Ever wondered what students get up to whilst not actually studying? Contrary to what many may suppose, there are a vast number of students who volunteer to work in the local community, helping schools, charities and individuals and “giving something back”.
Our speaker on August 28th was Sarah Rafferty, Community Projects Manager at the University, who is part of the 4-person team responsible for co-ordinating these activities. A Friend of York Rotary, Sarah has been working at the University in this area for the past 8 years. Amazingly, around 2270 students volunteer each year, with the aim of getting to know the city better, and meeting people, as well as for genuine altruistic reasons.
Sarah described four main programmes that they run. These are
- York Students in Schools; where students provide tutoring and other services for local educational establishments ranging from nurseries up to York College.
- Volunteer Brokerage; promoting volunteer roles in local charities (Snappy being a primary example) where students can offer help as required.
- Student Union Projects and Fundraising; individual projects which are student-led and provide services, for example a Tea and Coffee club for older people, meeting on campus. Fundraising activities have raised over £120k last year through student participation and individual challenges such as walking/climbing challenges and Rag Week.
- Community Projects; a new area of focus starting September 1st, led by Sarah, where small student teams will take on specific projects to help in the community, examples being creating videos for charities, environmental sustainability projects and COVID recovery programmes.
Sarah’s team work closely alongside York Cares, a University initiative that co-ordinates volunteers from the commercial and industrial sectors (who have helped us with several programmes including our recent Family Tree Planting project).
The scope of projects and the level of commitment shown by students was eye-opening and many of us were struck by the huge resource available to the community and the possibility of linkages between this programme and our own Rotary work locally – an opportunity not to be missed, surely.