WITH 2011 the European Year of Volunteering, students and staff from the University of Chester were rewarded at an award ceremony for going above and beyond the call of duty.
The showcase and celebration evening, organised by the student development team at the university, saw student and staff volunteers honoured by the Lord Mayor of Chester, Cllr Neil Ritchie.
Guests at the event included Lady Mayoress Kathie Ritchie, Sue Proctor MBE, vice chancellor Professor Timothy Wheeler, pro vice chancellor Dr Chris Haslam and dean of students Dr Lesley Cook.
Since September 2010 a total of 572 student and staff from the university have dedicated 11,000 hours to volunteering for local charities and community organisations.
Ten volunteer-led projects have been supported by the Santander Community Project Fund, which grants money to charities committed to helping disadvantaged people in the UK.
Projects have included:
The Good Grub Club, which facilitated healthy eating sessions for service users at Chester Aid to the Homeless.
Ellesmere Port Gymnastics Club, which enabled young people to get involved in sport.
An Autism Awareness film project which allowed young people with autism to write and produce a film about living with the condition.
In addition to the main awards, four students were honoured with Volunteering England Gold Awards.
These national awards are given in recognition of outstanding service to the community through leadership, dedication and achievement in volunteering.
James Down, Sophie Lasek, Hannah Murray and Jenni Moss were recognised for their involvement with projects such as National Probation Service, Viral Man swine flu awareness campaign, extensive fundraising for Claire House Hospice, helping homesick students, the Guides GOLD project, Cheshire Young Carers, fundraising for Pakistan and Haiti disasters, VegOut@Uni vegetable box scheme and Aimhigher Summer Schools.
In addition, volunteers have helped the environment by organising 10 conservation activities in partnership with Flintshire Countryside Service and British Waterways.
Activities have included tree-planting, woodland management and canal maintenance, and students have also taken part in university-based initiatives such as Aimhigher Summer Schools to give young people the chance to experience university life.
Claire Britton, volunteer co-ordinator at the University of Chester, said: “Volunteering is a fantastic way of combining your passions, skills and talents to make a real and significant difference. Not only does it develop new skills and improve employability, it’s also great fun and can actually become quite addictive.
“This is demonstrated by the sheer amount of hours our students and staff have dedicated to volunteering.”
The University of Chester Student Development Team manages two volunteer schemes: the national v Scheme for students and staff aged 18-25 and the UCV Scheme for students and staff aged 26 and over. Both allow volunteers to record their hours and work toward certificates.