Student Community Action enables hundreds of volunteering opportunities for Durham University students. Open to all undergraduates and postgraduates, the organisation provides projects at both Durham City and Queen’s campus. It also runs a number of major fundraising events throughout the year, as well as the annual awards ceremony where the commitment of volunteers is celebrated.
The wide range of projects available help students get involved in the community, gain new skills and meet a variety of people outside of the university bubble. With the ever-increasing competition for graduate jobs and the difficulties involved in finding suitable internships, volunteering is also a brilliant way to gain invaluable work experience in a range of fields. The levels of commitment required vary depending on each project, so there really is the opportunity for anyone to get involved. However, arguably the greatest appeal of SCA is the huge amount of fun volunteers have. How else can you really improve your CV while hosting a tea party, walking the dog, or even spending a night at the pub?
Getting involved with SCA is easy. Projects are advertised on their website (www.scadurham.org.uk) and at the Experience Durham Freshers’ Fair (4th and 5th October, Elvet Riverside). To apply for a position, simply sign up during freshers’ week or email the leader of the project you are interested in. The contact details for each project are listed online.
I have explored just a few of the community, educational and recreational projects that SCA runs, and spoken to their Project Leaders to find out what the project means to them.
Children Achieving Through Student Support (CATSS)
CATSS provides respite for primary and secondary school children referred from social services. Volunteers receive regular training before leading a range of activities for the children, including days at the beach, wheelchair basketball, trips to the farm, and rock climbing.
“My three years on CATSS have been the best thing I have ever done. It is fun, rewarding, and even helped me decipher my career path. I have made lifelong friends from different years and colleges, aided the local community, and had the chance to take up numerous leadership opportunities that have come my way.” – Emily, 3rd year, Collingwood College (firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com)
Volunteers walk dogs for residents who are unable to do so due to illness, being housebound, or working full-time. The project also walks dogs awaiting rehoming at the Deerness Stray Action kennels.
“Volunteers will be able to enhance and learn important skills, forge friendships with the local dogs and residents, and increase the chances of stray dogs being rehomed.” Hannah and Steffi, 2nd years, Josephine Butler College (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Over cups of tea and cake, volunteers chat to Durham’s elderly residents and provide entertainment.
“Volunteers build relationships with the elderly and make a positive difference in their lives. It is a meaningful time away from studying. You meet people from all walks of life and listen to their experiences. Plus who can refuse free cake?” – Lorraine, 2nd year, St. Aidan’s College (email@example.com)
Riding for the Disabled (RDA)
A team of volunteers assist local specialist riding centres by looking after the horses and leading them during lessons.
“RDA is a fantastic opportunity for horse-lovers to spend time at the stables and to help disabled riders have fun and explore a new skill. Seeing the difference you make to peoples’ lives is incredibly rewarding and the sessions are one of the highlights of my week.” – Harriet, 2nd year, St. Aidan’s College (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Go Out And Live (GOALs)
GOALs runs weekly sessions aiming to improve the social skills and self-confidence of young people with learning difficulties. Activities include ice-skating, firework displays, movie and game nights, and even pub visits.
“GOALs is a great project to get involved in if you’re looking for a fun, relaxed way to get into volunteering! It is a fantastic way to meet other people; the volunteers are lovely and often spend time together outside of volunteering.” – Lauren, 4th year, Grey College (email@example.com)
Students are matched with elderly people in the community, providing company to those living in isolation.
“It’s a great opportunity for volunteers to break out of the student bubble and to form meaningful relationships with members of the Durham community.” – Bethany, 2nd year, St. Mary’s College (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This performing arts project provides dramatic, singing and dancing activities for children in underprivileged areas near Durham. Whilst working towards the production of plays each term, the children make new friends and have fun.
“Volunteers can be proud of what is achieved, and to see [the children’s] progression is worth all the hard work!” – Giulia, 2nd year, St. Mary’s College (email@example.com)
From the comfort of their own home, volunteers advise prospective year 13 Durham applicants via an online platform. Current Durham students answer questions, share their own experiences and offer guidance on the application process.
“E-Mentoring is a great way to give something back to students who are facing some of the same struggles and triumphs that you did when applying to university.” – Lucy, 2nd year, St. Mary’s College (firstname.lastname@example.org)