Going local this lockdown: Volunteering and helping your community from home

On behalf of student-led startup Studenteer, Anna-Karina Yuill explores the benefits of volunteering at this time

The start of this year has undoubtedly been the worst many of us have ever faced. With students being told not to return to university, many have consequently been having to pay rent for empty houses. Being at home no longer provides a space to relax as the pressure of university work with a significantly lower number of contact hours has affected students wherever they may be based.

This stress is not limited to academic and financial difficulties. University is a place full of community, whether that be with course-mates, housemates or societies and clubs, but with this support having stopped suddenly, the effect on mental health can be devastating

That being said, wherever you may be based, local communities are still in need of support. In November last year, the BBC reported that at Virgin Money Giving, sponsorship of charities formed before 2020 was down £25m compared to the previous year, and in August, Sky News talked of the
60,000 jobs in the charity sector which are likely to go. With donations drying up, fundraising events cancelled, and face-to-face support limited due to social distancing restrictions, good causes are suffering immensely.
But with students bored at home and in need of connection, community-focused work can offer a myriad of benefits.

For those who have a few hours a week to spare, volunteering can provide a way to help local communities, whilst getting involved in a cause you are passionate about. Whilst traditionally considered to be a face-to-face fundraising activity, it can provide invaluable experience in many sectors to
add to your CV. With many students losing out on internships, volunteering could be an alternative. In fact, 80% of employers are more likely to hire an applicant with volunteering experience.

Image via Studenteer

One way to volunteer remotely is with Studenteer. Completely run by students and recent graduates, they provide volunteering placements from 3 hours of commitment per week, in partnership with a range of good causes across the country. By providing opportunities tailored to the student’s interests and career aspirations, many Studenteers have completed placements in web development, marketing and legal professions, to name a few. Each placement is with a good cause,
community initiative or charity, and is thoroughly checked to ensure that no profit will be made from the students’ work.

Third-year design student Sophie Wilson decided to take up a Studenteer graphic design placement with JAGS Foundation, a charity addressing violence and correlating issues in vulnerable communities, alongside her year in industry placement. “This volunteering experience has allowed me to develop my graphics skills whilst gaining experience working with charities,” Sophie says. “I’ve had the opportunity to make the most out of my placement year whilst working from home, and it has allowed me to benefit others. It has been a really positive experience, both personally and for my career development.”

Throughout February, Studenteer have been working on their ‘Go Local’ campaign, with the aim to support good causes throughout the UK by connecting students with placements and encouraging local community connection – whether it be through volunteering, supporting small and local businesses or helping your neighbours with their grocery shopping.

Bela, an intern volunteering at Studenteer, reflects on the significance of the campaign: “I believe charity begins at home but should not end there! Ideally, I’d love to help everyone in the world- but ideals and possibilities are very different. Right now, if I have the chance to offer help to a local care home or disability centre, of course I’ll take it! To me, the ‘Go Local’ campaign represents the importance of taking the initial step to help out in a place where you have networks, a sense of belonging or maybe a personal connection. All of our local areas may amount to the whole country.”

In a time of distance and uncertainty, with many of us stuck at home or isolated at university, the ability to support and lean on those around us has become more important than ever. Volunteering offers a way to find a sense of purpose, improve skills and fill an individual’s time and CV. By thinking global and acting local, students can make a difference.

Featured image via Studenteer.