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.


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:


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. 


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). 


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!


“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.


“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.


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.


“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!


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


Doing good, keeping fit and making new friends with GoodGym

Blog written by Lu Shan, Volunteer

During this year, I participated in several volunteer projects organised by the Students’ Union, which are all very meaningful. One of the volunteer projects impressed me a lot that is “love running love Sheffield (Goodgym)”, which is with Goodgym’s running members. 

This project is dedicated to getting involved with local charities and organisations who are working hard to make a real difference in Sheffield. I am very honored that I worked for them. For example, I worked on a project to label apple juice and reduce food waste. I also volunteered at Heeley City Farm, a non-profit community-led farm that supports local issues. 

I am very lucky to know many local friends through this project and they are very friendly. We still communicate with each other by whatsapp or email. The most unforgettable thing is that I attended their Christmas party held by the Goodgym team. I interacted with many people in Goodgym that night and they invited me to cook together, which makes me feel very warm. 

I cherish our friendship and I like these lovely people. I hope we can still do volunteer work and run together in the future! 


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


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


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


Fostering the next generation of scientists

Blog written by PC, Science Brainwaves Project Leader

Hello! I hope all of you reading are doing as good as one can be in these strange times. I thought now would be a good time to recap my year as project leader for Science Brainwaves and share the wonderful memories I’ve made along the way.

To give you a bit of background, Science Brainwaves is one of the many volunteering societies at university with a focus on science outreach. We generally present to children of various ages, but one of our society’s highlights is the annual Christmas lecture at university – details to follow! Although two of our largest planned activities have been devastatingly cancelled due to the pandemic, looking back at our outreach photos saved in Google Drive I realised that we still had a good autumn semester of volunteering nevertheless – so here we go.

Make a Neuron, Make Memories

This was organised in partnership with SIBS (another amazing society that I would recommend volunteering for!). We brought safety scissors, sticky tape, felt tip pens, and most importantly, a bag full of pipe cleaners in every colour you can imagine.

The plan was simple – to ask children to reconstruct a neuron (the cells that make up your brain circuit) from the pipe cleaners, using the opportunity to teach them about the different parts of neurons and how they link up in the brain to receive and send off messages. The children (bless them) quickly figured this out and then moved on to unleash their creativity on the pipe cleaners.

This was the first outreach activity my fellow project leader and I organised, and although I was terrified and quaking inside at the beginning, in the end it turned out to be a lot of fun seeing pure energy and excitement radiating from the children; plus, our volunteers were the most helpful bunch.

Christmas Party

This second activity was organised in partnership with Buzz Sheffield charity and Sheffield City Council. We were encouraged to come up with Christmassy and fun tabletop activities to bring joy and the festive spirit to visiting families. This was easy – we made sure most of the materials were in red, white, gold and green, and changed the names so that each of them had a Christmas buzzword in it. (I definitely think we went a bit overboard.)

In the morning session we had ‘Festive Pathogen Crafting’, which is exactly what it sounds like. We sewed the pathogen bodies beforehand and prepared many accessories (googly eyes, sequins, wool, pom poms; writing this made me wish I was a child again) the children could use to their heart’s content to make their own customised pathogen! The idea was to teach them about microbes from the pathogen-making, but again, they were more into the ‘making’ than knowing what actual bacteria, viruses and fungi are. We ran into some problems with the glue, as they wouldn’t stick properly to the felt bodies, but overall the children were pretty happy to mess around with the sparkly sequins.

We moved on to ‘Festive Code Bracelets’ and ‘Christmas Chromatography Ornaments’ after a short lunch break. The children were taught to spell out their initials in binary code with a decoder which was then translated into a bracelet (red for zero, green for one, and white to signify a change in letter) for them to wear home. This is mine:

Christmas Chromatography involved using washable markers to draw a series of dots on filter paper and carefully dropping drops of water onto the middle. When the water spreads over the rest of the filter paper it produces an ombre-like effect. Sadly, I don’t have any pictures from the event so just take my word that many cheerful and scientific ornaments were made that day.

Christmas Lecture

Our annual Christmas lecture this year was on the topic of antimicrobial resistance, with the catchy title ‘Man vs. Microbe: Battle to the Death’. Prof. Simon Foster and Prof. David Hornby from our own beloved university presented an engaging one-hour lecture on how antimicrobials came to be about, and why the rise of resistance in (predominantly) bacteria towards antibiotics is such a scary and pressing issue in current society.

I’ve undoubtedly had a great year of volunteering for science. Although cut short by two huge events, my year in the society has been nothing short of rewarding, and if anything I’ve mentioned sparks your fancy we would love to see both old and new volunteers or even committee members (we are still recruiting) next year! Until then, do stay safe and take care!


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!!


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!


“Learning happens everywhere, not only from the classroom!” – Volunteering in Sheffield

Blog written by Harald Tang

As saying goes “Learning happens everywhere, not only from the classroom!”, I was always keen to get involved in something that I won’t be able experience in my home country. One thing certainly fascinated me over my year in Sheffield is all those volunteering opportunities I experienced, which were indeed one of most insightful parts throughout my life in Sheffield.

Last year was my foundation year before I officially started my degree. Since it was my first year living in UK, I was keen to explore something interesting around Sheffield in order to utilise my free time more wisely, so I got involved in several volunteering services throughout the year.

Holly Hagg Community Farm

This was my first volunteering experience in Sheffield. I joined the activity through International College. I first came across this event posted on the Facebook group and I found it really attractive, so I signed up for it.

On the day of the volunteering, we first gathered at 09:00 am outside Student Union. Eight students and two staff participated in the activity. We took a taxi straight to the volunteering farm and when we arrived, Clara, the owner from the farm came out and welcomed us. She went through every facility in the farm with us and introduced the “family members of the farm” AKA. The animals. 

Clara then assigned each of us with some tasks such as feeding the animals, removing weeds from soil and assembling a new bench and table. Me and my friend Stephen were told to clear all the weeds and glass from the slope and the pathway. We were given a pair of gloves and scissors for the task. 

We started working on our task together as a team of five students. It was tougher than we expected but we had lots of fun when we saw our progress. Having fun chats with others during work makes it enjoyable as well. The hard work and sweat were worth it after our task was done. 

After a bit of hard work, Clara showed us the Alpacas in the farm, which was the time ever I have seen a real alpaca in my life. We were given some fodder to feed them and I did have close contact with the alpacas. Their appearance is lovely and adorable. What surprised me most is that they are quite tractable, unlike other kinds of animals.

At the end of our volunteering, we were given some grapes which were grown from the farm. Despite the day was a bit windy, it was still an insightful volunteering experience and it really makes me appreciate the beauty of nature.

Christmas Carnival – Whirlow Hall Trust

Last year in December, I participated in a Christmas Carnival organised by Whirlow Hall Trust. I signed up for this volunteering event through the Sheffield Volunteering website as it interested me, so I gave it a go and also got some of my course mates to join the volunteering with me.

I remember it was a chilly Sunday, I got myself a super warm jacket and met the other volunteers in the morning. We took a taxi straight to Whirlow Hall Farm and when we arrived, we met more volunteers in the common room and did a briefing with the manager of the event.

The Christmas Carnival covers a large area of the farm, which consists of various facilities and activities which are specifically organised for children and aims to raise funding for charity. 

Me and my friend Ching were assigned to work in Cookie decoration, where we provided cookies for kids to design their “Masterpiece” with some icing, fondant and sprinkle mix. It was a bit overwhelming in the area with lots of kids turning up, but nonetheless it was fun enough to have some good engagements with those lovely kids!

We then swapped the duty with another team of volunteers to work in a Santa Claus house where we greeted all our happy visitors with Christmas wishes and gave them a present. It was a bit cold in the outdoor area but we felt great when we saw the smile and joy on their face.

It was a great opportunity to work in a carnival. Even though we were exhausted after working with lots of kids, we still had fun and that’s how we spent a weekend doing something meaningful.  


“A sense of companionship in an otherwise isolating and lonely time”

Blog written by Eric Banks, Food Works Volunteer

Food Works is a charity which collects surplus food from supermarkets, cafes and restaurants creating delicious meals for the public. The charity, based in Sheffield, has ensured that key workers and vulnerable people have affordable access to food throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food Works has worked tirelessly with local businesses in order to supply their warehouse, create a food delivery system and provide volunteers with a sense of pride at the end of every shift.

I first heard about Food Works through their Instagram – (@thefoodworksshf ). It was very heart-warming (and satisfying!) to see all the symmetrical portions of food lined up and consider how many people Food Works would be helping. Due to my previous experience as a chef and sense of duty to help the local community, I signed up to volunteer cooking.

In a kitchen which had been provided for free by a local school and food which was all donated by various food outlets, it really feels like the community coming together. One of Food Works wonderful staff members Josie, me, and the rest of the volunteers will plan a meal based on whatever was in the warehouse that day, aiming to make up to 200 meals each time. It feels like a kind of master chef challenge, weather it is mashing fifty potatoes or trying to season a curry to everyone’s taste buds.

The kitchen is often filled with country music, laughing and endless cups of tea (which are enjoyed from a social distance). What continues to amaze me about volunteering with Food Works is how people from different walks of life have all come together to help the community. I have cooked alongside a pilot, chefs, small business owners, gardening enthusiasts and all round wonderful people.

Although Food Works main aim is to provide food for people who need it, I feel that it has given me a sense of companionship in an otherwise isolating and lonely time. I’m grateful for Food Works and that every Sunday I can go back to the kitchen, turn my mind off from the craziness of the world and cook.


Global Community Football – Football, Refugees and the Community

Blog written by Ed Gwilliam, Global Community Football Project Leader 2019/20

Global Community Football is a project aiming to help integrate refugees and asylum seekers into the Sheffield community through weekly football sessions and social interaction. The sessions run weekly at Goals Football Centre and provide a relaxed, fun environment for volunteers and participants alike to enjoy a chat and a kick-about. 

Refugees and asylum seekers can often feel isolated within their own communities and the project seeks to connect them with others and to engage in weekly exercise. Whilst the standard of football is not usually up to much, the banter and fun that comes with the sessions makes it enjoyable for all ability levels. The sessions not only carry the obvious health benefits, but also provide a social outlet and a chance to develop confidence and english skills and make participants feel like part of the wider community.

Speaking from experience, volunteering with GCF is very enriching and is a great way to mix with new people, develop confidence and the session quickly feel more like a casual kick-about with mates rather than volunteering. It is amazing to see the participants grow in confidence, and more than just in a footballing sense, as they are made to feel at home by the volunteering team. I remember celebrating with a regular participant called Mustafa as he told me that he’d gained resident status after months on the waiting list, although this was nothing compared to his goal celebrations while wearing his iconic Frank Lampard top. 

The project has also participated in other similar activities and sought to build bonds with other volunteering projects. One such occasion was the Mount Pleasant FC charity Football tournament in October (Pictured), where we put out a mixed team of volunteers and participants to contribute towards a great cause and raise awareness of their ongoing campaigns. Although we did not win on the pitch, it felt great to share the experience with others and to enjoy some fun while raising money for charity. 

I would encourage all others to volunteer as it has given me so much during my time at Sheffield, beyond the sessions it has given me an ongoing interest in the refugee and asylum seeker cause and encouraged me to take up other volunteering activities. But more importantly it has given an outlet for a community which often feels isolated and cut-off from others, and the memories of a mixture of refugees and students playing without barriers every Saturday are some I will cherish. 


Helping Others Through Volunteering

Blog written by Olivia Calverley

I wish I had a cool picture to insert into this blog post of myself donning the Sheffield Volunteering tee, but unfortunately it has been abandoned in Sheffield along with a load of my books/possessions. This term ended abruptly and is completely unprecedented but considering the gloomy current situation, I thought I could write about my experiences volunteering to perhaps push somebody towards getting involved in the future too.

So far this year I have volunteered in two different places, one with and one outside of the University. During January I had a lot of free time on my hands as I had no exams during the assessment period so as you can imagine I was sitting around twiddling my thumbs. I decided to volunteer at a dementia care home, and I am so glad I did.

Living with dementia is a tough and often gruelling experience, so it is amazing to volunteer and give them an activity or conversation which they otherwise would not have had. Dementia is a very cruel disease and can be demanding for their loved ones, which I personally know from my own experience and is a reason why it is so helpful to have extra people to hand. Those living with dementia must live in the moment, as the reality is that they will not remember the day once it is over, which is why it is so important to give them something to enjoy.

It is a very rewarding experience to volunteer with those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged, and I feel privileged that I was able to visit during January to join in with the guest singers, pre-school children, as well as the art and music therapists. It really opens your eyes to see the simplicity of daily activities when you are with elderly people who have memory problems, and it makes you grateful for the freedom we have as young people.

During March I became a Literacy Champion through Sheffield Volunteering and was placed in a primary school in an area of Sheffield far away from the usual student’s hub – a two bus trip journey! I helped children in years 1-2 with their reading and found the experience very eye opening. There were several children for whom English was an additional/second language, and it really made me appreciate the difficulty and effort that it takes for some children to learn to read fluently. I had to pick up techniques to help them read as I went along and felt pressure to make them feel comfortable, particularly for the shy ones (such as my younger self).

Despite my initial nerves and my poor directional skills (the place is a maze), I really enjoyed the experience and hope to do another project when next year rolls around. I would highly recommend trying something new to fill some hours of your week and to meet/help new people as it is so rewarding and also doesn’t hurt to put on your CV. Working with vulnerable people is something I feel we could all take a crack at and particularly during this current situation, help one another out as that is the most important thing.


Lacrosse in Primary Schools – Little Ones Learning Lacrosse!

Lacrosse Primary School Outreach Programme – Works with Yr 3 and Yr 4 children from Netherthorpe Primary School, Sheffield

Blog written by Charlotte Stern, Project Leader 2019/20

In this outreach programme members from Sheffield University Lacrosse Club go into schools, such as Netherthorpe Primary School, and run after school sessions teaching children how to play lacrosse. 

This programme is beneficial for the community because lacrosse is not a sport which is always accessible for everyone. The schools we visit have a high percentage of children on free school meals and running the sessions gives opportunity for these children to try a sport they may never have an opportunity to play. Also any form of exercise is beneficial for physical and mental health.

During the weeks of the programme, as a project leader I gained more confidence and I learnt that I do have some authority and I am able to lead. As for the rest of our volunteers, they really enjoyed sessions, often asking if they could do it next week. This was reflected in more members from our club signing up throughout the year. Volunteers found they became more involved in the club and were able to meet other members that they may have not known previously. My aim this year was for volunteering to become more of a priority for our lacrosse club and get more people participating. This has definitely happened and as a club we couldn’t be more pleased. 

These sessions were very popular with the pupils, teachers and parents of the school,  with all of them wanting to give it a go. More often than not, teachers would come and pick up a stick and get involved. Even parents and the children’s siblings would come along and play at the end when we would have one big game. 

There were plenty of funny and lovely moments. The children shouting ‘CORONAVIRUS’ instead of ‘LACROSSE’ when we did our warm-ups. The celebrations when they scored a goal were hilarious, the parents clapped and celebrated along with them when at the end they watched before they collected their children from the session. 

My personal highlight was the children shouting “GOT THE BALL”, ” I’M ON BALL” and other phrases to intimidate the other team, just before they went and hit the other child’s stick and potentially cause an injury (we did put a stop to this before anyone got hurt just to make that clear). I was so impressed with their enthusiasm and consistent turnout every week. It was definitely an enjoyable experience for all involved.