Thousands of students at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) are making a difference in their local communities through volunteering.
Student Volunteering Week, 20-26 February, is a chance to celebrate their contribution and encourage others to join in UWE Bristol activities such as Reading Buddies, Number Partners and Silver Surfers. Thousands of students volunteer each year at UWE Bristol.
Silver Surfers is celebrating its 10th year and over the years has involved nearly 400 students helping around 200 people. The project is an opportunity for older members of the community to get one-to-one IT expertise and help from students on Frenchay Campus over a number of weekly sessions.
Student volunteers are paired with a Silver Surfer to help them learn skills such as using email or Skype, how to do internet shopping or edit photos.
This scheme is great because you get the one-to-one instruction that is better than any classroom. You can ask any questions you want and get the advice you need on using the technology.
Ricky Bush, Senior Community Development Worker (Intergenerational) of LinkAge, says: “Silver Surfers has proven extremely popular since LinkAge became involved in 2016, being able to offer a six week course on top of the one off sessions we currently offer. The feedback from older people has been positive with some even being able to contact family through Skype after attending these sessions. The great thing about these sessions is being able to see young people not only sharing their skills and knowledge with older people but the conversations that take place between the generations.”
At 94, John Pearce says he is not too old to learn new tricks. Silver Surfers enabled him to get the help he needed to start using his iPad to take photos. John says: “This scheme is great because you get the one-to-one instruction that is better than any classroom. You can ask any questions you want and get the advice you need on using the technology. The students are really enthusiastic and helpful and we became good friends. After the sessions, I was able to use my iPad to take photos and share them with my grandchildren and great grandchildren. I think this is also good experience for the students – as a former employer and MD of a wholesale distribution business, I think this shows initiative and would be valued by potential employers.”
Volunteering helps students to improve their confidence and develop skills, such as leadership and communication, which are valuable for their professional and personal growth, developing graduates who are ready and able to work and are valued by employers when they leave University. A survey conducted by TimeBank and Reed.co.uk of 700 of the UK’s leading businesses showed that 73% of employers would employ a candidate with volunteer experience over one without.