Written by Kirsty Kennick
Can anyone volunteer?
Yes anyone can volunteer, it isn’t course specific. Although many people do end up using their skills from their course, or from sports and hobbies that they do to full their volunteer role.
What did you have the opportunity to be involved in?
I had the opportunity to volunteer in Poland in 2014, and also India in 2016. Both of these projects were challenging in different ways. I knew straight away after volunteering internationally in sixth form that when the opportunity arose at university I’d want to do it again.
The India trip was based in Ahmednagar, through a charity called Snehalaya. This project involved working with women and children who’d been involved in the sex trade. The charity also had a variety of projects that I was able to get involved with and see. These included the school on site, the hospital, the earth studio, the IT center, the adoption centre, Childline and Radionagar.
Did you feel like you were making a difference?
I most definitely felt like I was making a difference. Just seeing the children smile when they saw us would make my day. Seeing the difference within such a short space of time, as their confidence’s grew was amazing! During our time at Snehalaya we also put together a report on improvements that could be made in the school for the teachers to use. Feedback was also given throughout the project to staff members, that we felt could make a big difference. Feeling like I made a difference is one of the main reasons that draws me back again and again to volunteer internationally.
What experiences did you gain?
I gained many experiences by volunteering. One of the main ones was learning to communicate when there is a language barrier. Also teaching was very challenging at times, especially when children wouldn’t listen. This in turn taught me how to control a class, and communicate effectively with them. Working with the team I went with was also a great experience, that could be used in any work environment in the future. Patience and adaptability were also two key skills that I learnt whilst volunteering, as things don’t always go to plan. I felt that the experiences I gained made me feel grateful for everything. They also encouraged me to continue volunteering in the future.
Would you recommend volunteering with Snehalaya to others?
I would definitely recommend volunteering at Snehalaya to others! It has so many different projects to suit anyone, or for anyone to try.
It’s a great opportunity for someone who’s never volunteered before to get a great experience of it. They also have the opportunity to take advantage of the £200 bursary that the university offers if you have never volunteered internationally before with them. Other bursaries are also available for any volunteers, old or new, based upon their postcode.
Prospective volunteers also have the opportunity to choose whether or not they want to stay for the extra travel week, which feels very rewarding after spending three weeks at the charity. We chose to do a golden triangle tour in this week, and we had an amazing time! The international office is also great in terms of flexibility with any of their projects, and allow volunteers to stay longer if they want to see more of the place that they go to.
Once you have volunteered with the university, you are also given the opportunity to apply to become an ‘International Ambassador’. I got paid work through the Job Shop This involves talking to other students about the projects that the university does and your experience and supporting events. The fact that I always tell people that I would volunteer again with the international office and at Snehalaya I think speaks for itself.
Applications to volunteer with the universities international volunteering programme are open from Wednesday 12th October 2016. Visit the website to see what’s on offer:https://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/cpv/projects/