Volunteering in Durham

Chloe Stone

I love volunteering

Volunteering is one of my favourite past-times and, although this may be a common statement I whack into job applications, it’s actually true! I started volunteering through the Duke of Edinburgh Award as I tried to boost my personal statement. After I completed my bronze award, where I needed to volunteer for 6 months, I realised I wanted to continue my role as a helper with my local Girl Guides for the next three years… I even got my Young Leader Qualification.

Especially with the Girl Guides

As you can probably already tell, I think that volunteering is an incredibly rewarding experience. I learned new skills, met new people, and knew I was giving my time to a really good cause. I loved volunteering with the Girl Guides’ Rainbows (5–7-year-olds), seeing how they learned and developed their thoughts and creativity within the welcoming, open space we created for them. I just haven’t felt the same level of true satisfaction anywhere else.

So, when I came to university (with my rainbow mug and card made by my Girlguiding group) I knew I absolutely had to continue volunteering. My Unit leader for my Girlguides group at home had given me the contact details for the Durham Guiding group and after a few email exchanges I was all set to join.

So, when I came to university (with my rainbow mug and card made by my Girlguiding group) I knew I absolutely had to continue volunteering. My Unit leader for my Girlguides group at home had given me the contact details for the Durham Guiding group and after a few email exchanges I was all set to join.

But it didnt work out 

Now comes the part where I reveal life can sometimes get in the way. The group was a 20-minute walk away from college (and, unsurprisingly given this is Durham, up a massive hill). Our Unit meetings were at 5pm, and as we entered deeper into winter, I was walking there at night down a dark, unlit alleyway. It’s fair to say as a woman living in 2023, I decided this wasn’t for me. After giving this a few goes I decided it was best I find a different way to donate my time to a good cause, and that’s how I managed to pursue both my fashion and advocacy goals through volunteering projects.

A new challenge

It was really easy for me to join new volunteering opportunities. I was already part of the Sexpression society and, now I was no longer at Rainbows, I had time to join a new society designing clothes for a fashion show. I found these two opportunities through one of two avenues. First, attending Freshers fair and learning about volunteering in society executive teams. Second, I looked at volunteering roles advertised through the University’s volunteering platform

Exec team for Sexpression

Before I unveil the steps I took to get involved in these volunteering positions, let me first explain why I love them so much. I am part of the exec team for Sexpression as well as the Creative Director for my college’s charity fashion show. Through both projects I have gained and developed many skills, as well as met a wide range of people I would never have known otherwise. One memory that will always remain in my mind was sitting with a girl I barely knew at Refreshers fair with a bright blue dildo perched on our table. I was advertising Sexpression as a society which goes to secondary schools and teaches sex education thoroughly, gender-neutrally, and adhering to the National Curriculum. I had an amazing time building a new friendship, taking a break from my studies to advocate for a cause I’m passionate about.

Link to Sexpression’s national website: https://sexpression.org.uk/

It’s easy to get involved

Volunteering within your college and university societies is an easy and amazing way to try new things out, and there’s no time limit on when you can join! Of course, sometimes you can experience a few hiccups, and I’ve had my fair share of these, but this is simply a part of the process of improving yourself and realising which areas you need to work on (for me, this is definitely my communication skills).

When you are looking to volunteer within the local community, Durham University’s volunteering platform is a gold mine for amazing opportunities. Around once a week I’ll give it a thorough stalk and see if anything tickles my fancy. So far, I’ve taught drama in after-school lessons in a nearby secondary school (let’s not forget I’ve never done an ounce of drama in my life), and I helped hand out candles to children for the Christmas parade. Where else could you find opportunities like this? 

Why volunteering is so great

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: volunteering is rewarding in a way nothing else is. You are helping others, giving up your time with no expectation of anything in return, in a very self-less, fulfilling act. You meet amazing, like-minded people, develop skills, and get a well-deserved, well-needed break from your studies every now and then.

How to get involved and volunteer in the University community

Join a society, be that within your college or the wider university, be that organising social events for the Latin Social Dance society or teaching a class in making granny squares for crochet society … Anything that allows you to enjoy yourself whilst helping others. To find these opportunities, of course contact your college for a list of societies they provide, but also check out the Student Union’s website where they have all student societies listed.

How to get involved and volunteer in the local community

Whether you want to tend to the gardens of elderly residents, or tutor students to help with their A Level exams, the Durham University Volunteering Platform has it all (trust me, I’ve looked). If you check out our Instagram page @durham_scws you will find a post with a step-by-step guide on how to get the most out of this site if you get a little stuck with it. This link will take you to the volunteering platform: https://durhamunistudentvolunteering.teamkinetic.co.uk/index-classic 

Boost your employability skills

Volunteering, whilst great fun, also provides you with amazing skills which boost your employability. When I talked to my line manager for this role as a Student Community Warden about this blog post, she noted how some of the skills I have developed through volunteering are what led her to employ me in this role! On that note, if reading this article has given you the volunteering itch, don’t hesitate to contact our team as we have some exciting new opportunities coming up which you can get involved in. Our email is [email protected] and we look forward to hearing from you 🙂

So, I hope this article has at least somewhat convinced you to try out volunteering this term. I’m sure you can find at least one hour a week to help others and, of course, help yourself to grow.

Chloe Stone

Hello! My name's Chloë and I am part of the Student Community Warden team, working on improving relations between students and non-students here in Durham. I'm a first-year student studying Combined Honours in Social Sciences, with a focus on sociology, anthropology, and education. My main hobbies include fashion (designing and attempting to create pieces), reading, and going on hikes in nature.

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