Student volunteering in the community and its positive impact has been recognised at the University of Chester’s annual Volunteer Celebration Evening.
Students at the university volunteer for a wide range of organisations, including Cancer Research, Childreach International (a global child rights movement), Claire House Children’s Hospice in Wirral, and Girlguiding.
This year students who had completed the University of Chester Volunteering (UCV) award scheme were invited to attend the evening at the Queen’s Park Campus, as were the finalists of two brand new awards, the Student’s Choice and the Charity’s Choice Award 2017.
In the last academic year (2015/16), students and staff at the institution volunteered for 33,226 hours, in the community and in the university.
So far, this academic year, 20,000 volunteering hours have already been achieved.
A total of 69 students – all of whom were UCV ward winners – were invited to attend the event.
The awards are based on number of volunteering hours, and also other tasks, including workshops and presentations.
The UCV Plus is for those who have carried out over 50 hours of voluntary service, the UCV Gold is for over 150 hours of voluntary service and those who complete 300 hours or more of volunteering gain the UCV Excellence Award.
Entertainment was provided by sisters Natalie and Katrina McCroy, who performed songs at the start of the evening.
Natalie is a graduate of the university and Katrina is a current undergraduate student.
One of the guest speakers was Elitsa Seymour from Chester’s Pay as you Feel Café (where many of its volunteers are students from the university).
The student guest speaker was Millie Frith, who is the Women’s Rowing Team Captain.
Millie was one of the excellence award winners and gave an inspirational talk on volunteer leadership.
Two new accolades were celebrated during the evening – the Students Choice Award, which was developed to allow student volunteers the opportunity to recognise organisations that have provided an outstanding student volunteering experience.
Local charities were nominated for their exceptional support of our student volunteers, including providing exciting training courses, being flexible towards study commitments and being an inspirational environment to volunteer in.
The second new accolade is the Charity’s Choice Award, where charities were encouraged to nominate exceptionalstudent volunteers who had gone ‘above and beyond’ in the work they have carried out, voluntarily, in the last academic year, and who have demonstrated real volunteer leadership qualities.
The finalists of the Student’s Choice award were Tomorrow’s Women Wirral; Sports 4 All and the winner of the Students’ Choice Award was PAPYRUS, the national UK charitydedicated to the prevention of young suicide.
PAPYRUS was nominated by student Lauren Cooper, a third year psychology student who has volunteered with PAPYRUS for three years.
Lauren said: “I nominated PAPYRUS because they do so much for so many young people who may feel alone and without hope, as well as helping to support
families, and raise awareness. They even offer training in the wider community so people can learn how to spot and react to invitations for help. When I became a youth champion they were so supportive of each event, or awareness raising idea, and encouraged me all the way. They also remind me to take care of myself too. They are completely understanding of the pressures of student life, and are ready and willing to support you and your ideas in any way they can.”
Community projects officer for PAPYRUS Catherine Parsons added: “I was so grateful Lauren nominated PAPYRUS and we had made it to the final three, I was really humbled to hear what kind words Lauren had said about our charity and how well supported she felt as a volunteer.”
Current volunteering opportunities with PAPYRUS can be found at www.papyrus-uk.org/about/volunteer-for- papyrus.
The finalists for the Charity’s Choice Award were Lisa Meek, who volunteers with Chester Sexual Abuse Support Service; Katherine Sadler, who volunteers for a student mental health peer support group; and the winner of The Charity’s Choice Award was second year games development student Abigail Hunt, who had been nominated by Anne Hesketh, from the charity, Dee Sign Choir.
Anne is secretary of Chester and District Volunteers in Partnership, Chester and District Committee for Deaf People and is also Dee-Sign Choir director.
Anne said: “I can’t thank the university enough for being given the opportunity to nominate someone. Abigail has been a volunteer member of Dee-Sign
British Sign Language choir since the age of 10 and continues today, going into her 12th year, completing too many hours to even begin to calculate, and has helped to raise the wonderful sum of £180,000, during which time she has also learned a second language - British Sign Language.”
Abigail said on the night: “I still can’t believe I won - feeling surreal.”
Senior pro-vice-chancellor of student experience and corporate performance at the University of Chester Dr Chris Haslam said: “We are extremely proud of all our volunteers and the great work they do as ambassadors of the University of Chester.
“Volunteering is a great way of gaining new skills, meeting new people and making a huge difference to the lives of other people. So many of our students and staff dedicate countless hours working on worthwhile projects and it was wonderful to spend an evening with them, celebrating their volunteering work and recognising their contributions.”