University Volunteer Centre markets lending hands

University Volunteer Centre markets lending hands

Vision for volunteering to become part of mainstream Uni culture

The University Volunteer Centre has established a regular stall at OUSA Market Days, according to a report by Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne at the latest University Council meeting on 13 May. The stall hopes to promote UniCrew, a staff and student volunteer organisation, alongside various other volunteer opportunities.

The stall will also include a monthly showcase by a community organisation interested in reaching out to students, and this month will see an appearance from the Cricket World Cup, seeking volunteers for 2015.

The Volunteering Centre was established to connect students with volunteer opportunities, according to Volunteer Co-ordinator Sze-En Lau. “A lot of students want to volunteer but they have no idea [of] the range of activities that are available, or the kind of community groups that exist here in Dunedin.” Working as a “volunteer matchmaker,” the Volunteering Centre matches students to organisations that are always keen for another helping hand.

However, it’s not only the charitable organisations that benefit, argues Lau. “It’s a great opportunity to build [a] skill set that you can’t necessarily learn from a textbook – some of the most valuable learning experiences will happen outside of the University … It’s very cliché but it does broaden your horizons.”

In addition, Lau believes an active volunteer programme also creates a valued “sense of community spirit here on campus,” benefitting not only students and community organisations, but also the wider University. Ultimately, Lau hopes the programme will encourage students to incorporate volunteering into their everyday student life. “Our overarching vision is to make volunteering part of mainstream university culture.”

Another success for university-led community involvement includes the recent launch of the University of Otago Student Leadership Award. According to VC Hayne, this award is “designed to provide opportunities for students to develop leadership skills [that] will enhance their own personal growth and employability, while making a positive contribution to society.” The award requires a minimum of 170 hours of community engagement activity, alongside a series of compulsory workshops and active involvement in a leadership development plan. While to some this may seem strenuous, Lau said the programme serves as a much needed “kick up the bum” for students eager to be actively involved with volunteering.
This article first appeared in Issue 12, 2014.
Posted 4:32pm Sunday 18th May 2014 by Emily Draper.