Sidney Sussex recently hosted its first volunteering event, ‘Kindness Counts’ – A Celebration and Introduction to Volunteering. Speakers included staff, students, and local charity representatives, and attendees were invited to ask questions and make connections.

Organised by Pastoral Advisor Lucy Hodgkiss and Tutorial Assistant Claire Girdlestone, the evening felt extremely collaborative and it was brilliant to see Sidney Students reaching out to local charities and wanting to get involved. The talks emphasised how volunteering provides an opportunity to shift perspectives and a change of scenery for those involved. Students already involved in volunteering described how it had broadened their experiences, and helped them to establish real emotional connections with people. Several people described how beneficial volunteering had been for their own mental health and wellbeing.

Donna-Louise Cobban, Service Manager from local homeless charity Wintercomfort, came along to answer questions about how best to collect and donate items needed by people accessing support at Wintercomfort. Donna-Louise advised students on the most useful items to donate, and encouraged students to donate their time and skills in imaginative ways.

Some of the attendees were able to find mutual interests in their own projects, such as plans for two community gardens. Sidney postgraduate Sophia Kaufman shared with us her work at Change Grow Live, a drug and alcohol service, and her hope to create a community garden with service users. Sophia also encouraged us to visit the Edge Café, a cafe with a recovery-based focus which forms a visible, public-facing demonstration of the possibility of recovery from substance misuse, generating opportunities both for people in recovery, and for the wider community.

Other voluntary groups that were represented at the event included Wandlebury Countrypark, Just Love student group, Pets as Therapy, the Besom in Cambridge, and Sidney’s Undergraduate Access Officers who run a local school mentoring scheme.

The speakers placed an emphasis on the consistency of the commitment to volunteering, and how it is longer term support that can help people the most. 

Lucy and Claire hope that this volunteering event becomes an annual occurrence here at Sidney, and that we can continue to nurture the links between Sidney Sussex and the local community.

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