"My Experience Creating a Volunteering Project"

Phoebe Hinton-Sheley is a first year student studying Microbiology at the University of Wolverhampton and recently won the University of Wolverhampton Students' Union Award for SU Volunteering Projects. In this article she talks about why she got involved with the Students’ Union, her latest volunteering project for Autism Awareness Week and tips for those thinking about starting a project.   

I got involved with the Students’ Union before I even started University! As soon as I got my unconditional offer, I decided to "like" Wolves SU on Facebook. In late August, I saw an advertisement for a Macmillan Coffee Morning during Welcome Week, and thought, "I love to bake, why not send the SU Facebook page a message expressing my interest?" I was directed to Belinda Johnson (Volunteer Projects Coordinator), and it all went from there!

I made the choice to get involved, as I did attend another University for 6 months the previous academic year. I was not involved at all, and found myself feeling very withdrawn. With this "second chance" at Wolves, I really wanted to make it count, so I decided to get as involved as I could from very early on.

The Students’ Union made me feel much more connected: I've made a load of friends at the SU - all of the staff are amazing people who I can't imagine not having in my life now! It's also made me feel like anything is possible if you find the right person to discuss things with.

When I first met Belinda in person, we discussed a lot about volunteering at the University. I asked if we did anything for Autism Awareness Week, and she said no, but that we should. Over the next couple of months, we exchanged emails and had a few meetings to discuss ideas and logistics and we did it!

Between March 27th - 31st 2017 which was National Autism Awareness Week, we held 4 events: I gave a lecture about what it's like living with someone with autism (my twin sister has it); a Karaoke Night at Walsall Campus; a bake sale; and a Jigsaw puzzle tournament. Over the course of the week, I raised over £116 for The National Autistic Society!

I gained quite a few skills during planning and running the week, including leadership based skills - e.g. making executive decisions, working on logistics, event planning, etc. I do want to note that, as well as typical transferable skills, I did gain a few other things:

Confidence: I feel like, after doing this, I can do almost anything!

A sense of purpose: Doing something so big, for a cause I care so deeply about, made me feel so empowered, and I felt like I was making a real difference.

Realising that there is always help: The staff at the SU, and some close friends, are what truly made my project happen! I couldn't have achieved quite as much as I did without that support, and they all made me feel very reassured and at ease.

The advice I would give to future prospective project leaders would be to start planning early. Belinda and I started discussions in late September/Early October, for events to be held in March! I'm not saying you need forever to make it work, but don't hesitate to brainstorm ideas, and contact Belinda ASAP.

Also get help and advice, as the newly elected Volunteering Engagement Officer; I will be able to help out project leaders in academic year 2017/18. If you need help with anything like advertisement/social media the SU Marketing Department and Belinda can help you out with that. Anything you need, someone in the SU can help you with it.

Finally, don't stress!: Doing a project can get super stressful, especially closer to the day. Just know that there is lots of help if you need it, and that it's going to be OK! If no-one shows, just know that, whatever you've done: YOU DID THAT! Students can be unpredictable, so it's alright if it doesn't quite go to plan.

If you are a current student or joining the University of Wolverhampton in September and are interested in running your own Volunteer Project contact Belinda Johnson (Volunteer Projects Coordinator) at b.johnson5@wlv.ac.uk or visit https://www.wolvesunion.org/volunteercentral/

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