‘We couldn’t manage without them’ - how student volunteers support Sheffield charities
More than 2,000 students from the University of Sheffield dedicated their time to causes and organisations in Sheffield during 2018.
The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Students’ Union work together to give students the opportunity to give back to the local community and this year student volunteers have worked on a range of projects, from assisting mental health charities to preparing and serving meals to the homeless.
The role students play in supporting Sheffield’s charities to improve regional livelihoods and the environment is being celebrated in a series of films.
Every week we need about 20 volunteers to open. Students make up half of these; we literally couldn’t manage without them.
STEVE CLARKE, CHAIRMAN OF THE SUNDAY CENTRE
Steve Clarke, Chairman of the Sunday Centre, a not-for-profit organisation which has been helping Sheffield’s homeless population for 25 years, said: “Our mission is to welcome and feed homeless people and others in very serious need. Every week we need about 20 volunteers to open. Students make up half of these; we literally couldn’t manage without them.
“They not only bring a passion for helping, but help us to communicate with guests whose first language isn’t English. Without volunteers who can speak different languages we would really struggle to help those people.”
Another charity which benefits from student volunteers is Whirlow Hall Farm. Each year over 10,000 children and young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds and the inner city, visit the farm.
Alison Armes from Whirlow Hall Farm Trust said: “We absolutely could not run our Christmas Fayre each year without the support of our wonderful student volunteers. Their support means that we are able to raise the vital funds to keep supporting the work around the farm with disadvantaged children and young adults.”
Many students return home for Christmas, but the festive season is often the busiest for a range of voluntary organisations, including food banks.
Cat Oldham of Sheffield Volunteering, which helps to place students into volunteering opportunities said: “The students who volunteer in our projects and with charitable organisations in the city are brilliant. Their willingness to help others and get involved in the community is inspirational.
“It is really humbling to work with students who are so passionate about important causes in our city, see them grow in confidence and develop skills. It is amazing that they can do so much good in the community, alongside studying for a university degree.
“We also want to thank our partner charitable organisations, who offer quality support and guidance to our students, so everyone in the community benefits.”
"I never did much volunteering when I was younger but since coming to University I’ve been able to get really involved in it because I haven’t got the spare cash to give and so I thought I’d give my time instead.
Even when we’re litter picking, just having people walk past and say “thank you” is really nice. It’s just amazing to know that you’ve had a positive impact on someone else’s day or on the local community.
I think it gives you a really good understanding of the wider community and the issues that there are and an appreciation of your life and what you have. It’s really nice to be able to walk away and think that I’ve done a good thing."
"Volunteering gives you experiences that you just wouldn’t have if you just focussed on your course. It gives you a feeling that you’ve actually helped someone.
You never know what to expect when you turn up and there’s always new people every single week and you never who you’re going to meet. It’s amazing to work with them and just help them in any way that you can - it’s very rewarding.
On a personal level, it makes you feel good about yourself whilst also helping other people as well."
Connor Cashell, a University of Sheffield politics student who leads Helping Hand, a homeless outreach project, said: “Christmas is a time when it’s bitterly cold and dark. These people don’t have any family to go home to and the charities have different opening hours over Christmas.
“It’s important to make sure people know there is someone there who cares about them, is aware of their conditions and wants to help them.”
President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, Professor Koen Lamberts, pledged his support for student volunteers.
“I’m incredibly proud of our student volunteers, who give back so much to the city,” he said.
“In many cases student volunteers aren’t just contributing to these organisations, but are actually vital to them being able to operate at all. They are central to our ethos of being a civic university for the 21st Century and we will continue to do everything we can to provide opportunities for them to support causes across Sheffield.”
The University of Sheffield
With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.
A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.
Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.
Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.
Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.
Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.
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