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Campus Volunteering

 

Volunteering on campus and with College groups is a great way to meet new people and give something back, not to mention a worthwhile addition to your CV. In this section you can read what other students involved in voluntary activity in Trinity have to say about their experiences.

Meggan Connell is a first year English student and a volunteer with the Bridge to College (B2C) programme where she acts as a mentor for secondary school students. Read about Meggan's experience here.

Conor James McKinney is a student of Law who volunteers with a homework club through the Vincent De Paul society. He has also been involved in the Free Legal Advice Centre. Read about Conor's experience here .

Amy Colla is studying for her Masters in Applied Psychology spends a few hours a week volunteering as a job coach for a student of the National Institute for Intellectual Disability (NIID) who is on work experience. Read about Amy's experience here.

JR Ryall is a Natural Science student who has been engaged in voluntary activity with societies throughout his time in College. He tells of hisinvolvement on the committees of the Food and Drink Society, Trinity Arts Festival and the Central Societies Committee. Read about his experience here.

Katy Dobey has volunteered with the Suas society throughout her time in College at a Reception Centre for asylum seekers on Hatch Street. Every Wednesday a group of Trinity students set up a classroom the centre's canteen for one-to-one English language lessons at individual tables. Read about Katy's experience here.

If you have a campus volunteering story which you would like to share on this site, please contact the Civic Engagement Officer.

Students at the Bridge2College Programme

Meggan Connell is an English student and a volunteer with the Bridge to College (B2C) programme. B2C is a partnership between Trinity College – the Centre for Research for IT in Education (CRITE) and the Trinity Access Programmes (TAP) – and SUAS Educational Development. To date, B2C has provided 100s of transition year students from designated disadvantaged second-level schools with innovative learning experience delivered by volunteer mentors. Meggan volunteers as a mentor for secondary school students from disadvantaged areas, who may not have considered the opportunities available to them to go to college. Meggan describes her experience as a B2C mentor below:

"As a B2C mentor it was my job to extol the virtues of college itself and Trinity in particular. I really enjoy being a mentor because you get the chance to chat to these students about any fears they might have about college and tell them where to find information and all that kind of stuff and most of all because by just sharing my experience I can see the positive effect it has on the students.

I got involved with B2C during Freshers' Week when Front Square was awash with stalls and really enthusiastic students pedalling their societies. Initially I signed up for hours upon hours of volunteering with a litany of different societies but when I realised that this wasn't practical I got down to deciding which one was for me. B2C came as the one I felt I “got” most, their aims made sense to me and it was something I really wanted to be part of. I got involved by becoming a mentor for a couple of hours one day a week.

Each week there are new students on the B2C programme as part of their time on campus they work in teams on different technology based projects but the mentors don't have to technology wizzes by any stretch of the imagination! The projects are great way to get them chatting and working together and the mentors help out by getting them to work together and then the students can ask us any questions they might have about college or student life etc. It's great going to B2C because it's a very friendly environment and you can see that the students really enjoy their week on the programme. They become really confident over the week and by the end it's no problem for them to talk to a room of people or to showcase their team's work. This is really heartening because as they gain confidence they realise that college is a definite possibility for them and they begin to aspire to studying in college.

Going to B2C is a great part of my week, it's a good laugh and I get on well with the other mentors who aren't all Trinity students but instead there's a mix of people who all got involved in B2C because they wanted to be a part of the programme. It's only a couple of hours out of my day but I can see that it makes a difference. The variety of students who get involved from all faculties and years really make B2C work because it means the students are sure to find one mentor who can definitely tell them about the subject they want to study and give them an insight into what it's like in college. That mix of students also means that the students are sure to identify with a few of the mentors and then College seems less of a challenge if someone just like them has been before and is having a great time."

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Conor James McKinney is a Senior Sophister student of Law who volunteers with a homework club through the Vincent De Paul society. He has also been involved in the Free Legal Advice Centre. Here's what he had to say about his experience:

"I’m fairly sure I only began volunteering (with VDP Homework Club in St. Enda’s National School) because I wanted to hang out with an attractive classmate who was doing the same. It didn’t work out in quite the way I’d hoped, but I ended up loving it and going along every week for four years, so I suppose that’s something. I had to do an evening’s child protection training, but that’s it really. Getting stuck in is how you learn as regards these kinds of things. There’s not a whole lot of training involved.

The Homework Club is only an hour and a half every week. In my final year, I was involved with the Free Legal Advice Centre as well, helping to organise talks and events around social and legal issues, which was another couple of hours a fortnight. I also helped out with a literacy programme for Junior Infants, also in St. Enda’s under the auspices of the VDP. It sounds like quite a lot but it doesn’t really add up to that much time out of your week – volunteering absolutely does not preclude you from playing sport, having a job, getting good results or any of the rest of it. The range of activities around means that you can do as much or as little, regular or irregular, as works for you. So there’s no bloody excuse not to try something!

I’d also stress that volunteering shouldn’t be something you dread doing. If you’re not looking forward to it, you’re doing the wrong thing! Most people who are involved with the VDP or FLAC really enjoy the work they do; it’s a nice change of pace from regular college work. Most of my work has been with children, who are always great fun (although they’d wear you out sometimes!). Aside from that, and the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile, you often get an insight into communities you wouldn’t normally encounter, if you’re anything like the typical college student. And of course, the social aspect with the voluntary societies is pretty outstanding. If a little messy.

I think the best way for someone who wants to start volunteering in College, or thinks they might do in the future, is to make sure you sign up to everything in Freshers’ Week and make sure you’re on the mailing lists to all the activities. Once you know where and when to show up, the rest falls into place."

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Amy Colla is studying for her Masters in Applied Psychology spends a few hours a week volunteering as a job coach for a student of the National Institute for Intellectual Disability (NIID) who is on work experience.

"I've only recently begun volunteering for the NIID, working as a job coach for one of their students who is doing her work experience in the Trinity Sports Centre. Each week, my student is shown some of the duties of a sports centre instructor. But each week, she and I are also treated to something fun, such as wall-climbing. My job consists mostly of ensuring my student gets to work on time, and acting as a liaison between herself and the sports centre employees. I make sure that she understands what is expected of her, and that she understands the when, where, what, how and why of the tasks she is asked to complete. I also monitor whether tasks are challenging enough for the student, to make sure she learns new things. Over time, my aim is to fade away as she becomes more confident and independent.

Volunteering in this position is great for a number of reasons. First of all, I know that I am making it possible for the student to experience being part of a workplace for the first time. Her excitement and pleasure are really great to see. I also really enjoy getting to know her too, chatting about movies, boys, music, family, the sports centre and its employees, and her plans for the future. Aside from this, volunteering allows you to gain experience with a job, a setting and/or a group of individuals you wouldn't otherwise have access to. This is brilliant in that you can then see whether they are a good fit for you. It also improves your CV and future employment prospects. But most of all, for myself at least, it's just an enjoyable way to spend a few hours each week."

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JR Ryall is a Natural Science student who has been engaged in voluntary activity with societies throughout his time in College. He tells of hisinvolvement on the committees of the Food and Drink Society, Trinity Arts Festival and the Central Societies Committee.

"When I first came to Trinity I knew very few people. As a student of natural science, I was always in lectures with about 300 other students, and I found it difficult to get to know people well. I was always interested in food and went to one of the events run by the Food and Drink Society in the first term. I was really surprised at how good the event was, so decided to go to two other events. I really liked what the society was doing and decided I would like to get more involved, so I went to the AGM and got a position on the committee. I knew nothing about how a society was run, but within a few weeks I was amazed how much I had picked up. I loved organising events and working with the committee who quickly became some of my best friends. Quickly my college life turned from just attending lectures to going to and organising events for members of the society and my friends. Being involved with the society helped me to get to know students from all over college. I loved what the society was doing and at the end of second year I took on the role of treasurer.

I enjoyed being involved with the food and drink society so much I thought it would also be interesting to see how other societies worked, so I ran for the position of treasurer for the Trinity Arts Festival 2009. I was successful, and within a few weeks I had made a new group of friends who were amazing to work with. We had so much fun planning and crafting the festival. Being involved gave me the chance to work with lots of different societies in college, coordinate events and get to know a whole new side to Trinity. The week of the festival was one of the best I have ever had. I hadn't considered the perks of being involved in societies when I first got JR at a Food and Drink Society Eventinvolved, but, when I was applying for a room on campus, I realised that my society involvement gave me loads of reasons why I needed a room and my application practically wrote itself. Trinity Arts Festival 2009 won an award for being the best event in college and this secured my room.

Being involved with societies allows you to develop so many skills that other aspects of college life may not cater for. In my final year I wanted to share my society experience with others so ran and was elected a member of the CSC executive committee. I had a fantastic time working with a committee who were so dedicated to making sure societies could do what they needed to do within college. For me, being involved in societies was the best part of my college experience. Societies really give you a blank canvas that you can make your own for the time you are involved, seeing your ideas coming to life and making great friends is one of the most rewarding aspects of college life."

Katy Dobey has been volunteered with the Suas society throughout her time in College at a Reception Centre for asylum seekers at Hatch Hall. Every Wednesday a group of Trinity students set up a classroom the centre's canteen for one-to-one English language lessons at individual tables.

"I've volunteered with Suas for the last four years, teaching in Hatch Hall every Wednesday in term for the past four years. The classes last one and a half hours long, with a short, informal tea-break in the middle. Teaching in Hatch Hall is different every week. Because of the nature of a reception centre (designed to accommodate asylum seekers on a short term basis), I've rarely taught the same student twice. We bring along books designed for adults learning English as a foreign language, but because of varying levels, I usually have a copy of the newspaper or a magazine in my bag too, just in case.

Everybody in the reception centre is waiting for a decision that will change their lives: either they can begin a new life in Ireland or not. People are sometimes moved from Hatch Hall to residences outside Dublin with just 24 hours' notice. Everybody is in transition, suitcases remain packed and the atmosphere can be tense and lonely. The number of languages in this community is outstanding, from Nigerian to Afghani to Chinese to French, but English is the unifying language. Understanding English means the dinner menu is easier to understand, parents can help their children with their homework and, essentially, it means application forms for refugee status are easier to complete. In teaching these adults, I feel like I'm giving them a chance, even in a small way, to be involved in their community both inside and outside the residence.

The biggest challenge of working in Hatch Hall is encountering the people's many hardships. Sometimes they share their experiences, mostly they don't, but the tense, andlonely atmosphere can be difficult to deal with. Classes themselves are unpredictable: the standard of English is never the same, so you have to be ready to improvise. The classes are designed to be one-on-one, but if there aren't enough teachers, we double up. That means you can be left teaching learners of very different levels at the same time. However, there is always a Suas Programme Co-ordinator from the Trinity Suas Society as well as a representative from the Jesuit Refugee Service on hand and Suas hold at least one training session every year for the volunteers where we learn how and what to teach.

The asylum seekers have diverse backgrounds, some don't know a single word of English, and others are practically fluent and just want someone to practise with. Last year, I met an elderly lady from Iraq whose grasp of the language was probably better than mine so we spent our class discussing literature. When she heard I studied English, she ran upstairs and brought down her books. She'd been reading Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury for the third time and was anxious to discuss it. She recommended novel upon novel to me. Most interestingly, she told me how she had learnt to read. She did not go to primary school, but her Father encouraged her to learn from the girls who did. She traded sweets for lessons with the girl next door. They used sand and sticks to trace letters and that was how this lady was first introduced to the alphabet. Listening to this lady inspired me. She had come through so many difficulties and yet she had so much enthusiasm and willingness to learn.

If you are thinking about volunteering in Hatch Hall, I would say go for it! No matter what the challenges, it is always a positive experience. It has given me an opportunity to help people on the margins of our society, a forgotten community. After every single session, we [Trinity volunteers] are always full of energy. Everyone has their story to tell: Who they taught, what they taught, how they taught it. And along with that sense of achievement, we each go away with something new we learnt from the experience."

Image of two people during a one-to-one English Lesson as part of a Suas & Jesuit Refugee Service volunteer project

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Last updated 5 July 2010 Civic Engagement (Email).