and people just want to do good.
  • “You’ll be helping people, you’ll be doing good, you’ll get a lot from that yourselves.” (Ray, b:friend)

Watch the video to find out more about the benefits of volunteering here! There are so many benefits of volunteering and getting out into the community, so be confident to make the first step towards a new venture. The voluntary sector is really welcoming and friendly so get in touch…

Refugees and Asylum Seekers – Hayley, Learn for Life, hayley@learnforlifeenterprise.com


Homelessness – Jess, Roundabout, Jessica.Hudson@roundaboutltd.org


Mental Health and Wellbeing (includes Loneliness & Social Isolation) – Ray, b:friend, rayella.broomhead@letsbfriend.org.uk


Food Insecurity – Rachel, Burngreave Foodbank, info@burngreave.foodbank.org.uk


Sustainability (includes Zero Waste, Wildlife & Nature and Environment) – Jo, Food Works, volunteers@thefoodworks.org


Digital Inclusion – May, Heeley Trust, may.c@heeleydevtrust.com

If you have any questions, get in touch with the charities directly or volunteering@sheffield.ac.uk 🙂 thank you for reading and watching!

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#MeetTheCharity – Bags of Taste

As part of our #4WeeksOfAction campaign – Food Poverty theme – we chatted to Sara, Head of the Sheffield’s branch of Bags of Taste.

Sara Kopecsni, Branch Head, Bags of Taste Sheffield

Hi Sara, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat to us! Please tell us about Bags of Taste

Bags of Taste is a national non-profit organisation dedicated to tackling food poverty and changing the diet of people on low incomes.

Our free Cooking Courses help participants gain the skills they need to eat better, improve their finances and physical and mental wellbeing. It gives them the tools and support required to cook tasty, healthy, takeaway-beating meals from scratch on a small budget for less than 50p a portion.

Bags of Taste has worked with over 5000 people, and since the pandemic, we moved from physical courses to Mentored Virtual Cooking Courses.

Here’s a short video that showcases the work of Bags of Taste: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mw0ZAWD5BJA&ab_channel=BagsofTaste

What’s your favourite thing about Sheffield?

I love the diversity of the city and everything that comes with it, from the people to food – independent eateries, international street food markets, and of course, Henderson’s Relish!

Sheffield is a wonderful place to live as you have the buzz of the city and also access to plenty of green spaces, from parks to the Peak District.

What has been the funniest thing that has happened in your role recently?

Hearing people’s reaction when they learn how to chop an onion correctly! You’d be surprised how many people don’t know how to do it.

How valuable are student volunteers to Bags of Taste Sheffield?

They are extremely valuable to us, and we have many dedicated student volunteers who have been with us for a while. We couldn’t run the courses without the help of our volunteers. From delivering the ingredients to mentoring, their work makes a massive difference.

We welcome everyone – every student can bring something different to the table, and they have the chance to build on their skills and experience whilst supporting others.

What’s the best thing about working for Bags of Taste Sheffield?

I love connecting with people from different walks of lives and hearing about their stories. It is incredibly rewarding to receive their positive feedback and see the impact of Bags of Taste.

How can students get involved?

We are currently looking for volunteer Virtual Cooking Course Mentors to support our participants. We have courses running in May and June.

If you have an hour to spare a week for 2 to 3 weeks and feel the role would suit you, please search for “Bags of Taste” on the Sheffield Volunteering Website, or email me at sheffield@bagsoftaste.org

What will students gain from volunteering with Bags of Taste?

  • A rewarding experience and the knowledge you made a difference
  • You can improve your cooking skills – you will have access to the same recipes and resources as the participants
  • You can improve your communication and interpersonal skills by mentoring a small group online
  • You can connect with others during these challenging times and have fun!

Thank you Sara! We hope you feel inspired to get involved and help Bags of Taste combat Food Poverty in Sheffield. View and apply to the role on our website here

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#MeetTheCharity – Darnall Allotment Project

Our #MeetTheCharity Feature showcases local charities and their fantastic work, and lets you know how to join them as a volunteer!

We chatted to Sarah, the Project Coordinator at Darnall Allotment Project, a community growing project in Darnall aimed at improving health & well-being, promoting community involvement and social inclusion in the area.

What is Darnall Allotment Project?

Darnall Allotment Project is a community allotment that provides a space for people to see a working allotment, come and chat to us over a cuppa and meet the people involved. 

We have working days that provide opportunities for anyone to come along and learn about growing organic food whilst gaining hands on experience in sowing, growing and harvesting and maintaining an allotment. Also meeting new people, getting some exercise and benefiting from being in the outdoors.  No experience is necessary and we welcome anyone who has an interest in seeing what we do.

What is your favourite thing about Sheffield?

My favourite thing about Sheffield is all the green space within the city, especially unknown and little used spaces hidden in housing estates in the north of the city where you would least expect them

Describe a funny moment that has happened recently?

At the Darnall Allotments a lot of people keep animals and one of the most interesting things that happened was a tiny pony walking onto our plot and not wanting to leave.

How valuable are student volunteers to Darnall Allotment Project?

Student volunteers have been a fantastic help on the allotment, helping with digging, planting, preparing, tidying, events and social media.  It’s such an amazing way for students who are new to Sheffield to get away from the university and see different parts of the city and meet local people.

What’s the best thing about working for Darnall Allotment Project?

Darnall Allotment Project is a fantastic place to work.  I get to be outdoors with views across the city, growing and nurturing plants and watching beautiful organic food grow.  I also love the connection to the local area of Darnall and love meeting local people who chose to get involved with our project or just use the site.  And of course I get to eat delicious organic veggies!

How can students get involved?

If you’re interested in volunteering with us or coming along to see what we do, please fill in this form, or email us darnallallotmentproj@gmail.com

There are lots more photos, information and updates on our social media too! Facebook, Instagram

Thanks Sarah, it will be great to see all the allotments produce in the Spring and Summer! Enjoy eating the fruits (and veggies) of your labour!

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#MeetTheCharity – SCCCC

Our #MeetTheCharity Feature showcases local charities and their fantastic work, and lets you know how to join them as a volunteer!

We chatted to Sharon, the Volunteer Coordinator at SCCCC…

Who Are SCCCC?

SCCCC (pronounced S&4C) is a Sheffield based charity that has been supporting older, vulnerable people since 1966. We started with the Good Neighbour Friendly Visiting Scheme, where volunteers visit older people who are feeling isolated or lonely.

The charity has evolved over time and now we work closely with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, supporting older people whilst in hospital, on discharge or in their own homes, offering a helping hand when they need it most.

What’s your favourite thing about Sheffield?

I love the people – moved away and lived in London when I was 19 but the friendliness and warmth of the people in Sheffield pulled me back – and the fact that shop assistants call you love!

What’s the best thing about working for SCCCC?

I know we are making a difference in these frightening times- from the numbers of correspondence coming through the office for our Pen Pal Scheme to the number of people receiving telephone calls while we are unable to visit – we are doing our bit for the community of Sheffield.

University of Sheffield students sent these lovely cards to the SCCCC Pen Pal scheme!

How valuable are student volunteers to SCCCC?

I love the fact that throughout the pandemic and the difficulties our students are having, online learning, trying to study at home, no social University life (I know – we have a daughter at Uni) we are still having so much interest from our students.

Describe something you have adapted to in the past year?

Volunteer Chats are usually face to face over a coffee – but in these strange times, a few weeks ago I had a chat outside a library on a park bench – socially distancing – and hoping it wasn’t going to rain! – it didn’t. We all had to think much more flexibly.

How can I volunteer with SCCCC?

You can get involved with SCCCC as a Good Neighbour Volunteer. This currently involves chatting on the telephone with a local older person (who we match you up with) for about 1 hour a week, providing friendly company. When Covid restrictions allow, there will be possibility for in-person visits.

If you don’t have much time, you can write a letter or card to an older person as part of our Pen Pal scheme!

What will I gain as a volunteer?

There are so many benefits! You will:

  • Support older and vulnerable people in Sheffield, helping to address loneliness
  • Bring positivity and joy to someone’s life
  • Make new friends and be part of the community
  • Learn new things, about the real Sheffield and the lives of older people in our city
  • Work experience
  • References
  • A free DBS check processed for you

How do I apply?

Search SCCCC on the Sheffield Volunteering website

Or email me at volunteers@scccc.co.uk and I will send you an application pack with more details.

Thank you!!!

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#MeetTheCharity – St Luke’s

With the reopening of charity shops and the donation centre, Fran (St Luke’s Volunteer Coordinator), has been very busy organising volunteers to make sure everything runs smoothly, but kindly gave up some time in a busy schedule to tell us what it’s like to work and volunteer at St Luke’s!

Tell us about St Luke’s

St Luke’s is Sheffield’s Hospice, with a vision to support and care for everyone affected by terminal illness in Sheffield. We are a community organisation which means that everything we do is focused on helping people in their own communities as well as at our Little Common Lane site. Read more about St Luke’s on our website.

Our 13 shops are all based in the heart of communities across the city, as are our amazing volunteers and we couldn’t do what we do without them.

Could you help us to support the Hospice by volunteering in one of our shops just once a week? We have flexible hours available and lots of different roles such as: Meeting and greeting our customers on donation days, helping on the tills, in our stockrooms and shop floors and helping us to sort through our donations at our Donation Centre or our Crookes shop.

What’s your favourite thing about Sheffield? 

I love how friendly Sheffield folk are, you can strike up a conversation so easily!

What is the funniest thing that has happened this year within your role?

It has been wonderful to stay in contact with our volunteers during the various lockdowns, some of the telephone chats have really made me laugh out loud; with their ingenuity and determination to return to the roles which they love so much, our volunteers have kept me smiling. They have stayed amazingly positive and resilient and have been keeping busy by painting, decorating, gardening, walking, with some even sewing masks, scrubs and laundry bags and growing plants, even having Zoom quizzes to raise funds for us. Amazing!

How valuable are volunteers to St Luke’s Sheffield?

We value all our volunteers at St Luke’s, just a 3-4 hour shift once a week can make such a difference. We hope that in return we can help to build your confidence, help you gain some valuable skills, meet people in your local community and support your local Hospice.

What’s the best thing about working for St Luke’s Sheffield?

Working with such lovely people, work colleagues, volunteers and supporters alike all play such an important role. As a team we can ensure that St Luke’s is here for many years to come to support patients and their families and friends.

How can students get involved?

If you want to become part of a new team, make great new friends, support your local community or gain skills and experience to kick-start a career – read more information, watch videos and apply on our website!

You can contact me via email volunteer@hospicesheffield.co.uk or telephone 0114 235 7548. Thank you and see you soon!

Thanks Fran! You can also read more and apply via the Sheffield Volunteering website: Retail & Donations Centre Volunteer / eBay Volunteer

Featured

Finding Your Passion: Rachel’s Story

Rachel Taylor, University of Sheffield Student and Lead Fundraising Volunteer for Chula, a charity working to support young women in Sheffield and internationally.

I currently volunteer as the fundraising lead for a charity in Sheffield which works to empower and educate young women and promote women’s rights and gender equality.

Most recently, I, alongside a team of others, organised a life drawing event over Zoom which raised over £200 and over forty people attended. The event was an empowering evening focused upon body acceptance and aimed to highlight the beautiful diversity of bodies. Despite a few technical difficulties (it wouldn’t be a Zoom event without some issues) It was a really positive experience and we had fantastic feedback! For example, 100% of those who answered our feedback poll stated that they would come to another Chula event. It was lovely to chat to like-minded people and feel connected to others- a rarity during these often-lonely times. 

Body acceptance is a topic which we will be educating our beneficiaries about in the upcoming weeks and the money raised will help us to continue to deliver workshops to our beneficiaries as well as introducing our educational programmes into schools. As 80% of Chula respondents stated that they felt unhappy with their body and appearance, promoting body acceptance to our beneficiaries and highlighting the toxicity of diet culture and photoshop is a key aim of ours. 

Prior to this, I took was part of a team who organised Chula’s first online fund-raising event. The evening consisted of guest speakers (who discussed period poverty, PMDD and sustainable period products), a quiz and we learnt how to make our own reusable pads. I also helped to co-ordinate workshops for our Sheffield beneficiaries (largely girls aged between fourteen and sixteen) which was focused on confronting the stigma surrounding periods and menstruation. This was a really insightful and rewarding experience as well as a great opportunity to meet some of the beneficiaries. The workshops were online, and we had some great feedback from people who joined. 

Volunteering with Chula has been an invaluable experience for me, and I cannot recommend volunteering enough! I was apprehensive to begin my volunteering experience online as I was worried, I would find it difficult to feel connected and maintain a sense of community online- a reason I have previously enjoyed volunteering within the charity sector. However, the Chula team have all been wonderful and although I am yet to actually meet any of them in person, I feel as though I have met friends along the way! Another positive is that delivering events online has meant that we have been able to interact with activists from across the UK with ease.

I have also gained lots of valuable experience which has helped massively when writing job applications. I am looking for a career in the third sector, so the experiences made as fundraiser lead have provided me with a range of examples of skills for applications and interviews. Even if you don’t particularly want to work in the third sector, I would still highly recommend volunteering because you gain transferrable skills which look great on your CV. For example, teamwork, community building, leadership skills and public speaking.  Most importantly, the experience has been very rewarding as I am part of a cause I feel really passionate about!

Find your own cause to be passionate about at the Sheffield Volunteering website. You can learn more about Chula via their website, Facebook and Instagram.

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100 Hours with Artworks: Alice’s Story

Alice Preece, Digital Content Creator and Editor with ArtWorks 

Artworks South Yorkshire is a not-for-profit creative arts organisation, inspiring and helping adults with learning disabilities to achieve their potential and develop important life skills through creative workshops and placements. ArtWorks focus on achievement, self-belief, collaborative practice and teamwork whilst supporting their artists to play an active role within their community. ArtWorks aim to challenge people’s perceptions of intellectual disabilities through celebrating the creativity and ambition of their artists.  

Alice’s project for her placement was to develop an online platform on ArtWorks’ Youtube channel (#ArtWorkstogether) containing a variety of video content; helping ArtWorks’ clients to continue to be connected to the charity during the Covid-19 pandemic. The project will create a legacy for the organisation as they move towards an increase in the use of online platforms to support their service users even once the pandemic is over. 

Alice used her existing video creation and editing skills to film and share videos ranging from ‘How to make jumping origami frogs’ to ‘Basic British Sign Language’ to ‘An introduction to journaling’. One service user from ArtWorks’ group with learning disabilities said “the sign language one was great. It made me start a project learning to sign a hymn for church” and another said “Alice’s video about journaling made me feel calm, I loved it”.

Emma Harnett, Arts Coordinator at ArtWorks said the 100 Hour Placement scheme has “exceeded my expectations” and “[Alice’s] videos have proved a valuable resource both for our service users currently attending ArtWorks and those shielding at home. Her work has provided many starting points for service users to continue developing ideas. For example our group based in Hillsborough was inspired by her British Sign Language video to start working on a project learning to sign and create a music video.”

Not only have Alice’s videos had a huge impact on the lives of ArtWorks service users in South Yorkshire but they “have also regularly been shared by Community Catalyst, a national organisation, and feedback from them has been excellent with people across the country commenting on how the videos have helped them.” (Emma Harnett)

Whilst the placement has clearly had a positive impact on ArtWorks and their service users, it has also helped Alice to develop her skills and given her an opportunity to gain experience in an area she is passionate about. When asked what she has gained from her placement and how it has made a difference to her employability, Alice said “I gained so much more than I anticipated and made more of an impact than I thought was possible”, “my video editing ability has improved so much” and “I now have a legitimate job in an area that I’ve always wanted to get experience in that I can add to my CV.”

Alice also added, “I cannot recommend the 100 Hour Placements enough. I developed my skills so much over my two months at ArtWorks but I also got the unique opportunity to help such an amazing charity and make an impact in the local community.”

To find out more about ArtWorks, visit their website and social media: FacebookTwitterInstagram

The 100 Hour Third Sector Placement Scheme, organised by Sheffield Volunteering and Sheffield Students’ Union is an exciting opportunity for University of Sheffield students to gain substantial experience in a local charitable or voluntary organisation. The scheme is funded by a Sheffield alumnus who is especially keen to help today’s students get involved and gain insight into the Third Sector. In particular, students who may have faced barriers to building up their community voluntary experience whilst at university.

Summer 2020 was very different this year, so this opportunity offered a very unique experience for a small number of University of Sheffield students to work with different local charities, bring their skills and enthusiasm, and have a positive impact in local communities. The outcomes and legacies of the projects are highly valued and very much appreciated by the charities.

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100 Hours with Ignite Imaginations: Ruben’s Story

Ruben, Research & Marketing Assistant, Ignite Imaginations

Ignite Imaginations is a small arts charity based in Sheffield, aiming to celebrate and connect communities through art and creativity. High quality workshops ignite children and families imaginations, and individuals are supported to gain new skills and confidence.

Within this placement, Ruben managed the charity’s social media accounts making sure the content was new and relevant for the audience; developed the ‘My Story 2020 Campaign’; implemented a plan for 2021 in regards to relevant National Days to be promoted and celebrated on the social media platforms; and put together marketing reports which were shared with the Board of Trustees, who found them useful and informative. Part of these reports focussed on different social media platforms for the charity to use e.g. the strengths and limitations of Instagram. 

This enhanced media presence is vital for the small charity’s future development, securing funding to continue offering creative workshops to children and families. Ruben may have even found a new career pathway in marketing!

Ruben gained an insight into how a charity works, during a very unique time, and was also able to attend and assist the artists at a couple of the summer workshops. This was very rewarding to see first-hand how valuable the creative workshops are for the children and families who took part.

Ruben said: “I have felt like a valuable part of the team at Ignite Imaginations and my ideas are always listened to and supported. I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to work for a charity.”

“This scheme has boosted my confidence and given me an opportunity I would never have got otherwise. I know the work I have done for Ignite Imaginations is meaningful and successful, not only have I developed both professionally and personally but I know I will take the skills I have gained from my Internship wherever I go in life.” 

Read more about Ruben’s experience on the Ignite Imaginations blog here!

To find out more about Ignite Imaginations, visit their website and social media: Facebook, TwitterInstagram.

The 100 Hour Third Sector Placement Scheme, organised by Sheffield Volunteering and Sheffield Students’ Union is an exciting opportunity for University of Sheffield students to gain substantial experience in a local charitable or voluntary organisation. The scheme is funded by a Sheffield alumnus who is especially keen to help today’s students get involved and gain insight into the Third Sector. In particular, students who may have faced barriers to building up their community voluntary experience whilst at university.

Summer 2020 was very different this year, so this opportunity offered a very unique experience for a small number of University of Sheffield students to work with different local charities, bring their skills and enthusiasm, and have a positive impact in local communities. The outcomes and legacies of the projects are highly valued and very much appreciated by the charities.

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100 Hours with Zest: Alison’s Story

Alison Romaine, Children’s Play Project Developer with Zest

Zest is an award winning community enterprise delivering high quality and responsive services to local people in Netherthorpe, Upperthorpe & Langsett. As passionate community enablers, the team works to tackle local inequalities and improve community wellbeing through a variety of activities, projects and services. Zest is a centre for community wellbeing, a vibrant, community-led initiative, bringing people together, improving lives, and increasing access to health, education, leisure, and recreational facilities for all sections of the community.

In this placement, Alison’s main task was to create a Summer Play Trail Challenge. See it here: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/6fe4d12d27fb4cebb24271335145e58b

Children and families from the local area were encouraged to rediscover their local green spaces through fun play activity ideas that Alison created around different sites in Upperthorpe. For example painting with blackberries and making leaf collages. This project and sharing of experiences was important during the summer, when many other activity provisions were closed, and maintained the sense of community. Watch a video about the Play Trail here!

David, Activities Coordinator at Zest, said:

“This has helped get local children outside and active, whilst exploring their local parks, green-spaces & play-spaces. This app will continue to provide value and fun for local children for the foreseeable future.” 

Alison also was an important part of the Zest summer team, assisting with a range of online play sessions with kids, and delivering food parcels and activity packs for the ‘healthy holidays’ campaign.

“This placement has made a significant impact on our ability to deliver activities to our local community during a Covid restricted summer holiday” (David)

Not only did the community benefit from Alison’s quality work, Alison has gained a multitude of skills, valuable experience in understanding how children play and interact with their environments, a strong connection to new geographical areas & social networks and an in-depth insight into how the Voluntary and Charity sector operates. 

Alison said: “I believe [this experience] will make me a better architecture/landscape student as it is so important to have a wider social perspective and community sensitivity to be aware of what communities wish for and value – so to have ground, face-to-face experience of this makes me feel more connected to a community; instead of designing in isolation.”

“it has excited me to work in communities to create ‘play’ situations that benefit wellbeing, education and friendships for children in Sheffield.”

David added: “The 100 hour placements provide meaningful and lasting value for both Student and Organisation. The benefit to our whole community is vast and enduring.”

To find out more about Zest, visit their website and social media: FacebookTwitterInstagram

The 100 Hour Third Sector Placement Scheme, organised by Sheffield Volunteering and Sheffield Students’ Union is an exciting opportunity for University of Sheffield students to gain substantial experience in a local charitable or voluntary organisation. The scheme is funded by a Sheffield alumnus who is especially keen to help today’s students get involved and gain insight into the Third Sector. In particular, students who may have faced barriers to building up their community voluntary experience whilst at university.

Summer 2020 was very different this year, so this opportunity offered a very unique experience for a small number of University of Sheffield students to work with different local charities, bring their skills and enthusiasm, and have a positive impact in local communities. The outcomes and legacies of the projects are highly valued and very much appreciated by the charities.

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100 Hours with Darnall Allotment Project: Sean’s Story


100 Hour Third Sector Placements, Summer 2020

Sean Wright, Community Engagement and Media Officer with Darnall Allotment Project

Darnall Allotment Project is a community allotment aiming to provide opportunities for people to learn to grow food through hands-on experiences, improve physical and mental wellbeing, benefit from being outdoors and meet new people.

The 100 hours placement project aimed to develop a community allotment that is used in more ways by a greater variety of people and groups, through an increased social media and online presence.

Sean set to work and in addition to helping out on the allotment plot, established a clear brand with eye-catching content, increased traffic on all the social media sites and turned this into new volunteers, who were able to attend the plot safely in September. The positive impact and legacy of Sean’s work is very clear. Watch a video of Sean’s experience here!

Sean said “the need for volunteers is never-ending, and I have helped ensure that they will have volunteers for at least the near future. Additionally, creating their logo and rebuilding their social media channels leaves them with a stronger and clearer looking site to welcome new visitors. The steady stream of volunteers, I believe that I have been instrumental in attracting, should have a significant impact. ”

Sarah, Allotment Worker said: Sean was a “wonderful placement student who did a fantastic job that made a huge difference to our project.”

 “I now have lots of volunteers and more people contacting me. We have a hugely increased online presence with many more followers on social media.” 

From this placement, Sean has given the allotment a new lease of life and attracted volunteers who will contribute to the sense of community. People who want to get involved are offered a chance to improve their mental and physical health, through discovering the outdoors, learning how to grow food, and meeting new people. 

Sean has also made a positive difference to his own skills and employability prospects. Learning how to communicate effectively, adapting to using new software to create eye-catching content and gaining a wider awareness of the Sheffield community, are just a few examples of the skills and experience gained.

“Students tend to live in a ‘bubble’ away from the rest of the Sheffield community, whereas this has allowed me to meet real locals and understand their world, as well as the need for projects like this” 

“The 100 hours scheme is a fantastic opportunity, not to be missed. Take on real responsibility for a charity in the local community and get to know a Sheffield beyond the university!”

To find out more about Darnall Allotment Project, visit their social media: FacebookInstagram. Sign up to volunteer on the allotment here

The 100 Hour Third Sector Placement Scheme, organised by Sheffield Volunteering and Sheffield Students’ Union is an exciting opportunity for University of Sheffield students to gain substantial experience in a local charitable or voluntary organisation. The scheme is funded by a Sheffield alumnus who is especially keen to help today’s students get involved and gain insight into the Third Sector. In particular, students who may have faced barriers to building up their community voluntary experience whilst at university.

Summer 2020 was very different this year, so this opportunity offered a very unique experience for a small number of University of Sheffield students to work with different local charities, bring their skills and enthusiasm, and have a positive impact in local communities. The outcomes and legacies of the projects are highly valued and very much appreciated by the charities.

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100 Hours with ASSIST: Alice’s Story

100 Hour Third Sector Placements, Summer 2020

Alice Coatham, Community and Events Intern with ASSIST

ASSIST Sheffield are a local charity that helps destitute asylum seekers by providing welfare support, accommodation and advocacy. ASSIST is proud to be a community-led charity, that has a large and generous community of donors, volunteers and fundraisers and are completely reliant on grants, fundraising, donations and voluntary effort.

Alice’s placement involved working within the Community and Events team. Originally, this role was supposed to be focused around planning ASSIST’s Autumn events programme in the run up to Christmas to raise awareness and funds for the charity. However, due to the restrictions in place as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the placement was adapted to allow Alice to focus on social media and campaigns instead.

Alice created a campaign video to be shared to schools as well as lots of social media content for ASSIST. She said “through this placement I feel I have gained many things including more experience working with a charity whether this has been through social media, spreadsheets, virtual meetings and more information about the work needed to support destitute asylum seekers in Sheffield. I also feel I have gained more understanding of the wider community in Sheffield and stepped outside the student bubble to be more informed about the issues faced in Sheffield.”

Lyndsey Mclellan, Community and Events Officer at ASSIST highlighted the impact the 100 Hours Placement scheme has had on their organisation over the past three years stating, “every summer we look forward to working with a student who brings new ideas and energy to our team. I’m not sure what we’d do without it after having such a good experience for the last 3 years”. She added that Alice’s work has “eased the pressure on work at a time when we are focusing on the impact of the pandemic on clients.”

Alice added that she “would definitely recommend this scheme”

“I feel it has given me a lot of experience and benefits while also benefiting the charity. I think it is really well structured and organised and I have felt supported the whole time. It has been an opportunity to gain experience while also being paid and something that I believe has been extremely invaluable.”

To find out more about ASSIST, visit their website and social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

The 100 Hour Third Sector Placement Scheme, organised by Sheffield Volunteering and Sheffield Students’ Union is an exciting opportunity for University of Sheffield students to gain substantial experience in a local charitable or voluntary organisation. The scheme is funded by a Sheffield alumnus who is especially keen to help today’s students get involved and gain insight into the Third Sector. In particular, students who may have faced barriers to building up their community voluntary experience whilst at university.

Summer 2020 was very different this year, so this opportunity offered a very unique experience for a small number of University of Sheffield students to work with different local charities, bring their skills and enthusiasm, and have a positive impact in local communities. The outcomes and legacies of the projects are highly valued and very much appreciated by the charities.

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Roving Reporters wanted! To report on ‘Out and About’ local interesting news for people with disabilities

Sheffield Talking News (STN) is a registered charity run entirely by volunteers whose primary objective is to produce audio recordings of  local news for people who, through disability, are unable to read a newspaper relating to their community.

Read more about Sheffield Talking News on their website

STN items are generally taken with kind permission from the Sheffield Star, the Sheffield Telegraph and the Yorkshire Post, though other more local sources are sometimes used.  But in addition STN has begun producing occasional items that involve going out and about and interviewing people of interest in the community.  These have been well received by our listeners.  Our problem is, being volunteers we are limited in the number of such items we can produce, and being largely made up of older retirees that tends to reflect the types of items we produce.  So we approached the University of Sheffield to see if we could find students who would have the ability to find and produce items of the required quality while at the same time giving a fresh slant to our output.  Katie Roberts was such a student.

Studying for a Masters in the Department of Journalism Studies Katie was able to locate, record and edit three very good items for us.  The first was with blind rock climber Jesse Dufton who led a challenging climb of the Old Man of Hoy in Orkney.  The premiere of his film, ‘Climbing Blind’, took place in Sheffield and Katie went along to it. Following the film she caught up with him on the telephone and did a very good interview with him which we used.  Being blind, the interview with Jesse re-telling some of the more hair-raising aspects of the climb would have been inspiring for many of our listeners.

A second interview was with a member of the staff at Kelham Island Museum.  In the interview Katie was able to draw out the facilities that the museum has in place for visually impaired visitors, so we hope encouraging some listeners who might not otherwise have done so to go along.

The third interview was with ex England footballer Dave Thomas.  Dave was something of a legend in his time but sadly went blind in mid-life.  He has written an autobiography, and at a launch of the book in Sheffield Katie went along with her recorder for an interview with Dave.  In it Dave spoke about dealing with blindness and how invaluable his assistance dog has been in giving him independence.  Again, this will be an inspiration to many of our listeners.

Finally, and not  related to producing the ‘Out and About’ items, Katie volunteered to be a recording technician in our studio to record the weekly edition of the news. This was a great help because at the time we were generally short volunteers for that task.

Katie will have moved on to pursue a promising career in media journalism and we wish her well in that.  We are now hoping we can find other student volunteers who will step into her shoes.

Watch Katie talking about her experience here! #ShefVolStory

Apply to be a Roving Reporter for Sheffield Talking News on our website

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Star volunteer, Katie, makes a huge difference to her older neighbour’s life and well-being

Katie Taylor is a star volunteer with the SCCCC’s Good Neighbour Scheme, volunteering since November 2019. Here’s what her Co-ordinator Julia has to say about her:

“Katie has been an absolutely brilliant volunteer. She has been caring and reliable, checking in on her older person even when not in Sheffield. She always keeps in contact with the team, shares any worries and concerns that she may have, and contributes ideas towards her older persons’ well-being, even doing her shopping when she couldn’t get out! Her older person thinks the world of her, and the difference she has made to her life is huge. 


The person Katie visits is in her nineties, has no immediate family, and wider family live elsewhere in the country. She has recently moved away from her old neighbours and is not happy with her new situation. Katie gives her a glimpse of life outside her top floor flat and listens to her problems and stories about her life before she came to Sheffield. When I ring her, she always talks about something that she and Katie have shared, whether a book they have looked at, or a snippet of conversation. Coronavirus has not been easy for anyone, but Katie has made sure that she does not feel as isolated, and that someone listens and cares”

If you would like to volunteer with the SCCCC’s Good Neighbour Scheme, read more and apply here!

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It’s like being part of a travelling library!

Louise Smith, Story Club Volunteer 19/20 and Project Leader 20/21. Second Year English Literature Student

I volunteered for Story Club in my first year of University and it was such a lovely way of getting into volunteering here. I was able to meet other students interested in stories and sharing them with children. It was a lot of fun because the children were so enthusiastic to listen and engage with the books even after a whole day of school.

If you are interested in working with children or just want a positive experience then I would recommend Story Club for you. It was like being part of a travelling library! You can get as involved as you like by choosing to read the story aloud one week but there is no pressure. You can ask the children questions about the book and help with the fun activities they do in response to the story.

Anyone seeking an uplifting activity in between studying should get involved. I enjoyed it so much I decided to be a project leader for my second year and I am looking forward to it.

You can read more and apply to be a volunteer with Story Club on the Sheffield Volunteering website here!

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Students are local community champions with HERB – Helping Environmental Regeneration in Broomhall

HERB is a group of volunteers doing community/street gardening in Broomhall. It’s a very friendly, informal group looking after five green spaces in Broomhall (just five minutes from the SU), where they have created mini-orchards and herb or flower beds, as well as a new biodiversity site plus some large containers for plants on the widened pavements in the area. Hear from two student volunteers’ experiences…

Layla’s #ShefVolStory

“I volunteered with HERB throughout my second and third year at university, to gain some practical conservation experience and horticulture skills to supplement my Geography degree, and to engage with the local community while studying at Sheffield. I went to the first session alone, but quickly made friends with the other like-minded volunteers – both students and permanent residents in Broomhall – who are helpful and approachable. Project leaders Polly and Tony made me feel really welcome, answering any questions about the project and teaching me about biodiversity in the local area. The project gives you a real sense of achievement and the opportunity to spend some time outdoors – as well as a free weekly workout! My experience of volunteering with HERB also helped me to gain a year-long placement at an environmental consultancy, making HERB an excellent addition to my CV.”

Mary’s #ShefVolStory

I have been volunteering with HERB (Helping Environmental Regeneration in Broomhall) for about a year after completing a summer placement with them. In the past year I have really gained a sense of the big impact the group have on the local environment, helping wildlife and improving the green space for residents to use. I believe this is really important work, especially in a more urban environment such as Sheffield. One element of my volunteering with HERB which I have particularly enjoyed is getting to know the local people and the sense of community this brings, which I think can sometimes be harder to find as a student. I would really recommend working with HERB to help engage more with the local community and nature, as well as boosting a variety of skills. Be sure to check out the Sheffield Volunteering website to see all of the volunteering opportunities! 

The group meet on Friday mornings between 9.00-11.00 am and would love for you to join! Contact Polly Blacker or Tony Cornah polytone@doctors.org.uk 07813615309 or 07766272496 or apply via the Sheffield Volunteering website

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Volunteering with Action Tutoring helped me find my dream career

Rachel has been a volunteer with Action Tutoring making a difference to pupils in Sheffield since November 2019. Rachel has shared her story for you to learn more about her experience as a tutor. We hope you enjoy reading about her Action Tutoring journey.

Why did you get involved?

I got involved because I wanted to do my part in providing children with every opportunity to become the best version of themselves. The thought of a child’s education being affected because of their background unsettled me, so I wanted to do everything I could to give them extra support. 

What impact has volunteering had on you?

This experience has had a great impact on me. I really saw the effect this charity was having on these children and through this experience I discovered my passion for teaching. Because of this, I changed from an Engineering degree to an Education degree! This really did help me find my dream career and helped me as much as I hope I helped them.

What’s the hardest thing and the best thing about tutoring?

The hardest thing about tutoring is varying your teaching methods, as one student will be able to learn using one method, but another student learns best via a different method. This is very manageable as there is great support with lesson planning throughout volunteering. The best thing about tutoring is that it is constantly rewarding – every session is left with a feeling of achievement.


How has volunteering as a tutor contributed to other areas of your life?

Volunteering with Action Tutoring gave me the opportunity to meet new people! I volunteered with the same group every week, so we were able to share our tutoring experiences. Outside of tutoring, we had a group chat to ask each other questions and support each other when needed, which was so lovely to be a part of. If you want to meet other people like you, definitely join Action Tutoring!


Sum up your experience of volunteering with Action Tutoring in one sentence.

One of the most rewarding experiences of my life. 

Start your journey towards an unforgettably rewarding experience as a volunteer tutor and apply via the Sheffield Volunteering website or on the Action Tutoring website (using your @sheffield.ac.uk email address!)

You can also register your interest with Action Tutoring here

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“Julia is a valuable asset to Food Works!”

We love to celebrate our student volunteers’ contribution to local Sheffield charitable organisations and so we’re saying a big thank you to Julia! Julia volunteers with Food Works Sheffield, a leading force in the fight against food waste.

Testimonial written by Ash, a Duty Manager at Food Works.

“Having Julia around as a volunteer on a regular basis has been fantastic!

Her motivation, and willingness to learn and help others has been such a big help, especially during such a difficult time.

Even when volunteering a number of times in any given week, Julia arrives with a smile on her face, and is always ready to get stuck in to help the cause, and her fellow volunteers.

After quickly picking up the majority of responsibilities within our redistribution warehouse, and with the rapport she builds with the general public when running our market, Julia is a valuable and flexible asset to Food Works!

Thanks for all your help Julia!”

There are a variety of volunteer roles available – search ‘food works’ on our website and apply to volunteer: https://www.sheffieldvolunteering.com/opportunities/

Visit the Food Works website to find out more about how to get involved.

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Meet the Volunteering Committee 2020/21 :)

Sheffield Volunteering Committee is a Working Committee of the University of Sheffield Students’ Union. The Sheffield Volunteering family is made up of a student committee, friendly staff, and our GIANT yellow bee mascot “Buzby Bee”!

We collaborate with the Sheffield Volunteering staff, and local charities and organisations to provide volunteering opportunities to over 30,000 students across the campus. We host events and campaigns during the year to create a connected community of volunteers and celebrate their achievements and contributions. We listen to students and feedback to the volunteering staff and traditionally end the year with an exciting volunteering awards night! 

Some of our favourite projects and campaigns have been working to alleviate food poverty and homeless in Sheffield and improve the local wildlife and nature.

Get involved to discover and improve the city, and gain new experiences, skills, and friends along the way.  Get in touch with the Volunteering Committee! volunteeringcommittee@sheffield.ac.uk /// Facebook /// Instagram

Volunteering Committee Members 2020/21

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Zinab – chairperson, 4th year dental student. I love volunteering, especially with children! I have done summer camps and lead volunteering projects through the university which have all taught me so much and given me a host of new skills. 


Soumya – secretary.  I study business management and I am definitely an aspiring entrepreneur. I love answering any question big or small so don’t hesitate to ask!


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Kiki – events officer, 3rd year psychology student. It’s my first time joining the volunteering committee and I am looking forward to creating interesting volunteer events. 


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Li Ming Chong – Campaigns officer, 2nd year LLB law student. One of my most memorable volunteering experiences is when I volunteered in teaching refugee kids Mathematics and English in 2017.

Shivali – Campaigns coordinator, 2nd year computer science student. I think all my volunteering experiences have been amazing and I’ve learnt something new from each one, but if I had to choose one unforgettable one, it would be the time I organised a fundraiser for children suffering from cancer. I can’t wait to make new friends and meet you all!

Dara – Ambassador coordinator, computer science student. I love editing videos and sometimes when I have inspiration, I do write one-shots as well. I’m a bit shy when I first meet new people but trust me, the “shy” wall I have breaks when we get to know each other! 


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Charlotte – Clubs and societies officer, 3rd year politics student. My favourite volunteering experience was when I was the project leader of Sheffield University Lacrosse Club’s outreach programme. 

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Yu Xiang – Campaigns officer, 2nd year civil engineering student. I am from Malaysia and I can speak 3 languages which are English, Chinese, and Malay. My favourite volunteering experience is visiting alpaca farm and helping out in the farm. 

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Rajnandani – Events officer, 2nd year Business Management student. I look forward to starting my role and responsibilities!

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Bethan – Events Coordinator, 4th year French and Politics student. My favourite volunteering experience was during my year abroad in France, where, on my days off from working in a hotel, I volunteered in a refugee camp- I met so many incredible people and learnt so much.


Kafayat Olayinka – Treasurer, LLB Law student. My favourite volunteering experience was taking the children I volunteered with to Magna Science Adventure Centre along with the other volunteers and project leaders.  

Melissa – Inclusions Officer. I believe our university has amazing volunteering opportunities which every student deserves access to regardless of his/her background. As part of my role, I’ll do my best to ensure everyone feels at ease when it comes to volunteering!

Chuxuan Zhang – creative media officer, 2nd year Structural Engineering and Architecture student. I believe that being in the Sheffield Volunteering committee will provide me with great opportunities to help others and learn more, and I will do my best while I am on my position for good causes.


Stella – Social Media Officer, master’s year studying Translation studies. My favourite volunteering experience has been helping in my local Red Cross shop – I love meeting and chatting to new people and have retail experience. 

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Apinayaa – Social secretary, Business Management student. My favourite volunteering experience involves working as a website administrator for a local charity at Sheffield. 

Get in touch with the Volunteering Committee! volunteeringcommittee@sheffield.ac.uk /// Facebook /// Instagram

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It’s great to feel you are doing something good, helping people and making a positive impact

Hi, I’m Kat, a third year law student. Volunteering has been a huge part of my Sheffield experience.

My first experience was fundraising for Roundabout (a hostel for vulnerable young adults) with a sponsored ‘sleep-out’ in a cold, wet warehouse in November! I volunteered at the Sunday Centre (a meal provision service for vulnerable people in Sheffield) and later became a volunteering ambassador, taking groups of students to this project (and others!)

I’m part of two great societies that fundraise and work with charities: the first is PetSoc, an animal lovers society where we do great fundraising events for animal charities in Sheffield that usually involve dogs, cats or other fluffies; the second is Save Our Sandwiches, a sustainability initiative that collects leftover food waste from the university and redistributes it to homelessness charities.

I undertook one of the SU’s 100 Hour Volunteering projects at a community farm in the Manor area (a low-socioeconomic area Sheffield) in Summer 2019. I also campaign with Stop Owlerton Greyhound Racing, an anti-dog racing charity based in Sheffield. Finally, I volunteered last year at Sheffield Foyer giving pro bono advice and support to its young vulnerable residents. 

I’ve loved being a part of all these organisations. It’s great to feel you are doing something good and helping people. University might be the only time for years where you have all this spare time to make a positive impact so I would definitely recommend filling some hours with volunteering. It looks great on a CV and will give you something to talk about in interviews. It’s also a great way to meet people, and this year, to get out of the house!! Don’t worry about going alone. Lots of people do and you will find people to chat to!

This year might look a little different but we are a community of intelligent, innovative people who can find new ways to give time or fundraise so please don’t let it deter you!

To sign up for volunteering opportunities go to the Sheffield Volunteering website or follow Sheffield Volunteering on social media. 

Guide Dogs for the Blind
Sleep Out with Roundabout
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Revitalising a community green space into a wildlife garden with HERB

Blog written by Mary Baldwin, 100 hour Third Sector Placement Student 2019, and Volunteer 2019/20

HERBs main focus is to maintain and improve the green spaces around Broomhall. I completed a summer placement with them last year as part of the Students Union 100-hour Third Sector Placement scheme, where students are given the opportunity to get paid experience in the third sector which they would otherwise be unable to do so.

My particular placement involved redesigning and developing a previous green space into a community wildlife garden.

Before the project

I certainly learnt a lot during my placement, as I had to consider various stakeholders when creating the design. Each species in the plan was selected carefully to help as much wildlife as possible and create year-round colour.

Why not go and see the community wildlife garden for yourself? It’s just 5mins walk from the SU! On the corner of Brunswick Street and Broomspring Lane.

Being the project leader for a community orientated project was extremely fulfilling and rewarding. The community was involved throughout the project through various update leaflets. At the end of the project we held a community get together to celebrate the completion of the project and do other nature-based activities.

During the project

Since my placement I have continued volunteering with HERB and I would really recommend working with the group to help engage more with the local community and nature, as well as boosting a variety of skills.

After the project

Be sure to check out the Sheffield Volunteering website to see all of the volunteering opportunities! Read more and apply to volunteer with HERB here

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University of Sheffield students make a real impact for Roundabout’s future work across South Yorkshire

Written by Emily Bush, Volunteer Coordinator for Roundabout

We are so grateful to the students at The University of Sheffield for stepping up during their summer holidays and helping Roundabout, South Yorkshire’s youth homeless charity, prepare for the future. 

The students did some research from home to help us research different organisations that we can reach out to in the next few years to show them who we are and what we are doing for the young people across our county, with the hope that they will be able to support us further. All of the students rose to the challenge and more often than not, they completed more than one research topic. 

Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our charity, with demand set to rise and all of our events cancelled we need to look for new ways to support the vulnerable young people in our services. The students of The University of Sheffield have helped us to do this. 

The role is on-going so if you feel as though you have some time that you could give to help us reach out to more people than ever before, please get in touch! 

Apply to volunteer with Roundabout here: Fundraising Researcher 2020/21. Find out more about Roundabout on their website and social media.

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Get ready to feel inspired with Isha’s volunteering story…

Blog written by Isha Jain, Volunteer with Learn for Life Enterprise 2020

Learn for Life Enterprise is a charitable organisation that caters for people from all over Sheffield by providing them support, training and advice. 

They benefit the local community by looking after the hard-to-reach members of the community, asylum seekers, refugees and older people. They deliver them a learning environment and an open space to grow in cohesion and peace.

I found out about Learn for Life through Sheffield Volunteering and started volunteering with them as a teaching assistant eight months back. I had been looking for an opportunity that would help me explore and learn at the same time, especially something that would give me an insight into teaching English and learning from experienced teachers. 

Yet, the organisation gave me so much more than what I had expected. As I began working every Friday, I assisted to carry out conversation classes with different groups of people. Even though, with the pandemic and the lockdown, we couldn’t continue meeting for a while. We began meeting every Friday in different green spaces each week like the Botanical Gardens, Weston Park and the Amphitheatre. We maintained a proper socially distanced setting and also created a positive learning environment for everyone. 

Isha with other Learn for Life volunteers

I can say that I have gained another family that I look forward to seeing every week, as each person has shared with me their own unique experience. I also realised that Sheffield is so much more diverse than I had thought before and I was able to encounter that openness, that acceptance and that willingness to learn from each other at Learn for Life. 

One of my favourite experience was when we met at the Amphitheatre. Gill and Hayley, the director and co-founder of the organisation gave us a task to write a poem on Sheffield together. While we sat uphill, we could look over at the city and share what we admire about it. As we came up with ideas, they helped us combine it into a beautiful poem. That day struck out to me as most special as I shared a part of myself, as I shared poetry.

I feel that other students should volunteer since it opens up a horizon to discover and engage with an entirely different world. It is so much more than a nine to one monotony because each volunteering day is distinct one and you learn about all kinds of people from different age groups to different backgrounds and unimaginable memoirs. It is also such a refreshment when you already have a routine with your studies and assignments. The organisations are very flexible and you can alter your commitment to work with them. 

Sheffield’s community is vast, it will really set out a momentous experience for someone who decides to volunteer with at least one organisation. 

You can sign up and find out more about volunteering with Learn for Life Enterprise on the Sheffield Volunteering website (search ‘Learn for Life’) and also browse through various opportunities that suit you.

I am grateful because even though I decided to volunteer late, I can say that I have emerged as a better person.

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Volunteering offers incredibly rewarding experiences

Blog written by Lily Grimshaw – Women’s Officer 2020/21

During my time as an undergraduate student, I volunteered in various schemes with Sheffield Volunteering. 

Over the past two years I worked at Broomhall Breakfast Club, a volunteer-run organisation based at St Andrews Church, which provided weekly cooked breakfasts for vulnerable and/or disadvantaged individuals in the local community. Taking up the role of Volunteer Coordinator last year, I found the experience incredibly rewarding as it not only reaffirmed to me the importance of community services but also allowed me to form friendships with both other volunteers and customers who visited the centre regularly. 

Homelessness sadly continues to be a serious problem within Sheffield, and COVID19 has created new challenges in providing support for those who need it most. Whilst Broomhall Breakfast remains closed for the foreseeable future, for those who are interested in volunteering in this area I would encourage you to reach out to organisations such as Ben’s Centre, the Sunday Centre and the Cathedral Archer Project. 

A second project I was involved in was the ‘Literacy Champions’ scheme which allowed me to gain experience with younger children through volunteering in a local primary school. I absolutely loved the role and I was able to support teachers through working with students to help develop their literacy skills. 

Sheffield Volunteering offers so many opportunities to get involved within the local community – whatever area of work you are interested in, you’re bound to find something that you enjoy! 

Visit the Sheffield Volunteering website to find out more!

Please note: Due to current social restrictions and government guidelines, not all projects mentioned above are running. Visit our website to see lots of volunteer roles which are available to apply for.

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Making a positive contribution to local charity supporting English language learners

Written by Kerry, Volunteer Coordinator at SAVTE (Sheffield English Language Support)

Sam started volunteering with SAVTE in November 2019. We knew she’d only be in the UK a year before returning to Los Angeles, but seeing her enthusiasm and potential we were keen to get her on board.

After training she supported a Roma parents group at Oasis Academy before taking on her own Conversation Group in Wensley for beginners. She supported a 1:1 learner also.

During Lockdown she continued with her 1:1 learner remotely and also set up our first ‘Online Conversation Group’ mentoring other volunteers in the process. 

She has been a great asset to SAVTE and highly productive during her time with us – she will be greatly missed!

SAVTE works to promote wellbeing and community cohesion by empowering individuals to develop their practical English language skills, therefore enabling them to become more connected citizens. If you would like to be a volunteer, search “SAVTE” on our website and apply to a role

Find out more about SAVTE:

http://savte.org.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/savteesol/

https://twitter.com/SAVTE2

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The enjoyment students get from volunteering with us is infectious – Sheffield Mencap and Gateway

Jonathan Raimondi, Volunteering and Placement Co-ordinator at Sheffield Mencap and Gateway

My first experience of volunteering was when I was at 6th Form; we were encouraged to volunteer somewhere (potentially anywhere) when we were in Upper 6th to make us seem more ‘well rounded’ on our UCAS form and CV. It was even referred to as ‘Community Service’ which doesn’t necessarily carry connotations of it being terrific fun.

I manage around 200 volunteers at Sheffield Mencap and Gateway who come to us for a huge variety of different reasons. We have people gaining experience for their future career, we have people with an interest from having family members with a learning disability, we have people considering career change, retirees who have found a huge gap to fill without work, those who are on a career break or unemployed, people recovering from long term illness trying to build their way back to work or still contribute if they can’t, others just with a few spare hours wishing to try something else and plenty who do it for social reasons, to help and meet other like-minds. 

And of course, we have plenty of students, lots of them from Sheff Uni; some on placement from their course, some from a related course gaining experience toward a Master’s or future career, some (like me initially) who don’t have any experience whatsoever but just find themselves drawn to it.

It’s great fun, an incredible place. The curse of working in learning disability is being introduced to people at parties, weddings, whatever and being told that they couldn’t do it ‘but it must be very rewarding’. What patronising nonsense!! It’s amazing. You see people achieve things every day they never have before, you learn more about communication (through finding ways to connect with people who may not be able to express themselves in the same way as you) than you ever could anywhere else, and the whole place is filled with laughter.

I’ll fully admit I have a huge amount of respect for students who can juggle their commitments to volunteer, and how I wish I had when I was at University. 

All Covid implications aside, when you’re a student, you’re in a bubble. Your friends are at your Uni, your housemates are, the people in your sports team are, on the whole the people in your favourite pub and club are. Volunteering lets you experience a new city in a completely different way, getting to know new people, make new friends, know new places. It also gives you the experience of a workplace (which not everyone has).

I genuinely think if I had, I’d have had a very different experience and certainly would have made more constructive use of my time and spent less money (mind you, I was an English student 🙂  ).

The enjoyment we see students get from their volunteering with us is infectious, it gives the whole place a lift, which in turn makes it the place it is. And yes it gives the volunteer experience but more than that, confidence, learning, friends and without being too cheesy, memories. It’s great fun.

I wish someone had told me that at 6th Form.

Unfortunately volunteer recruitment for Sheffield Mencap and Gateway is currently paused. You can read more about the project on the website: https://www.sheffieldmencap.org.uk/ and get in touch with Jonathan about volunteering in the future via email: volunteering@sheffieldmencap.org.uk

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An enriching volunteering experience with Learn for Life

Blog written by Sam Welham, Volunteer with Learn for Life Enterprise 2019/20

The Learn for Life Enterprise is an educational initiative located in the culturally diverse area of Sharrow, Sheffield. Although we are most known for providing classroom lessons in English as a second language as well as maths and other functional skills, we view ourselves more as a ‘community hub’ which offers a wide range of services. During my time volunteering at Learn for Life over the past academic year, I have not only been able to acquire useful professional skills by dedicating my time in a way that suits my academic commitments, but also truly feel that I have gained immense personal satisfaction with the work I have done as well as forming life-long friendships along the way.

I started volunteering at Learn for Life in September of 2019 as I was about to go into the final year of my course at university. Although I had spent the past few years in Sheffield, I felt that I had not yet really been able to engage with the local community outside of the student bubble, and was really anxious to get out there and to start to feel like I could positively contribute to people’s daily lives in the city.

I came across Learn for Life on the Sheffield Volunteering website and was instantly inspired by its mission. They look after vulnerable and hard-to-reach members of the community, local residents, refugees, asylum seekers, BME communities and older people with the aim of promoting and maintaining cohesion and integration. I felt that this really encompassed the values of Sheffield as a community and why it was a unique place to live, with its vast committed volunteer network as well as its historical ties as being the first City of Sanctuary in the UK.

I contacted Hayley, the co-coordinator of the organisation, to express my interest in volunteering as a receptionist at Learn for Life. The process involved an informal meeting at the centre to ascertain my motivations and experiences to see if volunteering there would be right for me. I was made at ease by how friendly the staff and service-users were, and it really felt like a mutually supportive environment. In the weeks before university started, I spent a few days a week in the classrooms in order to gain a greater appreciation for the work they do, and then started working every Friday as a volunteer receptionist.

What I really enjoy about working at Learn for Life is the variety of roles I am able to perform. The reception desk is often the first point of contact for many service-users, and the role often involves answering the phone, registering students, and making appointments for the range of services we provide. I also perform other administrative duties such as scanning, printing classroom materials and have even had the opportunity to create my own information directories to better help service-users access support from various local services. All of these opportunities have given me key skills that will be useful in a professional setting in the future.

More important than this, however, is the extent I have formed strong and productive working relationships with staff and service-users. Many of our services users come from hard-to-reach backgrounds, such as refugees and asylum seekers, and we really pride ourselves in being the first port-of-call for all people in need of support. This too is also extremely varied and has involved providing assistance with tasks as diverse as helping to book appointments for indefinite leave to remain applications, to helping to activate college bus passes! Our ethos is essentially to address the lack of support available to those who are often marginalised within the community, and therefore no problem is too big or small and we would never turn anyone away.

I would recommend volunteering to any university student no matter what year they are currently in. Organisations that depend on volunteers are often more than willing to be flexible in regards to volunteering arrangements, meaning there is always a way to strike a balance with any of your other commitments. Because of this, I would also particularly recommend volunteering to students with certain personal or economic circumstances that mean that it is not always possible to undertake other professional developmental opportunities, such as summer internships. These are often unpaid or underpaid and can really disadvantage those unable to meet the travel or accommodation expenses necessary, as such opportunities are often the preserve of large cities. Although also unpaid, volunteering offers a much more flexible arrangement, therefore allowing you also meet personal or familial commitments or to undertake paid employment with perhaps less developmental opportunities, whilst developing a core professional skill-set via volunteering.

Overall, volunteering at Learn for Life over the past year has been an absolute pleasure, and I would encourage anyone to get involved, either with us or with any other volunteering opportunity in Sheffield.

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Lockdown doesn’t stop Sheffcare’s strong link with student volunteers from the University of Sheffield

Written by Kathryn, Volunteer Coordinator at Sheffcare – a local charity providing high-quality care to older people in Sheffield

Over the last 3 years Sheffcare has attracted high numbers of students from The University of Sheffield to do befriending and activities with our residents. This further enhances our residents’ lives, bringing the community into our care homes and making intergenerational links with the young and the older generation.

One of the first precautions that Sheffcare took to protect its residents at the beginning of the covid-19 outbreak was to cancel projects and put all the volunteering on hold to reduce footfall in the homes. This meant that students who had been volunteering could no longer visit and as the lockdown was extended many students left Sheffield and went home.

This situation didn’t stop the students making contact with our residents as we have received letters and cards though the post and via email, some containing photograph’s and poetry  which are lovely to receive.

It’s great to see traditional methods of communication still having their place and making a positive difference.

****************

Read a letter written by student Isla to a Sheffcare resident below:

Hello, 

I hope this letter reaches you well.

My Name is Isla, and I am a Student at the University of Sheffield, and also volunteer with Sheffcare. Unfortunately, because of current circumstances we are unable to come and visit you in person. However, I’m writing this letter to let you know that our thoughts are still with you! I really hope you feel comfortable and cared for. 

As the summer is drawing closer, the weather is making everything a little brighter – even despite lockdown! I know that you may not be able to go outside, but I hope the leaves coming back onto the trees, and the flowers starting to blossom, is making your view a lot lovelier.

Now all the cars have stopped, we can now hear all the birds! If you listen first thing in the morning, at day-break, the bird song is as loud as ever! So, I suppose every cloud has a silver lining!

I am very lucky that I live in the countryside, so I can still go for walks without seeing anyone. I thought I’d show you some pictures of some of the places I’ve walked to with my Dad. 

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We’ve seen lots of wildlife around, I think the animals are getting braver now there are no people around. There’s been lots of buzzards, montjac deer, skylarks and woodpeckers – But I haven’t seen a hedgehog yet this year, hopefully soon! There is also a Llama farm near my house, so I have stopped to say hello to them as well! 

I thought I’d give you a short poem about summer to read, it’s by S. M. Gilbert, I hope you enjoy it! 

“Though May did bring her deepest grey 

And June did bring her gloom,

I woke this morn in a glorious way

To Sunshine in my room.

Quick, get up,

It’s time to rise.

Greet the day.

I started to cry.

For today,

It has begun.

It’s finally here,

The summer sun!

Feel her warmth,

See my garden grow,

Taste the sweetest fruits,

Watch the butterflies flow.

Hear the squirrels chatter

And my orioles swoon

Till the evening comes

With the summer moon.

It seems like I’ve waited

Such a very long time,

Longing for the light of

Your rays of sunshine.

So please stay a while.

Bring your long, lazy days.

I’ll cherish each blue sky

And ride every wave.

Oh, how I love summer

And all of her songs,

Happy summer to all,

And may it be long!”

I hope my letter can bring some summer to your day! 

Warm Regards, 

Isla Parker-Ginn 

(BA Sociology, University of Sheffield). 

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ANTS Project: Real magic and an amazing team of volunteers

Blog written by Zinab Kassir, ANTS Project Leader 2019/20

ANTS stands for A Nice Time on Saturdays, and sometimes what we do is as simple as that! It is a student led volunteering project that works with bereaved children, aged between 8 and 12. The project aims to create a day of fun filled activities for the children and give their guardians a day off. We host trips for the children, such as going to the farm or laser quest, as well as craft activities such as pot painting. We have also collaborated with UoS societies including fencing society and rowing society.

As a project leader, a lot of my role happens behind the scenes, planning the session, communicating with the parents and creating risk assessments. However, the real magic happens on the day of the session and would not be possible without my amazing team of volunteers.

Together, we create an environment where the children can be noisy, hyperactive, messy and get up to some mischief. The children often make the volunteers join in on the activity – from using us as models in their “Rubbish Fashion Show” to bombarding us with soft balls when playing dodgeball. All the volunteers are friendly, ensuring ANTS becomes a place where the children can talk about their imaginary friend or drama happening at school without anyone interrupting them.

I have seen first-hand how effective this project can be. As we work with the same children all year, we get to see them develop as individuals and as a group. I have seen shy and quiet children attending ANTS on their own, and each session their confidence grows as they make friends and discover new interests. We have had so many success stories that make volunteering with ANTS even more rewarding; from the children maintaining their new friendships outside of our sessions, to parents and guardians telling us how much their children were looking forward to our trips. I also loved getting the chance to run around and join in all the amazing activities!

Like the children, the volunteers make friends and discover new interests. Along with having lots of fun, the volunteers and I have also developed a whole bunch of skills. I became much more organised and better at managing my time effectively. Working closely with the other project leaders and the volunteering office allowed me to develop my team working skills, as well as build a strong relationship with the wonderful volunteering office staff. Leading and managing a team of volunteers also made me more confident. Overall, volunteering through the university has been an invaluable experience and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

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“If everyone gives back to the community, the world will be a better place”

Kelvin and Sabeehah, NHS Community Response Volunteers during the Covid-19 Pandemic

During this covid 19 crisis, Sabeehah and I decided to respond to the clarion call from the NHS to volunteer as NHS community response volunteers in Sheffield city. We volunteered to assist members of the Sheffield community who were isolating because they had the virus or were high risk individuals at risk of contracting the virus.

This is an important task because everyone is supposed to be at home, but people who have been infected with the virus would not be able to leave their homes to do basic activities like grocery shopping and collecting prescriptions because they would put other lives at risk. 

In order to reduce the transmission as well as show love and care to the beautiful people who live in my community, we decided to take it upon ourselves to respond to these calls and deliver items to their doorstep.

We would receive a message from the “Sam responder app”, alerting us that a member of the community needed help. We would then call the number to know how we could assist them. We have undertaken tasks ranging from collecting prescriptions from the pharmacy for these individuals to doing grocery shopping. As medical doctor/international students, giving back to the community will always be our greatest joy, this is because it brings out the best in us, reminds us of our humanity, and encourages us to fight this virus on a united front.

We needed some form of mode of transportation since we did not have a car to help us move around and volunteer effectively. We then considered getting bicycles. I had not ridden a bicycle in nearly 20 years and the thought terrified me because I thought I would fall and probably get injured. Sabeehah convinced me that I could do it. My first attempt to ride the bicycle was like a child learning how to walk. This was compounded with the fact that in my country (Nigeria) the cars are left wheel drives and we drive the other way around (left to right) completely opposite to how it is used in the UK. I took my baby steps and made progress.

I encourage everyone to do their bit when and if they can. This characteristic in humans is what has made us survive every disaster that has ever occurred to mankind. If everyone gives back to the community, the world will be a better place. The best in us will always be remembered and represented by the best of us as long as we love our neighbors as we love ourselves, including meeting them at the point of their need.

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“Seeing residents’ smiles and knowing that I have genuinely improved their day is a feeling like no other”

Blog written by Laura Stone, Volunteer with Sheffcare (since 2018)

I have been volunteering in a local elderly care home for nearly two years now with Sheffcare.

My role is very flexible, but the main aim is to prevent loneliness in residents and to stop deterioration of conditions like dementia by giving them company and a friendly face! Volunteers can choose how they want to spend their time with the residents, this could be painting their nails, doing some colouring in or just sitting and having a chat.

I wanted to start volunteering to get a bit of experience for my CV and I have always got on really well with my elderly relatives and loved hearing all their stories, so decided to give it a go. I could never have known how much I would gain from my voluntary experience. Seeing residents’ smiles and knowing that I have genuinely improved their day really is a feeling like no other. 

It has built my confidence massively and has helped with my own mental health, I always leave feeling better than when I arrived. I laugh with some of the staff at the care home about how attached I have become to some of the residents, they really feel like family members now! 

It has been hard not to see them during Coronavirus lockdown but volunteers have tried to keep in touch by sending video recordings or letters to some of the residents. I can’t wait to go back!

I would recommend volunteering to any student at Sheffield because the skills you gain from it are immeasurable. It is completely flexible and fits around with your studies or a part time job, and I have found that you can really individualise your experience because organisations are so grateful to have you that you can really decide for yourself what your role is and what you want to get out of it. 

I would recommend using the Sheffield Volunteering website as well as websites like Doit.org, both of which I found so useful. 

The skills and personal values I have got from volunteering are something I could never have gained from other types of work, it has helped me hugely with job applications like “name a time when you…” questions but also with my own confidence! I am so grateful to Sheffcare and the residents for my experience over the last two years.

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Volunteering – an immersive experience, a doorway to exploring the city, and an open ground to develop new skills

Blog written by Shamoil Khomosi, STEM Volunteer

I am not someone who would take pride in listing out the number of hours I have put into volunteering. Before arriving in Sheffield, I would have been able to count them on my fingers. While I still can, the experience I’ve had working with the volunteering team in the Students’ Union has flipped my perspective of working in the community. And why’s that? Because few of us realize it’s more about helping ourselves than helping others.

Have you had to bolt out of your blanket, at the seven in the morning to catch a taxi from the SU, with apparently nothing to benefit you? Having almost tipped over the brink of avoiding that, I somehow decided otherwise. Along with two other students, I was driven to the Pipworth school where we were briefed about a STEM day that was to be organised for class four students. A few minutes’ discussion with the teachers and the bell rang, pouring students into the classrooms with its blaring sound. Full of excitement, something pre-teens have in abundance, they began scouring the trays on their tables, packed with apparatus they would be tinkering with for the day.

They would be building an elementary electric car out of motors, plywood, gears made out of cardboard and stretchy bands, and loads of glue – most of which would enshroud their hands. While some had their hands on a hand-saw for the first time, others were astounded seeing their creations rolling down the corridor. The gleeful innocence doused me in nostalgia – a ten-year-old wanting to become an engineer come hell or high water. Albeit for a moment, I glimpsed beyond that assignment’s deadline this weekend or the urgent meeting over lunch.

Volunteering is an immersive experience, one that reaps the most benefits to international students and those with cramped timetables. It’s a doorway to exploring the city and having a good time, especially when you have worked yourself into the ground. And what’s more, it’s an open ground to hone and develop new skills. As for me, I realized public-speaking merely becomes a laughing-matter when you deliver before impressionable minds. These, ceremoniously regarded as soft-skills, are also what employers have eyes peeled for.

At the end of the day, I had met upbeat students and teachers from English Lit to Engineering; people I wouldn’t have come across otherwise. A crucial note-to-self etched within me as I walked back home: take the initiative. A step towards the community demands a step away from the comfort zone.

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“Volunteering with SCCCC has truly been one of the highlights of my time in Sheffield”

Blog written by Amy Swiggs, Good Neighbour Scheme volunteer and fundraiser with SCCCC

SCCCC is a wonderful charity that helps older members of the community in Sheffield. I am a 3rd year student and have volunteered with the charity throughout my time at University, and it has truly been one of the highlights of my time in Sheffield. The work they do is so important, particularly during times like this where people are anxious and isolated.

The charity offers many avenues of support, from helping elderly people in hospital, looking after pets during a hospital stay, doing shopping for those that are unable, and the Good Neighbour Scheme. The Good Neighbour Scheme is the aspect of volunteering that I have been part of, and involves spending time with an older person for an hour or two a week. It is not a position of care, but rather a friendship and a chance to chat over a cuppa. I have visited two people during the last three years.

I first visited an amazing lady who had herself attended Sheffield University during WWII and studied the same course as me. She was blind, so felt very isolated and struggled with her lack of independence. We always enjoyed a chat; she had amazing stories about her life in Sheffield throughout the war and her time as a teacher. She also loved hearing my stories about how the University had changed and what I got up to as a student, almost 80 years after she attended! Sadly, her needs changed so she moved to a different care home that was too far for me to visit (fortunately SCCCC accommodated this brilliantly and she is now visited by another volunteer).

I was paired with another older person, a wonderful lady who was unable to get out and about easily and was therefore very isolated. I visited her weekly, and we chatted over a cup of tea about her travels (she’s been all over, from Morocco to New Zealand) and we looked at photos, watched TV and had a good gossip. After a spell in hospital, she was moved to a care home, but fortunately it was close enough for me to visit and I have been visiting there ever since. Sadly, due to Covid-19 my trips have been put on hold, but SCCCC has been keeping me up to date with how she has been getting on.

The volunteering I do is truly a highlight of my week, and forming a friendship with an older person in Sheffield has connected me with the local community and humbled me also. Loneliness is an epidemic across the country, and I hope that the volunteering I do is able to brighten the day of the person I visit.

I was elected President of Sheffield University Volleyball Club and have fortunately been able to raise money for this brilliant charity, through bingo nights, raffles and auctions. I am staying in Sheffield next year for a masters and can’t wait to restart my visits when it is safe to do so. I would encourage anyone considering volunteering to get involved with SCCCC, it is an amazing experience and vital to isolated, vulnerable people in our community.

*******

A commendation for Amy from Tammy Wilson, Good Neighbour Scheme Team Leader

One of our volunteers has really gone over and above in her volunteering role – Amy Swiggs.  She’s been a volunteer with SCCCC for over two years now and has been visiting and supporting her older person (Valerie) since early 2019.  Valerie has had a really tough time over the last year and Amy has been a huge part of her support network. Being there to chat and visit through the toughest times, keeping her spirits up and being a caring, listening ear.  Valerie told me herself how much Amy’s calls and visits made such a difference to her life. After Valerie moved into residential care earlier this year, Amy continued to visit her (before lockdown) despite Valerie now living at the other side of the city.   

Not only is Amy a dedicated Good Neighbour, she has also arranged to fundraise for SCCCC this year by doing a bingo night and a planned bag pack (which sadly had to be cancelled due to lockdown) but her commitment and support to our cause is just wonderful.  Amy is a star!

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A Better Sex Education: Sexpression Workshops for Young People

Blog written by Olga White, Project Leader for Sexpression 2019/20

Sexpression:Sheffield is a branch of the national charity Sexpression:UK, a network of students who run informal, inclusive, near-peer workshops for 11-18 year olds around topics related to relationships and sex education (RSE). This could be anything from consent to contraception or STIs to sexuality, and we mostly do this in secondary schools and Scout groups. 

Good RSE is something that most people in the UK and worldwide do not have great access to, and has been shown to decrease incidence of STIs, unplanned pregnancy and abusive relationships both in young people and into adulthood. 

On a more basic level, both student facilitators and young people really enjoy and engage with our sessions, and everyone has a great time. As well as this, volunteers develop fab communication skills, knowledge and confidence (once you can teach a group of 14 year old boys how to put a condom on a plastic model, you can probably conquer the world!) 

This year, we trained 50 new volunteers and taught 47 sessions with six different schools and youth groups. We consistently get fantastic feedback from schools, and young people say their favourite things are the “openness, fun, getting to speak out (without being laughed at), lack of awkwardness, activities” and of course, our wonderful volunteers!

Some notable moments include…

… blowing up a condom to demonstrate the effects of oil-based lube, only to have the condom explode on my face with lube and bits of latex everywhere, then having to teach the same class again the next week

… attending a European relationships and sex education conference which demonstrated a truly sex positive culture

… a student volunteer’s father-in-law asking what was in the bags on the kitchen table, only to realise when looking for himself that the answer was “20 purple plastic penis models and a lot of condoms and lube”

… a young person asking whether watching someone lick someone’s ear in a TV programme counted as porn

… when drawing “society’s ideal woman”, a group of 14 year olds drew a whole group of women including a trans woman, people of different colours, sizes and shapes and said “there is no ideal!”

Want to find out more about Sexpression:Sheffield? Check them out on Facebook – @SheffieldSexpression or on Instagram – @sexpressionshef

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My experience volunteering with the Archer Project: we don’t offer help with A, B or C… we just offer to help

A LOT of pasta!

Blog post written by Julia Gregerston about her volunteering with Cathedral Archer Project as part of the Sheffield multi-agency response coordinated by Help Us Help.

I’m currently studying sociology with criminology and loving my course! Criminology has always been an interesting subject and after a year I decided… this is for me! Working within rehabilitation and the prison sector has always intrigued me but this involves high risk and exposure to a huge range of vulnerable individuals with unique characters. Having little experience I started searching for some relevant volunteering opportunities which could gradually allow me to become comfortable around those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Cathedral Archer Project stood out hugely! Claiming to not only ‘offer help with A,B or C…’, instead they  ‘just offer to help’ meaning there was a huge range of roles to get involved in to help support the homeless and those most vulnerable. 

The week before lockdown I had my first brief trial shift on an early Wednesday morning serving hot breakfast to around 50 people – a much lower number because of covid-19 than the usual expected 80! Yes, 80 people! This means up to 80 people are reliant on the Cathedral Archer Project for a hearty breakfast to start the day; making the volunteering experience so rewarding, knowing you’re making a direct difference to people’s lives. Some were cheeky, pushing for an extra big portion, but all of them were grateful. Breaking the barriers between ourselves and those struggling through hard times is so vital for not only me and my career goals but for everyone as an eye opener to become aware of how much we take for granted in our daily lifestyles.

After just one shift I was eager to return and now I’m volunteering in the kitchen once a week cooking batches of basic meals to be tubbed up and sent off helping the Cathedral Archer Project to continue providing these basic meals. Packed lunches, hot meals and cold meals are persistently being sent out of the door thanks to so many volunteers and the amazing staff. I encourage many more to get involved and join the friendly, selfless environment if not during this pandemic, then once normality eventually returns when hopefully the huge range of programmes such as teaching, provision of wash facilities, laundry services etc. can all become accessible again at the centre. 

Read more about Help Us Help and the agencies which are involved in the Multi-agency response: http://www.helpushelp.uk/blog/our-covid-19-emergency-statement

Donate to local homelessness charities, who are working very hard to support homeless and vulnerable people in Sheffield, on our All In Event fundraising page: https://tinyurl.com/ycn6a2te

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Q&A with Help Us Help volunteer Sam

Answers from Sam Baker, student volunteer with Help Us Help

What do you study and in what year are you? Physics – 3rd year

What is your volunteer role and what does it involve?  Kitchen assistant/ chef. I help prepare food for hot meals that will be served to the homeless. Guests can either come to the Archer project to collect a meal, or meals are delivered straight to guests in sheltered accommodation. The service is open everyday and serves breakfasts and lunches. Breakfasts are usually bacon/egg butties, and lunches are often things like chilli, curry, goulash, stew etc.

Why did you sign up to volunteer? I wanted to volunteer with Help Us Help because many of the homeless shelters had been forced to shut during lockdown, and volunteers were desperately needed. It was also a good excuse to get out the house!

When did you start? How did you hear about it? I started about a month ago. I heard about it through the Sunday Centre, who I had been volunteering regularly with previously. 

Something memorable that has happened: I left the other morning after my breakfast shift, and a lot of the guests were still waiting by the gate. They thanked me personally and even complimented the cooking! It was very touching. I also saw someone I am friendly with from Sunday Centre, who said he had been staying in temporary accommodation during the crisis. It was good to have a catch up. 

Read more about Help Us Help and the agencies which are involved in the Multi-agency response: http://www.helpushelp.uk/blog/our-covid-19-emergency-statement

Donate to local homelessness charities, who are working very hard to support homeless and vulnerable people in Sheffield, on our All In Event fundraising page: https://tinyurl.com/ycn6a2te

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We do what we can with what we’re given: Serving my new city-wide family


A blog piece contributed by Rebecca Russell; a University of Sheffield post-grad student volunteering with Help Us Help’s ‘Meals on Wheels’

‘I bet you don’t get people saying “thank you” very much, do you? Well, I’ll say it. Thank you.’

The man smiles at me through the bars of the gate, as more and more people arrive behind him. We’re all here for food: either to eat it, or to cook it.

I’m here for the cooking; part of a group of volunteers preparing lunches and hot dinners for those who need them. Hot meals and sandwich bags are handed out at the gate. The rest is delivered to housing projects, currently sheltering many who would otherwise be on the street. The project is making 190 meals a day.

This is a collaborative effort between Sheffield’s homelessness support agencies, many of whom have been faithfully serving this city for decades, with Help Us Help coordinating volunteers to expand upon the Cathedral Archer Project’s usual operations, in order to meet the growing needs Covid-19 has produced.

I heard about the project a few days into lockdown via Facebook, and I jumped on board. I love cooking; making good food is one of the best ways to tell people that they are part of a community that values and loves them. As a post-grad student who recently moved to Sheffield, I have relished this opportunity to serve my new city-wide family.

The project uses one kitchen, and volunteers from every walk of life, to do what can only be described as creating order from chaos. Somehow, hundreds of people get fed with random donated goods. Hands are washed and two metres are meticulously kept, but none of your usual kitchen-law prepares you for the moment someone walks through the door with a donation of 50+ cucumbers.

This is a lot of cucumbers.

We deliberate as to what to do with them. You can’t put them in a stew or make a cake from them (our usual go-to’s), so the cucumbers become cucumber sticks: a fully qualified chef does this. Cucumbers into sticks isn’t really cooking, but the chef doesn’t seem to mind. Nor will the people who receive them in a packed lunch, along with fruits, cereal bars and juices, all donated.

Meanwhile, a freelance cameraman has made the best chilli con-carne you’ve ever tasted. A professor of linguistics has made fifty tuna sandwiches from a 5 litre tub of mayonnaise, and 6kg of rhubarb has become four huge trays of cake. There’s no denying the joy in the kitchen, and the sense of achievement when curries, carbonaras and cakes are boxed up and sent away with delivery volunteers. Hundreds fed in a few hours.

It is this beautiful process that the man at the gate thanks me for. I understand his gratitude, because I am thankful too. Here’s why.

Last week, the courtyard outside the kitchen was decorated with Christmas decorations. A tree had baubles on it. There were sparkly reindeer in the bushes. It was confusing, but gorgeous.

It was the artistic work of one of the guys the project serves. He had wanted to decorate the courtyard for VE day, but could only find Christmas decorations. This didn’t put him off. He lovingly decorated away.

He did exactly what Help Us Help volunteers do in the kitchen. He, like any other volunteer, is capable of creating beautiful things, and he wants to give other people joy by doing so. His peculiar resources won’t stop him: his surplus reindeer are our surplus cucumbers. We do what we can with what we’re given, to love others.

That’s the joy of volunteering with Help Us Help. You give what you’ve got, and you get the reward of seeing other people do the same. Serving our city is never just a one-way process: in through the kitchen, out via the gate. We create within a community. No matter what side of the gate you’re on, we’ve all got stuff to give.

I’m thankful to have learned that here, in Sheffield.

**************

Read more about Help Us Help and the agencies which are involved in the Multi-agency response: http://www.helpushelp.uk/blog/our-covid-19-emergency-statement

Donate to local homelessness charities, who are working very hard to support homeless and vulnerable people in Sheffield, on our All In Event fundraising page: https://tinyurl.com/ycn6a2te

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Teaching Netball To Up and Coming Sports Stars!

Blog written by Henrietta Woods, Project Leader 2019/20

Netball volunteering in schools is a brilliant scheme where girls from the University Netball Club visit various different primary schools around Sheffield and deliver netball sessions to the children. 

With the schools usually being in more deprived areas of Sheffield, the children often do not have a huge amount of opportunities. Every time we have visited, the children are so enthusiastic and really want to learn more about netball. Only a handful have done sport out of school, so our netball sessions definitely give them a new view on PE!! They get to experience a whole new sport with their peers, as well as enjoy physical exercise. Additionally, it is absolutely great to see boys as well as girls love the sport and get involved, which has been an issue with netball for a number of years!

The volunteers gain so much from this project. Teaching children is extremely difficult – much more than you imagine! Kids love to chat, giggle and mess about sometimes, so trying to quieten them proves a huge challenge! We learnt different ways in which to get their attention (e.g “if you’re listening, jump up and down!” Or “put your hands on your head”) These seemed to work perfectly so this was a good learning curve!

Communication with children is also a new skill. We had to explain skills to them and remain fully enthusiastic throughout the whole session, constantly encouraging them and suggesting ways they could improve. Kids need this to stay interested in the task. Over the weeks, they respected us more and more, and would fully engage with the session, wanting to improve and listening to us.

Teamwork was essential for these sessions and each week the volunteers would plan drills for different netball skills to know exactly how the session would run. Volunteers worked well as a team and communicated before each session about which drills to do. While in the session, they would demonstrate all together and take it in turns to explain the drill which worked perfectly, ensuring everything ran smoothly. 

Overall, the project was definitely a success this year and the volunteers thoroughly enjoyed the teaching. Teaching our favourite sport to the up and coming sports stars is always a pleasure! I also have to admit, returning to little primary schools does bring back lots of sweet memories and nostalgia!!

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Bummit to Transylvania 2019: Random Acts of Kindness

Bummit is a charity hitchhike undertaken by students from Sheffield to somewhere in Europe to raise money for Sheffield and South Yorkshire charities. Bethan was part of a team of three students (Bethan, Anna and Chris) who took part in last year’s hitchhike to Cluj, Transylvania. Here is her story of how random acts of kindness turned her Bummit experience into much more than free travel and sightseeing!

Blog written by Bethan, Big Bummit participant 2019

Big Bummit to Transylvania was my first ever Bummit! The most memorable and heart-warming moment of the whole trip was the second day, when my team was stuck in Reims, a small city which is just West from Paris. In Reims it started to rain, and whilst we were all reluctant to call it a day and stop hitchhiking, we were all pretty tired.

Just around the corner, this friendly man approached us. My memory is honestly that he had a beam of light around him as he walked over. He asked if we were hungry, we nodded, and he gave us this massive bag of fresh baguettes. He said he works in a bakery, and usually gives the leftover bread to his family, but saw us trying to get a lift in the rain and thought of us.

As it was my first Bummit, I went into the adventure thinking it would just be free travel and seeing new places but it’s so much more than that. Throughout the trip we were constantly relying on the kindness of strangers and that one act of kindness really touched all of us. I, personally, was able to go through the rest of the journey with so much gratitude for these moments of kindness. From every single driver that picked us up to the people passing by who told us our signs didn’t make any sense. With this changed perspective, Bummit felt so much more rewarding and exciting. I can’t wait for next year!

If you want to read more stories from Bummit participants, head over to Bummit’s Facebook page!