Category Archives: Volunteering

Ruth uses scholarship to spend summer at camp supporting disabled children

Ruth Christian has had a very busy couple of years since applying to study LLB (Hons) Law with Criminology at Edge Hill University. Now in her third year and preparing to graduate, Ruth reflected on the past two years as an Excellence Scholarship winner.

“Two years ago I first applied for the Excellence Scholarship citing the volunteer work I did at home during college. I’ll admit now, my application was completed between work, college, exams and a busy social life! It wasn’t the best so it was no surprise when my first application was unsuccessful.

However, even though I wasn’t awarded a scholarship on that occasion, the University still took notice of my application and asked if I would like to be involved in a new initiative, the Volunteer Certificate and Ambassador Scheme.

This new opportunity has been a great help to me in my last two years at Edge Hill. I’ve met new people, got a volunteer post, and I have recently gained my silver certificate, which will look good on my CV. It is due to all of this that I thought it would be a good idea to apply for the Excellence Scholarship for Current Students, again for my volunteering. This time I made sure that my application was as good as it could be, going into as much detail as possible, no matter how insignificant it might seem. Also, something I didn’t include in my first application was evidence, as I couldn’t take photos in my first volunteer job. However my volunteer job at university let me take a photo in the sensory room in my staff t-shirt. This enhanced my application and I was successful in gaining the Excellence Scholarship.

The awards ceremony which is held for the winners of the scholarship is an amazing night where you get to show off your achievements and feel proud of yourself and what you can do. It is also a great chance for your family to congratulate you and for them to see what you’ve achieved and celebrate it.

With the money I gained I put it towards spending nearly three months in America, working on a camp for disabled children and travelling. I honestly don’t know how to sum up my time at the camp; the ups, the downs, the excitement and exhaustion. It’s been a rollercoaster of a summer which I wouldn’t change for the world!

As well as the campers, I have worked with some amazing counsellors, from all over the world. We started as strangers who were put into a cabin to live together for 10 weeks but we left as a family. Every one of the counsellors and campers has in some way or other done something to make this summer the best I’ve ever had.

It wasn’t all easy going though, there were hard times and struggles. From the 14/15 hours working a day, to limited time off at weekends and lack of contact with home. There were times where I’ve just wanted to be back home but I am honestly so glad I was strong enough not to cave in at those moments.

Once I had finished camp, I traveled far and wide around America. With my camp being in New Jersey, I left the day after camp and flew over to San Francisco for a few days, then back to Newark, down to Philadelphia and Washington. After this I did an organised trek up to Niagara Falls and finished with a few days in New York before flying home.

Some advice which I would always give to someone considering applying for a scholarship is that it never hurts to try! If you’ve done anything which can apply to a scholarship go for it! And if you do, don’t leave anything out even if you think it’s not important. A few months ago I received the amazing news that I have won a Chancellors Scholarship as well which just proves that there’s no harm in trying!”

Josh’s valiant volunteering efforts rewarded with a scholarship

I recently caught up with one of our 2014/15 Excellence Scholars, Josh Mayers, who is now a second year student on our BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science degree.

Josh was awarded an Excellence Scholarship in recognition of his tremendous volunteering work, from coaching tennis to young children, to volunteering in a cancer information and support centre, and completing charity work for Camp Project Wales and Age UK.

While much of Josh’s voluntary work was undertaken completing Duke of Edinburgh awards, Josh also now has an Excellence Scholarship to add to his CV.

“I decided to volunteer as part of my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award. As I really enjoyed sport, I decided to approach the school tennis coach to ask if I could assist him with extra curricular activities coaching primary school children. This role involved leading little warm-up games with small groups, setting up the equipment for the sessions and teaching key tennis skills such as the serve, a forehand stroke, backhand, volley, slice and smash. I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside a tennis coach to learn how to work with young children, as this is something I have considered as a career in the future. I enjoyed it so much that I continued with this volunteering for both my Bronze and Silver awards.

As I began my Gold Duke of Edinburgh award I decided to undertake a new challenge. As cancer had unfortunately touched our family, I decided to volunteer at the Macmillan Delamere Cancer Information and Support Centre. This centre receives very little funding and therefore relies heavily on volunteer support and fundraising events.

During my volunteer service at the Delamere Centre I was involved with a number of different tasks including interacting with patients and relatives whilst providing refreshments, producing posters and tickets for fundraising events, and creating spreadsheets to record charitable donations received. I was then asked by the Centre Manager to continue my voluntary work helping a personal trainer as part of a new cancer rehabilitation programme. This work required me to work on a one-to-one basis with the patients, providing support, stability and guidance whilst they took part in activities (which I’d also helped to set up).

The Gold Duke of Edinburgh award is very challenging, particularly as it involves a residential for which I volunteered at a local charity ‘Camp Project Wales’. This is a local charity that provides annual holidays for disadvantaged children; a fantastic cause. I attended monthly planning meetings, assisted with fundraising events and attended the 10-day camp itself. During the camp, I worked with a designated group of children supervising outdoor activities such as canoeing, rounders, football and swimming sessions. It was great seeing these children engaged and having fun!

After completing my GCSEs, I was keen to find part-time work over the summer holidays which was difficult due to a lack of experience. I therefore decided to volunteer at my local Age UK shop to gain some valuable work experience, as I believed this would show my commitment and dedication to a prospective employer. My duties included receiving donations, arranging displays and putting stock out, pressing clothing, assisting customers and working on the till.

It was all of these experiences that I included in my scholarship application. I never imagined the application would be successful as I knew it would be very competitive so I was overwhelmed when I found out. The scholarships has helped with me with my travel costs so I have been able to continue with my voluntary work.

I am now in my second year at Edge Hill University. I absolutely loved every minute of my first year and would love to do it all over again! I lived on campus for my first year and had a ball meeting loads of new people and making friends for life. It has been challenging at times as the course has been difficult, getting my head around referencing and meeting assignment deadlines. These have not been the only challenging things about University. I have had to learn how to budget my money and start looking after myself, doing my own washing and ironing. Before starting University I didn’t even know how to use a washing machine!”

Keara’s summer of a lifetime

Keara Sterling, an Excellence Scholarship winner, caught up with me recently after returning from an amazing summer of volunteering in Fiji and America, as well as visiting Australia. Prepare to be very jealous as she shares her adventures below!

“I was awarded an Excellence Scholarship (for volunteering) at the end of the second year of my BA (Hons) Physical Education and School Sport degree. My love of sport not only inspired me to study the subject at degree level but also inspired me to volunteer in industry. I thoroughly enjoy sharing my passion in sport and motivating others to get involved. For eight hours a week I coach trampolining with ‘Momentum Trampoline Club’ and ‘BEST Gymnastics’ to young people. Four hours of this is dedicated to teaching young people with disabilities.

Not only do I volunteer in the sporting field but for the last few years I have been heavily involved in volunteering in my local community, representing the voice of young people and breaking the barriers created by the media towards young people. One of the roles I did for three years was that of ‘Voice’. This is a local youth forum that would meet for five hours a week to plan and discuss local issues in the community and how we could overcome this. Along with this volunteering, I also volunteered with ‘YAK’ (Youth Action Council) and ‘S.H.A.G’ (Sexual Health Advisory Group).

My voluntary work has enabled me to travel worldwide and visit some amazing places. This summer I was lucky enough to travel not only to America and Australia but also to Fiji. It all started in 2012 when I was nominated to represent the United Kingdom on a project in Bremen, Germany. I went out to Germany for two weeks to volunteer at military heritage sites maintaining the graves from World Wars One and Two. This was an amazing opportunity as it involved people from all over Europe.

In 2014, I was selected to spend summer in Chicago, teaching football or ‘soccer’ as they call it. This was an amazing opportunity for me to develop my subject knowledge on how to deliver a range of engaging sessions to a variety of individuals, from advanced level to beginners. Each week I would be working with a new team/group of young people. This summer I completed a similar project with ‘Challenger’ based in Texas. After completing this project I traveled back to Chicago to meet up with some friends that I made from the previous summer.

After spending three months in Texas, I returned to the UK before flying out to Australia for a a holiday and then on the way back stopped off at Fiji to take part in a Voluntary Physical Education project for four weeks. Here, I worked supporting young people at Mana Island School. I thoroughly loved working with these children and learning new skills such as weaving and attending my first Kava ceremony!

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I am now back in my third and final year and have just found out that I have been accepted on to a PGCE course starting in September 2016 – I cannot wait! I just wonder if next summer will live up to the experiences of this summer – it was definitely a summer of a lifetime!”

Maegan makes a difference in Ukraine

With our new scholars well and truly settled into University life, I am still learning about each and every one of them. Their achievements and experiences are amazing.

Maegan Cleary, the recipient of an Excellence Scholarship for Prospective Students in recognition of her dedication to volunteering, is five months into a BA (Hons) Children and Young People’s Learning and Development (Primary) degree. Maegan’s account of her volunteering at an orphanage in Ukraine is something I have found both heart-warming and fascinating. Enjoy!

“I have always had a passion for volunteering. I enjoy helping people in need and always appreciate help I receive so I became involved with a couple of projects involving the local community. My volunteering journey began doing things such as helping at a youth club on Friday nights, operating visuals at Sunday morning church services, participating in fundraising events and also volunteering to teach local junior dance classes. I felt fulfilled to help and make people happy, through these I made a large amount of friends, who have all been and continue to be a good influence on my life and an amazing support network.

From volunteering with the church, I decided to join a group called MAD (Make a Difference) where I was a part of a ‘mission’ to literally make a difference to children’s lives. I was given a great opportunity with this charity to travel to Ukraine to help at an orphanage. We travelled around 23 hours to reach the orphanage which was falling to pieces. It was hard to see this, the stories of where the children came from were horrendous, as some of them were runaways, drug takers or simply not wanted anymore. It’s an experience I will never forget.

Maegan Cleary

We did our best to treat the children to things they have never experienced, such as ice skating and going to the local theme park. What shocked me the most was experiencing their first visit to McDonalds – something so simple as fast food which we take for granted is a luxury to these children. Whilst all of these trips were taking place, the adults of the group took the opportunity to surprise the children and orphan leaders by refurbishing the dining hall and entertainment room at the orphanage, removing all of the old unsafe areas and painting and decorating the rooms to become more child friendly.

This work was not unveiled until the last day, however this was not the only surprise in store as all of the participants on the trip had given up their luggage space when flying out for toys, clothes, soaps and lots more. I will never forget the shock and surprise of all the children and staff on the last day, ever so grateful and appreciative for what we had done. I feel I have made a real impact on these children’s lives as well as having made some great friends. I have recently heard some amazing stories from the leaders of some of the children returning to loved ones and becoming adopted.

This was such an exhilarating experience and has really put things into perspective to never take things for granted. So, in 2014 I applied and was accepted into Edge Hill University, where I also applied for a Scholarship in Volunteering, which I was ecstatic in finding out I had been chosen to receive. I am going to use the funds to travel back to the Ukraine, to help the children after the disasters there over the last twelve months.”

Samantha supports young people fighting mental illness

Samantha Betteridge is a member of our class of 2014/15 who was awarded an Excellence Scholarship for Current Students in recognition of her sterling volunteer work. Samantha is studying our BSc (Hons) Psychology degree and, as she enters her final year, has a remarkably uplifting story to tell about how she has overcome anorexia and now volunteers to help others with emotional wellbeing or mental health problems. Samantha’s ambition is to become a clinical psychologist.

“So far, my two years at Edge Hill have been the most difficult yet most rewarding of my entire life. Just before I came to University, I was officially diagnosed with anorexia and I had to choose between being stuck on a waiting list to receive treatment or trying to recover alone. I chose the latter and have never looked back. Throughout my recovery, I decided to use my own experiences to help other people so I volunteered with various mental health charities.

I soon found opportunities to volunteer with organisations such as ‘Young Minds UK’ and ‘B-eat’. I became a ‘Young Minds UK’ campaigner in October 2012 for two months and wrote an article advising young people on how to cope with the festive season. Many mental illness sufferers really struggle with Christmas time so this article included ten tips on how to relax, look after yourself and enjoy Christmas. I also wrote an article for ‘B-eat’ charity, in October 2013, for their ‘eating disorders at University’ campaign. This included advice on how to manage at University if you are an eating disorder sufferer, as well as my own experiences.  Since then, I have become a ‘B-eat’ media volunteer, and share my experiences with the media in hope that other people seek help and support.

In July 2013, I started volunteering for ‘MindFullUK’ as a life mentor. For an hour a week, I volunteer online by talking to 11-17 year olds about any emotional wellbeing problem or mental health issue that they may have. This includes talking to young people individually through a private chat messaging system, as well as talking to them on a more general level in an open chat room. The chatroom encourages people to talk about their day, make new friends and allows them to feel included in a community. Also, I have written blog posts for MindfullUK, particularly offering advice on eating disorders.

In my second year, I wanted to do something which would give me personal, rather than online, experience so I became a social inclusion volunteer for the ‘Making Space’ charity. Each week, I supported people with mental illnesses at a social drop, by listening to them, playing games and generally giving them something to look forward to. Being able to use the advice that I’d learned and been given through my own recovery was definitely one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced, and having service users open up to me soon became something I cherished. To confirm my passion for working with people with mental illnesses, I completed a work experience on a veteran’s mental health ward which was extremely eye opening. It was here where I decided that the only thing I want to do with my life now is work as a clinical psychologist and use my experiences to help others.

Finally during summer 2014, I took a big risk in terms of my own recovery and I joined the VESL charity team to spend six weeks volunteering in Thailand, teaching English in a primary school. In order to secure my place on the VESL programme, I organised several fundraisers including a bake sale and running the Manchester Great Run and the Manchester Colour Run. Whilst in Thailand, I lived with the most generous host family and spent my summer laughing and dancing with children, as well as riding elephants, cuddling tigers and swimming in waterfalls. It was the most incredible experience.

Two years ago, I would never have dreamt of doing these things. I have had the privilege of working with some amazing people and I have been lucky enough to see some of the world’s most beautiful sights. I now believe I am almost recovered from anorexia and I now look forward to finishing my degree and helping as many people as I can!”

From the Megabus to mega success

With many of our previous scholars completing their degrees and preparing to graduate this July, it seemed like a great opportunity to find out how and why receiving a scholarship had made a difference to their time at Edge Hill University.

We asked one of our graduating scholars Stephanie Marsh, who has just completed her PGCE in Secondary English with QTS (11-16) to reflect on being awarded an Excellence Scholarship for Prospective Students in 2013. This is what Stephanie had to say!

“After applying to do my PGCE in Secondary English at Edge Hill University and accepting an offer of a place, I was over the moon. However, I knew that the demands of such a course may interfere with my commitments to voluntary work. This wasn’t something I wanted to happen, since both before and throughout my time at The University of York studying for an undergraduate degree, I had dedicated a large portion of my time to volunteering with children and vulnerable people. Some of my volunteering involved me helping at a residential camp for children in the social services system, as a youth worker with vulnerable teenage girls and as a teaching assistant at HMP Askham Grange. During my undergraduate degree, I was also Vice Chair for the Volunteering Society. Volunteering this much was fine – when I had the time! I quickly realised that juggling a part-time job to fund myself, a PGCE and continuing my volunteering work may not be a viable option! That’s why I was so glad when I stumbled upon the Excellence Scholarships page on the Edge Hill website, although I must admit I didn’t really expect my application would be considered worthy of an award.

Fast forward a few months to a hot day, sat on a Megabus to London and my phone rang. It was Zoe (the Scholarships Administrator at Edge Hill) and to my surprise she was congratulating me on being awarded the Excellence Scholarship. I was pretty amazed and obviously my weekend in London for a friend’s wedding involved a little extra celebration.

In every day terms, the scholarship has meant that financially I could afford to only work one shift a week in my part-time job whilst completing my PGCE studies, something that wouldn’t have been possible without the funding.  The knock on effect this had was simple; the extra time I was gaining meant I was able to pursue voluntary opportunities in my area, albeit on a more ad-hoc basis but I could still get involved all the same.

Now I’m at the end of my course and finally a qualified English teacher with a job lined up for September I can see clearly how the scholarship has benefited me. I am currently still involved with West Lancashire Young People’s Service and liaise with them often to volunteer at events. I’m also currently in the process of becoming an Independent Visitor to children in care through the charity NYAS. A year ago I was wondering how I could continue my voluntary work without the time or money, yet now I am pursuing it further than ever before and planning it into a new chapter of my life as I begin work as a teacher.”

We wish Stephanie the best of luck with her teaching career!

James gets the recognition he deserves for helping others

We have received a lovely update from one of the winners of our Excellence Scholarships for Current Students in our class of 2013. Below is a copy of his letter. Enjoy!

“Hello there! My name is James Hallworth, I am a third year BA (Hons) History student and I was awarded a scholarship last year from Edge Hill University as recognition of my previous voluntary work.

I have spent the last few years, my summers at least, teaching English to people of all ages and abilities across India and Thailand. Specifically during my time at Edge Hill University, I spent two years as a Student Coordinator for a wonderful little charity named VESL. My roles were to select interested candidates from the university and prepare them for a 6-week summer teaching programme in Northern Thailand. This involved everything from fundraising, language training, teacher training, cultural awareness training, team building etc.

Once in the country, my primary objective was to ensure the smooth running of the project. I did my best to keep the volunteers and students safe and happy whilst getting as much from the experience as possible. In both years, this was challenging. Sometimes volunteers would fall ill and have to spend time in hospital, and at other times you might find yourself in a room with 200 Thai teachers who were semi-fluent in English and expected you to spend six hours helping them to progress. This kind of thing was daunting but continuously rewarding. We try to make small but long-lasting and visible changes to communities. In South East Asia, the ability to speak English in order to gain employment is growing exponentially and that is essentially why VESL send volunteers to this area.

I have experience of working and travelling abroad in many countries, China, Slovakia, India etc. As well as immensely enjoying exploring the world, these kinds of ventures have given me a real sense of consciousness in terms of just how fortunate I am to have been born in England. Here, we have all kinds of luxuries which much of the world simply does not. I hope to travel this summer with a large and well respected charity named ICS to Uganda or Zimbabwe to get involved with some community projects there. These will vary from working in HIV/Aids clinics, to teaching English through sports, to helping petition local authorities for changes that will benefit the community. The money that Edge Hill generously gave me through this scholarship will make this possible and I am extremely grateful for that. The university has shown me nothing but support in the time I have been here, and that includes everyone from the head of the History department to the library staff.

Thanks for reading!”

Rachel helps the youth of today

Rachel Smith was awarded an Excellence Scholarship for Prospective Students in 2012 in recognition of her volunteering.  She is now in her second year studying BA (Hons) Primary Mathematics Education with QTS at Edge Hill University.

We had a chat with Rachel to find out more about what her volunteering consists of and how receiving the scholarship has help her to settle in at University.

My mum was looking through the Edge Hill website when she noticed the scholarships. When she first approached me with the idea of applying, I was hesitant as I did not believe that that my volunteering would get me a scholarship.

I had volunteered at a youth club in Hampshire for 5 years (once a week for 3 hours) where I lead small sessions with the young people such as craft and games – it is great to see them having fun in a safe environment.

I also trained as a young leader and became a qualified CAT Mark Assessor, allowing me to assess other youth services from the perspective of a young person. I completed a child protection course and participated on a residential where not only was I able to participate in the fun activities, I was also one of the responsible adults on the trip! Young people are always pleased to have young leaders who are able to relate to more.

I also spent a month in Kenya volunteering in various different areas, building schools (see the photo above) and helping to pump clean water for villages – this was truly an amazing experience! After reflecting on my volunteering, I realised I had done more than I had realised and had nothing to lose, so I decided to put in an application. After all, the worst they could do is say no and I had the opportunity to be awarded £2000 for something I enjoyed doing!

There are many benefits to me having been awarded the scholarship. Not only is it some extra money to help you along the way as a student but I have also been able to use some of the money to travel back to Hampshire to visit and help out at the youth club.

My passion in helping others particularly young people has lead me to study a degree in Primary Education with QTS, where the financial support from the scholarship has helped as I have been able to invest more hours in to helping after school hours on my placements instead of having to work!”

Doubting my excellence

Kristian Richings was awarded an Excellence Scholarship for Current Students in 2013 in recognition of his dedication to volunteering.

A BSc (Hons) Psychology student at Edge Hill University, Kristian is extremely passionate about volunteering, devoting eight hours a week to spending his time as a counsellor with the NSPCC, as an Assistant Teacher with his local jujitsu group, and fundraising for various charities including Children In Need and Macmillan Cancer Research.

We caught up with Kristian to discuss his experience of being awarded a scholarship, where Kristian revealed that he had significant doubts as to whether his voluntary and charity work would merit an award.

“At first glance, I didn’t think I was deserving of a scholarship. I remember re-reading and re-writing some of the sections of the application form, panicking over whether my answers were good enough. I thought that scholarships were only a thing for recognising academic excellence or rewarding selfless individuals who had spent years volunteering for lots of charities. However, I was persuaded to apply by my friends and I’m very glad that I did.

To me, volunteering is natural. As a student, rather than donate money to charitable causes, I try to donate my time and energy to them instead. It’s an incredibly enriching way to spend my free time. As well as gaining great satisfaction from helping others, I also get the chance to meet some amazing people and gain some invaluable experiences.

The Excellence Scholarship has helped me a lot. I have been inspired by the people I have met during the process (and at the award ceremony) to continue with my volunteering despite an increased workload in the second year of my degree. It has meant that I am able to continue volunteering as well as devoting more time to my studies and less to paid work as a result of the scholarship award money.

From doubting my ‘excellence’, I am glad I applied for a scholarship, so if you are doubting your own achievements, all I can say is believe in yourself and submit an application, who knows what the outcome might be!”