Nia Nguyen - Mile End Volunteering Officer 2015-16
What volunteering opportunities have you taken part in? Tell me something you found enjoyable
Recalling from my experience, I remember participating in a number of different events via Give Volunteering a Go - It was how I got to know about Volunteering and other Students' Union activities. The first ever event that I participated in was the toy collection in Olympia on behalf of Barnardo’s. Following this, I have helped out for the Breakfast Challenge in Whitechapel; never missed a London Marathon and volunteered at a few other charity runs like the Vertical Rush, Sainsbury Comic Relief and also the Neon Glow fun run.
In my second year, I registered to be a Math Tutor with Team Up and later on in my third year, I joined their committee being in charge of events and fundraising.
What I found enjoyable from volunteering at first is its low commitment aspect. I got to meet new people from outside of my course, got to go to places where I have never been before (or would not have gone to otherwise) and had the wonderful opportunity to see London and its people from a different perspective.
I realised how my small little effort on a regular basis can accumulate and make a big difference to someone else. That was what pushed me to commit to a more regular volunteering role - but never stopped me from still doing the One day events.
What was it like being a volunteering officer? What skills did you acquire?
Being the Elected Officer sounded really good when I heard the result - I was actually very happy that majority of the students agreed/ liked my manifesto. Time was not on my side as I eventually learnt how little I could do during my term and how busy it could get but I thoroughly enjoyed my time during role.
Having completed the role, I am now more confident with time management and coordination. There is a sense of urgency in everything that I do which makes me want to finish a work task as soon as I can - and to the best of my abilities.
What did you achieve as a Volunteering Officer?
I remember having two goals while being the Volunteering officer. One was to find and offer more volunteering opportunities relating to nature. There was a new organisation I found whose event was during Green Mary week - which was then introduced as a Give Volunteering a Go activity. I got a team signed up for this but unfortunately on the day itself, there was only me and another student ready to head out. It was too cold to do conservation work in a pond that day I recalled but I do believe it was a great opportunity worth sharing.
My second goal was to offer a platform for students to find out about Volunteering and for Volunteers to share their stories and perspectives. Personally, I have tried to translate my experience in the friendliest ways I could think of - like a user review and got my friends to sign up volunteering with me. Therefore, I decided to hold the first ever Get together event where students and staffs were invited for a cosy evening hangout so that they can comfortably chat about volunteering.
What made you nominate yourself to be the Mile End Volunteering Officer?
Bronwen mentioned the role to me. My level of dedication to volunteering seemed to be increasing over time - started off being just an occasional volunteer to then be a regular tutor plus team leader so I guessed I wanted progression… Volunteering had been much fun and enjoyable to me, it was part of me as a student and I wanted to spread the joy of helping others and/or being selfless to more students. Pretty sure I even wanted to re-brand the Students' Union Volunteering service to give a more vibrant, youthful and approachable image - not too sure how far I got.
What did the role entail and how much time did you need to commit?
Apart from implementing my manifesto points, which you can fit in around your studies and time commitments, there are meetings with the Volunteering Coordinator and the Student Engagement Manager to update action plans throughout your elected term, allocate funding as well as reviewing nominations and allocating awards at the end of the year.
I did not think about how much time or effort I would need to invest in the role but now revising my experience, it was my final year that was my elected term and I had a part time job also which I continued from the summer, hence, there was quite a bit on my plate.
In my opinion, half of my energy was for studying - to complete my degree; the other half was split between work and volunteering. For the goals that I set myself, I think my investment was adequate but not the most efficient just yet. (In all seriousness, I think I can do better now).
Nonetheless, from a general point of view, it is named a part-time officer position in the Student Council and thus, I would stress to you and any candidate for the role that it is always good to be ambitious and dedicated to representing and voicing the students, but it should not be a source of pressure to make one feels drained or overwhelmed at any point.
Would you recommend the volunteering opportunities you have taken part in to someone else? And why?
I would recommend all of the events and opportunities that I have taken part in to everyone. Each is unique and it is the personal experience one can obtain from the occasion that is priceless.
To name a few:
- London Marathon: you get the chance to be a part of a global event!!!
- Whitechapel mission: appreciation for your family and for what you have
- St John’s Hospice Fayre: festive feel, great people
- Trolley Dash: volunteering made fun and meaningful
- The Alternative Hair show: chance to meet students from another uni
What in particular do you think are some of the advantages and key values of volunteering?
In simple terms, generally volunteers may find opportunities to improve their time management, communication and coordination skill. It also depends on the event or the setting itself that numerical ability can advance (e.g. till positions), sale technique or persuasive strategies can be polished (e.g. raffle selling) or that interpersonal skill is greatly enhanced (e.g. Silver service tea party).
There are other intangible advantages of volunteering that is not always so obvious such as the ability to understand the community and build a good relationship with the people. One can read up on history or look in to statistics to learn about a place but the ability to be there in person, in action and interact with others allows a vibrant (or realistic) comprehension of the place. One can also find out their strengths and weaknesses in a safer or less competitive environment - thereon knowing what area/ what type of work would inspire oneself - is it Sale? or is it more human resource-related.
Is there any advice/tips you would like to give for someone who is unsure about volunteering? A lot of people say how they don’t get time to volunteer and you don’t get paid. How would you respond to that?
If I was to advise people regarding volunteering, I would tell them to give it a try starting from a small event or a tag-along. Put effort into helping others while being there and it is still possible to enjoy the occasion. And since volunteering through QMSU is at no extra cost to the students (travel expenses got reimbursed), it is another perks to take advantage of.
How has volunteering aided you in your career?
Volunteering is my own gateway to observe and understand the community, the environment and the big issues. I can study the concern, the trouble and the problem to then being able to witness the efforts to improve the situation, to change or to break the cycle. I am humbled by the experience and now more aware of my surroundings to be much grateful. Bringing this in to the interview room or to work, I found myself much more open minded and in possession of a positive can-do attitude. In my opinion, this is a key factor to keep me going forward facing any challenges or obstacles; learning from my mistake and progress.
If you are interested in standing to be the Volunteering Officer for Mile End or Barts and the London, nominations are open until 4pm, Weds 13th February.
You can also recommend a friend who you think might be a good candidate.
More information can be found here.