Citywise volunteer, Jenessa Scott, highlights the need for more volunteers on National Volunteer Day – Citywise relies on volunteers to run all of its programs and without their help, we wouldn’t be able to impact as many as 500 young people a year.
This article appeared in the Irish Independent and can be found at the following link: http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/education/hands-up-who-wants-to-be-a-volunteer-35274501.html
It appears below for your convenience. Citywise
That remains a core motivation. Nothing will change about the importance of students and, indeed, citizens generally, devoting time and energy to supporting worthy causes.
Whether helping to provide food and shelter for the homeless, building facilities in third-world communities, staffing a helpline or working in a local charity shop, it is, simply, a good thing to do.
Every year in Ireland, thousands of students from universities and institutes of technology carry out over 100,000 hours of volunteering.
The benefits of free labour to organisations or individuals lacking in cash or other supports are obvious, but there is also a growing focus on the rewards for students.
Such gains are easily quantifiable and include developing teamwork, communication and leadership skills, allowing graduates to show potential employers the desirable attributes they have along with the ubiquitous 2:1, or even first class honours, degree.
When it happens at an international level, volunteering facilitates learning about language and cultures that is essential in today’s global world.
There is also evidence showing that getting out and volunteering can improve individual mental health and well-being.
Billy Norman, a customer account manager in Unilever, the multinational consumer goods company, says that in an increasingly competitive employment market, when he reviews CVs, “the selflessness of a volunteer can stand out like a beacon in a sea of self-interest”.
On top of any altruistic motivation, he says that “functional expertise that a volunteer can learn in an organisation offers a head start compared to others who start at the beginning when entering permanent employment for the first time”.
Pádraig Haughney, regional manager with the FDM Group, an international IT services company, manages a team that interviews 3,300 graduates each year. He says that, generally, it is graduates who portray extra-curricular experience – such as volunteering – on their CVs who impress and tend to be short-listed.
Volunteering also gives students an opportunity to obtain a greater sense of social responsibility, and greater public awareness of their responsibility to solving social challenges.
Colleges themselves are under pressure to demonstrate how higher education is adding value to society. In Ireland, and elsewhere, civic and community engagement is part of a mix of performance indicators considered when it comes to decisions on State funding.
Now, a new initiative from the Irish Universities Association Campus Engage network is putting structure on the world of student volunteering, with benefits for all concerned.
It is not confined to the seven universities and, currently, Dublin Institute of Technology, IT Tallaght and IT Tralee are also participants.
The 10 colleges have joined forces with civil society organisations such as Barnardos, Special Olympics Ireland, Teenline and Trocaire, and many more less well-known community services, to launch the portal, studentvolunteer.ie.
It is an online, one-stop shop that allows volunteering opportunities to be more widely promoted and volunteers gathered quickly and effectively.
It has the potential to access more than 100,000 registered college students across Ireland and serve more than 8,000 organisations.
The portal was officially launched this week to coincide with United Nations International Volunteer Day.
Kate Morris, national coordinator of Campus Engage, says that by effectively using technology to make volunteering easier, they are helping universities and institutes of technology to scale up a socially impactful enterprise.
Studentvolunteer.ie offers a single site where students can connect with, and pick and choose from, volunteering opportunities, both nationally and internationally.
It also allows them to keep an online record of the hours they have put in and the skills they have acquired through volunteering.
In terms of boosting a CV, that sort of record is invaluable, and more and more colleges are certifying extra-curricular activity, such as volunteering. It gives students an extra stamp on their education passport.
Colleges participating in studentvolunteer.ie are beginning to use the portal to track their students’ volunteer hours so they can recognise their efforts in ceremonies such as the President’s Civic Spirit Awards in IT Tralee, or the President’s Volunteer Awards in University of Limerick (UL). In UL more than 17,000 hours volunteering were put in in the past year.
Recently, Trinity College, in partnership with US multinational Intel, announced an Employability Award scheme, designed to encourage students in certain disciplines to increase their ‘career readiness’.
Successful participants will receive a certificate of recognition. Up to 30 hours extra-curricular activities, which could be volunteering, is one of the boxes students have to tick if they want to earn the award.
For colleges, studentvolunteer.ie provides ready access to a massive database, allowing them to measure the social impact of volunteering at local, national and international level.
Giving something back at after-school study sessions
Janessa Scott volunteers at weekly after-school supervised study sessions in her neighbourhood. She has had a personal connection with the programme since she was a child herself, and usually helps out on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
As a seven-year-old, Janessa started after-school study in Tallaght to support her education – and she has stayed with it to give something back.
The study sessions are run by Citywise Education, a not-for-profit organisation, which works in disadvantaged communities to support and motivate young people.
When Janessa reached the age of 12, there was no Citywise programme for second-level students, so she turned into a volunteer and progressed up the organisation’s leadership system, while also completing her schooling.
She has now moved on to third-level and is studying engineering in IT Tallaght.
Meanwhile, at Citywise, Janessa is a senior leader, organising her own activities. She used all her new-found skills to run engineering games during summer camp: “I got them to build a bridge out of pipe cleaners and straws, or a basket where they can protect an egg.”
Citywise, which has activities in Tallaght and Ballymun in Dublin, as well as Belfast, relies on volunteers for teaching, coaching and supervising activities across its wide range of programmes from learning support to canoeing, music, table tennis and basketball.
Janessa says Citywise are seeking more engineering student volunteers for the new STEM room it is building in its facility in Tallaght.
‘Volunteering helps you learn about yourself and the world around you’
Aidan Harte, above, started volunteering with Age Action as an IT tutor when he was an undergraduate, studying geography, sociology and political science in NUI Galway.
“I stopped by the Galway Volunteering Centre and, because of my subjects, they suggested Age Action. I really enjoyed it, but had to stop after a year and a half because of time constraints,” he says.
Aidan is now doing an MA in public advocacy and activism and is volunteering with St Vincent de Paul in Galway. It was through Age Action that he heard about the work of the SVP in his area, and started to volunteer there about three years ago.
“When people request financial assistance, we visit them in their homes to assist in whatever way we can. We offer friendly, non-judgemental advice, and financial assistance where possible,” he says.
Aidan continues to volunteer “because of the community aspect involved; it really gives you a different perspective on society as a whole, and the work that the SVP does is truly inspiring”.
“There are so many ways in which you can volunteer and you can learn so much, both about the world around you and yourself.”
He admits that “it has definitely helped me to mature as an individual; I was in a kind of an oblivious juvenile bubble beforehand.”