Student volunteering week: Why volunteering is good for you and your community!

There are lots of reasons why volunteering is a great thing to do and there are many ways you can become a volunteer! As part of Student Volunteering Week 2020, some of our student have shared their experiences and thoughts on the benefits of volunteering.

Holly Young

MSc archaeological practice at Orkney College UHI

ArchWhat do you do as a volunteer?

My experience of volunteering at the university has been mainly with excavations during the summer as well as some finds processing during the semester. This mostly took place throughout the time I spent doing my undergraduate degree. I got the opportunity to take part in several seasons of volunteering at the Cairns, the Ness of Brodgar and as part of the Yesnaby Art and Archaeology Research Project. Along with these, I got the opportunity to engage with the local community through the Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I was inspired to volunteer within the archaeology department originally as a way to support my studies and help me develop my skills for a possible career within the profession. However, the more opportunities I got to be involved, it became more of a labour of love and I selfishly began doing it much more for my own enjoyment than any other reason.

What are the benefits to you and your community of volunteering?

The opportunity to gain new skills or develop those which you already possess. Volunteering also helps to integrate you into the community of your university department as well as with the local community at large which was a great help given that I had move so far to be here in 2012 and at 17 years old I found it hard to be confident within my university surrounding. Simply put, it’s a great way to make friends and develop new connections.

What do you gain from it?

It sounds cheesy, but volunteering played a huge role in me finding a community that I felt comfortable in. One which I found myself drawn back to when I had finished my undergraduate degree which is why I ended up moving back to Orkney to do a masters. I also gained a great number of friends as well as a great group of archaeologists with a fantastic range of skills willing to support me and help me grow my skill set.

Why should other students try it too?

It’s a great way to learn new skills and support your studies. It also helps to build your confidence and find people who share similar passions as you.

Stephen Simpson

Pathway to Hospitality at Moray College UHI

Baillie Gifford Caledonian Challenge 2013What do you do as a volunteer?

I’ve volunteered at my local farm for four and a half years. I do a range of farm work varying from taking horses to local agricultural shows to mucking out stables.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I knew I would widen my knowledge and would be doing a good thing by helping others.

What are the benefits to you and your community?

At the end of the day I know I’ve done something good. The benefit to others is that they don’t have to pay wages and make themselves be put in a financially difficult situation.

What do you gain from it?

Experience, knowledge and building my self-confidence.

Why should other students try it?

It helps to widen your knowledge of many different things and builds self-confidence. The main thing is that you’re doing something good to help others!

Susan Dyke

Archaeology at Orkney College UHI

Susan_DykeWhat inspired you to volunteer?

My interest in archaeology inspired me to volunteer with the Archaeology Institute at Orkney College UHI.

What do you do as a volunteer?

I volunteered for around 10 months before my archaeology studies began and started off helping with post-excavation ‘finds processing’. The work involved carefully cleaning finds from previous years’ excavations, then packing them for storage or further analysis. This gave me invaluable experience learning to identify finds and I also learned something of the sites they came from. When I came to help excavate my first site in Orkney, I was able to recognise finds as we unearthed them, knew something of how to treat them and a little of what their discovery revealed about the site. That first dig was also undertaken as a volunteer!

Further volunteering experiences included another excavation – the Viking/ Norse/ Medieval Skaill Farm site on the island of Rousay – and field walking, measured survey, archive research, cataloguing of finds and participation in workshops with the Archaeology Institute.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

My volunteer experience has helped deepen and broaden my archaeological knowledge and skills and has hugely benefitted my studies, so much so that I’ve been able to secure a bursary to allow me to undertake project work developing my palynology experience.

The benefits of volunteering have not only been academic, I’ve volunteered alongside many interesting people of all ages from across the Orkney community, we’ve traded experiences and stories, learned much from each other and had a lot of fun.

One of my favourite excavation memories of 2018 was swimming in my lunch hour at both The Cairns and Skaill Farm and being joined by seals both times!

Why should other students try it?

There are so many varied opportunities supported by enthusiastic and encouraging staff – it makes a great student experience at the University of the Highlands and Islands even better!

Kath Darley

BA (Hons) politics and criminology at Moray College UHI

Kath_DarleyWhat do you do as a volunteer?

I’m a student ambassador and volunteer in helping with things like induction days and S3 taster days.

Outside of college, I volunteer as a leader in a children’s holiday club with my church every summer and help out with church events. I’m also the secretary of my Lawn Bowls Club.

What inspired you to volunteer?

One of my lecturers recommended being a student ambassador and, as someone with supported learning needs, it seemed like an opportunity to grow in confidence, acquire and apply new skills and give something back to the college and staff who have supported me so well.

I volunteer at my church as it’s an important aspect of my faith and something I enjoy doing.

I’m inspired to volunteer at my Lawn Bowls Club as this enables me to contribute to a community I am part of and supports the running of the club.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

Volunteering gives me growing confidence and experience, plus skills that I can use in my CV when I go job hunting that will hopefully make me stand out more and improve my chances of success.

The things I do benefit the community as they are very much ‘service’ roles and often mean the workload is shared and the community have confidence that their needs will be met and in a professional and compassionate manner.

What do you gain from it?

Personal development and growth. My roles provide me with an opportunity to push myself and when I succeed my confidence is boosted. When things don’t go quite so well, I am given the opportunity to reflect and consider how to improve in future.

Why should other students try volunteering?

Volunteering is an opportunity to increase personal development, use existing skills and develop new ones. It can enable you to be a part of a community, gain new friends, create contacts and networks. I get a great sense of achievement from it, so others might too. And, of course, it can be added to your CV, hopefully making you stand out from the crowd when it comes to job seeking!

Bob Carchrie

BA (Hons) archaeology at Perth College UHI

Bob_DavidsonWhat do you do as a volunteer?

I mainly work on archaeology digs with some other heritage associated work such as helping run events and workshops.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I volunteered on a local community archaeology dig on a hillfort near where I live. I saw a poster looking for volunteers and applied, I’ve had a lifelong interest in archaeology and had just left a long-term career and was looking for a change.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

It was great for both mental and physical health. I met lots of new people and made a positive contribution to my local community which has continued beyond the end of the original project.

What do you gain from it?

I found a new vocation and, with the experience I gained, was accepted to do a degree at the University of the Highlands and Islands. It had a huge impact on my wellbeing and I finally found my tribe!

Should other students try it too?

Absolutely, particularly in archaeology as it’s vital to get out there and get involved in digs to boost your skill set, meet new people and build a network.

Jacqueline Johnstone

BSc (Hons) environmental science at the North Highland College UHI

Jacqueline_JohnstoneWhat did you do as a volunteer?

I assisted a hydro chemist in water analysis over the summer. I worked on peatland restoration as well as commercial work.

I have been helping with a paper on nutrient release from peatland undergoing restoration, which was formerly afforested with pine and spruce trees.

I have also taken part in the university’s Future Me programme where I was assigned a mentor in the industry. I was invited to Cairngorm National Park to see the careers available in my field.

What inspired you to volunteer?

The flow country is a site of global significance currently under consideration for UNESCO World Heritage site status. Peatlands are a carbon store and hold 30% of the soil carbon in the world. This contributes to conserving carbon below the ground aiding in slowing down climate change.

It is also beneficial to network and gain experience in your field. The people you meet help you decide what path to follow in your chosen career.

What did you gain from volunteering?

Peatlands are home to many different organisms and species which need to be preserved for future generations. They minimise flood risk and can help mitigate climate change. I feel it is my responsibility as a student of environmental science to contribute towards the preservation of our environment.

I have gained invaluable experience in peatland science and feel I have contributed to helping preserve my surroundings.

Future Me helps with deciding what area you would like to follow in your career. Your mentor can help with any questions you have on your chosen degree or course, expanding your knowledge.

Why should other students try volunteering?

If you help a person in your field of work, you gain experience for your CV and your future career. That person can guide you and introduce you to others in your career field. Your knowledge of that field will increase making a better understanding of the subject.

Spencer Manclark

SCQF level 5 built environment at Moray College UHI

GuitarWhat do you do as a volunteer?

I volunteer with the army welfare service, mainly as a guitar tutor for children between the ages of 7 and 12, but I’m also on call in case there are staff shortages with any other youth groups.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I wanted to teach young people guitar as it’s a skill that not many people want to achieve and I wanted to bring back that skill in the community.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

I not only have something to do, but it also gives other people a chance to meet new people and socialise with people of different backgrounds. As I am with the army welfare service, we are helping children and young people who may be anxious or depressed with a parent or someone they love going away with the army. We help the children interact with different activities and socialise with different people and try and help them through the process.

What do you gain from it?

I gain a very big sense of achievement as I am helping children and young people do something that they might end up wanting to carry on with.

Why should other students try it too?

It’s really fulfilling to do something productive with your time. Rather than sit at home playing Xbox, you could be out shaping kids with a skill you’ve got or helping people who are at risk and that is such a great feeling to have.


Looking to volunteer?

The university’s Career Centre can help you prepare, get involved and find opportunities. Check out the Job Shop or book an appointment to chat with us, simply log in to Future Me using your normal student username and password.

Student Volunteering Week 2020 takes place from Monday 10 to Sunday 16 February. The week encourages and celebrates student volunteering across UK colleges and universities. For more information on student volunteering, visit www.uhi.ac.uk/en/students/get-involved/volunteering  

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