People often associate volunteering with helping other people. However, research suggests that it is also benefits the volunteer too. Our surveys of UCL students certainly show that they develop new skills, make new social contacts, and broaden their horizons.
Students also tell us how volunteering has improved their mental health. 75% of UCL student volunteers said their happiness and general well-being had improved because of their involvement, and 84% said that they felt more confident in their own abilities.
Other studies have found similar results. For example, a review of research by The University of Wales found that volunteering can reduce the incidence of depression, stress and psychological distress, amongst other health benefits. An evaluation of projects funded by the Big Lottery Fund recommended volunteering as a way to improve well-being. The Citizens’ Advice Bureau found that 3 in 5 of their volunteers felt less stressed as a result of volunteering, and 4 in 5 said it had improved their physical or mental well-being.
Research carried out at the University of British Columbia has suggested that volunteering can improve indicators of cardiovascular health such as cholesterol levels.
And Justin-Davis Smith from NCVO has written an excellent blog about volunteering and happiness.
What UCL students say:
Sheikh Momin (Medicine) mentors young people in Tower Hamlets: “The scope of opportunities available in volunteering is incredible, and these projects offer a unique way to bring you into contact with different people from all backgrounds, and it is truly incredible to see their perspectives on life in comparison to yours”
Vanessa Thompsett (English Literature) volunteers at the Ragged School Museum in East London: “I’m very happy that I’m working at the museum and enjoying the challenges that each session can bring – improvisational skills are sometimes very useful when answering a question in the Q&A! It’s great to work at a place where there’s variety, fun and the occasional prompt to research a quirk of Victorian history.”
Krishna Vadakattu (Mechanical Engineering) helps out regularly at West Euston Partnership’s Ability Bikes Scheme: “I love the scheme because after a busy week in class, its an extremely relaxing and rewarding way to spend a Saturday morning. You get a chance to help out the community while leisurely cycling around Regents Park.”
Anqui Hunag (Mathematics) has volunteered on a variety of one-off events and with UCL Special Collections: “Volunteering is a great way to learn new skills. It gives me a chance to discover what kinds of things I’m best at and enjoy the most. Also, it provides me with a sense of responsibility and helps me develop a new understanding of people who are different from me.”
How to get involved
The VSU make it as easy as possible to volunteer, and we have a real range of activities to try. To find out how to get involved, visit our ‘Getting Started’ page.
Watch the VSU film
We asked UCL students what volunteering means to them … and this is what they said:
Film shot and edited by Wenxin Liu.
You can also read more about students’ experiences on our Volunteers’ Stories page.