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 Samaritans, Chester Sports Association for People with a Disability, Marie Curie, Girlguiding, Sports 4 All, Beanstalk (children’s literacy charity), Canal and River Trust, Passion for Learning, Citizens Advice, and Claire House Children’s Hospice.
Almost 100 students who have made a difference through volunteering were invited to attend the evening at the university’s Queen’s Park campus.
All the students who attended had completed the University of Chester Volunteering (UCV) award scheme. The awards are based on the number of volunteering hours and also other tasks, including workshops and presentations.
The UCV Platinum plus is awarded to those who have volunteered for more than 500 hours. UCV Platinum is for those who have carried out more than 300 hours of voluntary service while the UCV Gold is for over 150 hours and those who complete 50 hours or more of volunteering gain the UCV Silver award.
Entertainment was provided by the Jarvis Brothers – Joshua, Daniel and Jordan Hollinrake - who achieved fame recently when they appeared on Good Morning Britain.
All three are studying the popular music performance degree course at the university’s Kingsway Campus.
Two accolades were particularly celebrated during the evening – the first being 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 the student volunteers, including providing exciting training courses, being flexible towards study commitments and being an inspirational environment in which to volunteer.
The second is the Charity’s Choice Award, where charities have been encouraged to nominate exceptional student 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 Students’ Choice Award were: St Helens-based homeless support charity Teardrops; the National Osteoporosis Society (Manchester Central Support Group); and the winner was Healthwatch Cheshire, which is the independent voice for the people of Cheshire, helping to shape and improve local health and social care services.
David Crosthwaite, volunteer coordinator at Healthwatch Cheshire, said: “To have been nominated for the University of Chester’s Students’ Choice Award was amazing in itself and, when seeing the other organisations nominated, it was a fantastic privilege to be chosen as the overall winner.
“Of course, this would not have been possible without the assistance of the university volunteering team and the students who volunteered their time and commitment to making a difference to the community of Cheshire.
“Healthwatch Cheshire is about listening to people and sharing their views in relation to health and social care.
“The student volunteers have brought an enthusiasm, humour and a professionalism with them; always prepared to assist, always happy to learn and this has assisted in reaching more people. A greater and diverse team benefiting the community.
“Without the students’ help, this would not have been as successful.”
The finalists for the Charity’s Choice Award were: Hannah Cook, a third year geography and natural hazard management student, who volunteers with the Scouts; Stephanie Taylor, a first year digital photography and radio production student, who helps with the Cheshire Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball Club; and postgraduate human nutrition student Tanya Grenade, who volunteers with the National Osteoporosis Society (Manchester Central Support Group).
The winner was Hannah Cook who said: “I was quite surprised to win the Charity’s Choice award, as when you start volunteering you don’t really expect to get too much recognition in return.
“Volunteering is really important as I have had opportunities to experience things that just would not have happened outside of volunteering and you also don’t fully realise the skills that you can gain from volunteering until you start doing it.”
48th Chester Scout Group Leader David Ricketts, who nominated Hannah, said: “Being able to bring to the attention of the university and wider public the exemplary voluntary work that Hannah continues to do on a weekly basis is fantastic. Hannah has put countless hours into our Scout group.
“I could not think of anyone more deserving of an award for their achievements.
“Hannah is the perfect role model and has guided and shaped the many young people she has come into contact with through Scouting to be better members of society.
“It is with the highest of respect and regard that I call Hannah a true Scout.”
Dr Chris Haslam, senior pro-vice-chancellor, student experience and corporate performance at the University of Chester, said: “The university is very proud of all of our student volunteers, and it has been a pleasure to celebrate their achievements at this event.
“At the same time, this evening has also provided the university with an opportunity to recognise and thank the many charities and local community groups who help shape this volunteering into practical, meaningful and beneficial activity.
“Volunteering is a fantastic way to get involved in the local community, whilst developing key personal skills, and this event has been a brilliant way to celebrate this with our students and our local community partners.”