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22nd November 2018

Unpaid on purpose: volunteering

Ellie Martin talks you through some of the volunteering opportunities available for students in Manchester
Unpaid on purpose: volunteering
Photo: Greater Manchester Nightline

Students today have a lot of pulls on their time. After taking into account lectures and hours of study, a CV without years of experience in the desired field feels almost like a waste of time. The unpaid internship has a tighter grip around our time than we want it to, with paid experience similar to a golden snitch; difficult to find and nigh impossible to actually get considering the amount of applicants. Productivity culture would have us chalk up every hour of the day as contributing towards a certain goal, and after a while this can be very overwhelming. Having the mentality, whether consciously adopted or sub consciously absorbed, that every second needs to add value to our lives is fatiguing.

With such strains on each precious minute of our time, sometimes it feels good to just give it to somebody else. A shocking statement in this climate of productivity, but making every second count for a goal big or small is exhausting, and the relief, I would advise, is simply giving away a couple of your hours to someone else. Sticking it to those productivity gurus and allowing some of your time be completely unproductive (in terms of yourself and your personal goals) and using it to add value to somebody else’s life.

I don’t enjoy reading articles stating the benefits of volunteering for the volunteer, as I feel that they miss the point somewhat. I do not deny that those personal benefits are real, and can be advantageous towards your career, however giving your time to volunteering purely for those sweet CV points misses the value in volunteering solely for the good of the other person. Doing good for someone else’s benefit in a proper and helpful setting is simple and good, and adding a productivity mindset into the mixture takes away that simplicity. Life as a student is complex enough, and with constant demand on our time an energies, take a break by giving away your time, and do it freely, without expectation of reward or personal benefit. With that in mind, here are three organisations in and around campus that are open to volunteers.

Nightline is a well-known organisation on campus. It’s a student listening service which is open at night and run by students, for students. Every night of term, trained student volunteers answer calls, emails, instant messages, texts and talk in person to their fellow university students about anything that’s troubling them. 

The interesting thing about Nightline, and what makes it accessible for volunteers, is that it is a listening service. Volunteers do not offer advice but support, and allow the caller to come to their own decision. A listening ear is what you’ll be providing, not guidance. Whilst the first Nightline was set up to reduce student suicides, Nightlines today receive calls from students troubled by a variety of issues: from academic stress, bullying, or debt to loneliness, depression, or bereavement; from arguments with flatmates or worries about a friend to addictions, eating disorders, or self-harm; from relationship or family problems to sexuality, sexual abuse, or abortion. Nothing is too big or small to contact Nightline about – whatever’s troubling a caller, Nightline is there to listen.

Mind is a Manchester-based charity that focus on improving access to mental health services.  It has a particular program named YASP that is designed for young people aged 15-25, and that also has a focus on homelessness in young people in the Manchester area.  They provide volunteering opportunities for those in the same age group, perfect for students. What is particularly interesting is its YASP Internet Cafe which provides a chilled space for young people to use. It’s open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am-4pm. You can volunteer your talents in the kitchen making food and treats, or as a mentor. It helpfully is located on Stockport Road with a bus stop just outside, so very accessible to all.  

The Gaskell Garden Project is based in Manchester, and started out in 2014 as a growing group of friends. This included refugees and asylum seekers as well as UK citizens, who gardened together in the tradition of permaculture, sold surplus produce, and used the money raised to further the welfare of our refugee & asylum seeker friends. They do incredibly important work in their community, providing a place for people to come together to grow food, cook together and share meals and experiences. Having volunteered here myself I can really vouch for the value of this organisation. What I love about the project is that there is a strong focus on friendship; those who come to the project are seen as friends, not service users. The project has expanded to running their own festivals, workshops and events. They also provide vital access to those in need by fixing and providing bikes. A whole world of opportunity opens up when transport is available without a financial burden, which is what makes this element so valuable.

You can register your interest with these organisations by visiting their respective websites and filling in the online forms.

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