Have you considered volunteering in Edinburgh while you’re here? Lulu writes about her time volunteering on the University’s Digital Ambassador Programme, and the benefits she gained from the experience.
Ordinary people doing extraordinary things
Did you know that approximately 36% of people in Edinburgh often volunteer? Volunteer work can range from tasks as simple as teaching a language that you’re fluent in, to tending gardens, volunteering in a soup kitchen to feed the homeless or in charity shops. Both the city and the University of Edinburgh offer a wide range of opportunities for students to get involved in volunteer work. They essentially enable ordinary people like me to get involved in volunteer work and make a difference to the wider student or local Edinburgh community. ‘Ordinary people doing extraordinary things!’
Volunteering through the Digital Ambassador Programme
My first volunteer experience in Edinburgh was through the University’s Digital Ambassador programme with the department of social responsibility and sustainability. I was able to work with local organizations, including the AMINA foundation that the University has partnered with in the fight against digital divide and the exclusion of women of ethnic minorities in Scotland. What more could an African feminist passionate about all things digital ask for? This was a golden opportunity falling right onto my lap!
I participated in teaching digital skills such as Microsoft Office skills, essentials to Google Mail and more. This opportunity also enabled me help in raising awareness on mental health and gender-based violence against women in Scotland, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds. My favourite part of this experience was being able to work with people from various backgrounds and learning from them just as much as they learnt from me.
Of course, in-person interactions were limited as I volunteered during the lockdown. On the bright side, however, we were able to help a larger number of people from across Scotland as a result of organising things online through webinars and Zoom meetings. Everyone involved in this programme was so supportive and ready to learn new skills and explore opinions and experiences from others. This is an opportunity I would recommend for anyone looking to explore and learn or make a difference in the local Scottish community through digital inclusion and feminism.
Why volunteer as a student?
Volunteering while at University can have numerous benefits! Here are some benefits I gained from my volunteer experiences in Edinburgh.
1. Develop skills beneficial for future career prospects and lives in general
As volunteering entails practically getting things done while engaging with local communities, one can potentially improve on networking and communication skills through interactions, problem-solving and more depending on the nature of the opportunity. Personally, volunteering has equipped me with stronger interpersonal communication across ages, race, and culture. This was through getting to meet new people and learning from them.
Similarly, many important skills can be attained while volunteering which can then translate into a wider impact in one’s personal life or any career pathway. I recommend starting early.
One more thing, keep a reflective journal for the skills you learn and get recognition for it through the Edinburgh Award. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
2. Engaging with social issues and making a difference
As a student, it is easy to feel invisible, as though there is nothing we can do to change society’s injustices. Right? That’s where you’re wrong. Volunteering is a great way to become more active in social issues that you’re passionate about. Whether that is education inequality, digital divide, mental health and loneliness or Gender inequality. I recommend volunteering as an introduction to these difficult topics which can later translate to positive social change. It is important to remember that even actions that seem small can have a big impact in someone’s life. I remember seeing the joy on people’s faces once they learnt how to use PowerPoint or Microsoft Word properly, as a Digital Ambassador. It reminded me that small steps do matter for social change.
3. Networking and connections
Volunteering is a great way to meet people who care about the same social issues as you. Not only this, but it also enables you to make useful connections with people from various backgrounds and ages who work in different fields. This can eventually help you build lifelong friendships and/or useful networks for future career prospects. Whether you’re an outgoing person or not, there is the possibility of meeting someone like you! This is my favourite thing about volunteering.
Where can I start?
Here is a list of where you can start looking for volunteer opportunities as a student in Edinburgh.
- The Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s Volunteering Service
- Digital Ambassador Program with the department of social responsibility and sustainability
- Slurp a student-led social enterprise on combating homelessness.
- Volunteer Scotland: Scotland’s National Centre for volunteering
- Volunteer Edinburgh
- The University of Edinburgh’s Volunteer database has various volunteer opportunities
Remember, volunteering can be ‘as easy as ABC’ when your heart is in it. So, find something you’re passionate about and start being that ordinary person doing extraordinary things today.
(Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash)