Sixth Week marked the 10th anniversary of National Student Volunteering Week. Oxford is full of passionate student volunteers, so the week was jam packed with events, opportunities and fundraisers – all perfect for escaping the Oxford bubble of library/tutorial/pub.
Volunteers played volleyball with the elderly, played lazerquest with young carers, held a pub quiz to support literacy in primary schools, had daily discussion lunches about social issues, sold cakes for a children’s hospice and much more. The week’s grand finale took place on Sunday, when students donned wellies and took up shovels to plant trees on Corpus Christi’s old sports ground as part of a new edible community garden run by GreenProject volunteers.
The pleasure of getting your hands dirty volunteering is clear: it’s that warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you’ve done something good. More than this, though, it is about making a real difference for others.
For instance, through Maths Plus, student volunteers provide one-to-one tuition for GCSE Maths pupils on the C/D grade borderline. Maths Plus launched last year in Oxford Community School, where only 31% of pupils achieved 5 GCSE grades A*-C, compared to the national average of 74.8%. Through supporting individual pupils, Maths Plus helped the school beat its target GCSE Maths grades by 6%: all pupils the student volunteers worked with achieved a C or above (with two Bs and one A!).
And Maths Plus isn’t the only project getting great results: through Food Justice student volunteers help redistribute waste food from supermarkets to those in the community who need it most. Food Justice volunteers support Oxford Food Bank to save £4,000 worth of good food going to waste each week, and not only does this food not end up in landfill, it supports homeless people, ex-offenders, young parents, the unemployed and children in food poverty.
Across the UK, 95% of students who volunteer are motivated by a desire to improve things or help people (NCCPE’s research, ‘Bursting the Bubble’), so for thousands of volunteers escaping the student bubble and making a difference is a real – if unexpected – guilty pleasure. And if you’re thinking this is a truly great thing, then look no further than Oxford Hub, the focal point for charity and volunteering in our university. With a planned move to a new home on Turl Street in the summer, Oxford Hub works to help students find opportunities to volunteer. You can help out local young carers or campaign against climate change – the possibilities are endless. So if you want to indulge yourself in a more unusual guilty pleasure to get that warm fuzzy feeling and really make a difference, then get involved: www.oxfordhub.org.