According to YouGov, around one in four people in the UK regularly volunteer. We think everyone should volunteer, as there are endless benefits to volunteering, such as making new friends, building your confidence and helping your community.

We provide a variety of volunteering opportunities for students to get involved in, so if you're wondering whether to give your time to voluntary work this semester, here's ten good reasons to take the plunge:

1) Try something new.

You might discover you have a passion for something you've never tried before, so why not step out and try something new this semester? We've got a variety of different events coming up, which will feature lots of different activities, so now is the perfect time to challenge yourself and step outside of your comfort zone.

2) Improve your mental health.

The vast majority of people who volunteer agree that volunteering on regular basis can act as an 'antidote to loneliness.' Regular volunteering places you in a community of people who are committed to working together and supporting each other to reach a common goal. As a result, volunteers often feel less isolated and alone once they work alongside and get to know other volunteers in their network.

Red lipstick smile
Photo by Allef Vinicius / Unsplash
"There is an emerging body of evidence that suggests volunteering can improve your mental health and [...] it can help with depression, life satisfaction and wellbeing." - Karl Wilding, NCVO’s policy and volunteering director

Focusing on helping others can often distract us from having negative thoughts about ourselves, and has the added bonus of making us feel accomplished because we're helping other people!

3) Learn new skills.

Volunteering is a safe environment to develop new skills, such as leadership or organisational skills, which are often sought after by employers. Having volunteering experience is a wonderful way to show off how you led a team, or demonstrate how you organise and plan for events.

Volunteering can teach you new skills! Here's one of our weekly Woolly Matters sessions where volunteers can learn how to knit and crochet.

You can also learn fun, hobby-based skills, such as knitting! Our weekly Woolly Matters group specialise in knitting and crocheting items to benefit local or national causes, and no prior experience of knitting is necessary. Our Woolly Matters coordinator, Lydia, is able to teach you everything you need to know to get started, so why not come along for a session on Wednesdays 1-2pm in Medecroft 15?

4) Have fun!

Volunteering is also a lot of fun! Of course, a big part of what makes volunteering so rewarding is its social aspect! Whilst volunteering, you can expect to meet some lovely people, who may become long-term friends outside of your volunteering roles!

We're currently looking for volunteers to help out at COWFest 2020! The Children of Winchester Festival is run by Winchester SALT who aim to increase access to arts, sports and leisure activities for the community. COWFest runs a highly diverse programme of activities for children, which are completely free of charge.

Volunteer next Saturday at COWFest by supporting children in a variety of arts and crafts and leisure activities.

This year, COWFest will be at the Winchester Discovery Centre on Saturday 15th February 10am - 4pm. Volunteers are required to help support the various activities running throughout the day, such as origami, playwriting, Zumba, and more. Find out more and sign up here.

5) Gain more confidence.

The National Youth Agency found that for young people aged 11-25, volunteering increased their confidence and self-esteem. Getting out into the community and trying things that are outside of your comfort zone can bring a great sense of achievement, and make you more confident to try new things!

An 18 year old young person proud of making it to the top of the rock. We made a stop at the rest area in Echo, Utah to get some photos.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash

Volunteering can also improve your personal communication skills, and highlight your individual skills and strengths. Having other people depend on you makes you realise your own capabilities, and boosts your overall self-esteem.

6) Help improve the lives of others.

The whole point of volunteering is to make the world a better place, and to improve the lives of those around us. Our LinkAges and Schools+ programmes are set up so that our student volunteers can directly contribute to other people's wellbeing.

Make an older person feel less isolated by coming along to the LinkAges Tea Party on Wednesday 12th February, 2-6pm. We need student volunteers to assist with setting up this on-campus event, and to socialise with elderly residents throughout the afternoon. Find out more about this event here.

For instance, our LinkAges volunteers spend their time building relationships with elderly residents in Winchester to reduce elderly isolation, whilst our Schools+ volunteers offer additional tutoring to give local schoolchildren a better chance at earning 5 GCSE grades 4-9.

Read our recent blog posts to find out more about our LinkAges and Schools+ projects:

Educational Disadvantage, and what we're doing to tackle it

Elderly Isolation, and what we're doing to tackle it

7) Use your voice to make change.

Social action projects are a great way to tackle big issues you're passionate about. For example, social action projects can aim to reduce the rate of climate change, or even address gendered issues such as period poverty, FGM, gender stereotypes.

Do Something Great
Photo by Clark Tibbs / Unsplash

Coming up soon, we have an event where you can help the dwindling hedgehog population in Hampshire! Come along to our session on Monday 17th February in WB3, 2-3pm! We'll provide all the materials and know-how to help you get started, and afterwards, the hedgehog houses you build will be distributed around the University of Winchester campus. Contact Sorcha at [email protected] to find out how to get involved!

8) Make friends with like-minded people.

One of our LinkAges volunteers said that volunteering with us was "a great way to meet like-minded people from the university." The social aspect of volunteering certainly makes it more appealing, and a lot of our volunteering events have opportunities for volunteers to get to know each other.

Our volunteering projects run regular socials to allow volunteers and committee members to get to know each other more, and build a stronger volunteering community!

Here's some of our committee members and volunteers at last semester's board game night!

On Saturday 8th February, we'll be running a litter picking session from 11am - 1pm. Cleaning up our local community together will be a great way to meet new people and get to know them whilst making a difference! We'll be meeting at All Saints Church at 11am, litterpicking for an hour, and then having a short break for refreshments before getting back to it! We hope to see you there. Sign up for this event here.

9) Take a break from studying.

Everyone needs to take a break once in a while! Taking study breaks can actually increase your productivity and help combat stress.

In our recent volunteer feedback survey, one of our volunteers said the highlight of their experience with us was "being able to relax and take a break from studying."

Doing something active can also significantly improve your memory and cognitive function. Why not take a day off and join us at our Community Action Day? We'll be planting hedges at Stanmore Recreation Ground from 10am - 3pm on Tuesday 11th February. Find out more and sign up here.

10) Gain work experience for your CV.

Employers value people who have volunteering experience, as it shows that a candidate can work well as part of a team, and that they care about the wellbeing of others.

Photo by Van Tay Media / Unsplash

Some volunteering events can link directly to a specific career as well. For instance, Schools+ provides student volunteers with valuable classroom experience to demonstrate to future employers their suitability and dedication for teaching.

Upcoming events and opportunities:

We've got lots of great volunteering opportunities coming up for you to get involved in! Next week is national Student Volunteering Week, and we've got a full week of awesome events you can sign up for:

Sign up for Student Volunteering Week here.

Our Give It A Go coordinators also run one-off volunteering events throughout the year, so be sure to sign up to the Give It A Go newsletter to stay up to date with the latest opportunities!