Symposium on Student Volunteering in the 21st Century

Posted on: 02 May 2008

Despite increasing affluence amongst students, the spirit of volunteering and active participation in society has flourished in Higher Education Institutions. Through such pursuits, today’s generation of students can go on to become lifelong believers in social responsibility. Yet realistic and practical ideas for supporting and recognising volunteers and their activities are necessary if Ireland is not to lose out on the potential social benefits which this represents.

With this in mind, a national symposium entitled ‘Practical Planning for Student Volunteering in the 21st Century’ was organised by the Trinity Volunteers Opportunities Forum (TVOF) in Trinity College Dublin on May 1st. TVOF is an umbrella organisation, including Student2Student counselling service run by students, Suas educational development, TCD’s St Vincent de Paul and the Voluntary Tuition Programme among others.

The symposium which was open to all Higher Education Institutions in Ireland included guest speaker, CEO of Special Olympics Ireland, Mary Davis and a series of practical workshops on: Supporting and Recognising Volunteering in our Colleges; Life-cycle Volunteering; Government and Third Level Volunteering.

Commenting on the significance of the symposium, Professor Ciaran Brady, Head of the Department of History, TCD Community Liaison Officer and co-organiser of the event said: “As the importance of recognising student voluntary service is at last being realised, it is more important than ever that this vast reservoir of public and social service be harnessed in ways that will maximise its value and effectiveness, and channel it in the most needed directions. This symposium is intended precisely to address this challenge. Designed at once to bring together a large number of student agencies and societies, it seeks to lay the foundations for a permanent network of associations and services to explore practical, effective and innovative means of making volunteering a central component of the student experience and of the students’ contribution to public life”.

TCD undergraduate and longtime volunteer on campus, Simon Masterson continued: “By assembling a truly nationwide gathering of representatives of student volunteering, we shall gain tangible ends, the results of which will be seen in our collective future. By matching a passionate attitude with professional level diligence we can improve the application, targeting and utility of volunteering activity, as well as recognising and supporting those who volunteer, to ensure their continued passionate contribution”.

The Director of the Careers Advisory Service, Sean Gannon, at Trinity College concluded by stating that: “Increasingly, as students and graduates begin to think of career options the question – ‘Am I living the life I really want?’ is uppermost on their minds. Although it might seem, at a superficial level, that the transition from College to employment is all about salary or promotion opportunities, today’s graduates also want to make a real difference and lead balanced lives”.

“The driver for this more holistic approach to careers and work is often the voluntary activity which students engage in whilst in College and the symposium, amongst other themes, explores how third level institutions could encourage and support student volunteering.”

Background :

Trinity Volunteers Opportunities Forum

Student2Student is a student run, in-college counselling and advice service for any and all students who may find themselves having trouble of any kind. S2S provides non-judgemental, one to one support, supported and trained by the professional student counselling service at Trinity College

Suas which was founded in 2002, targets improvement in educational standards in the most under resourced communities, with programmes in India, Kenya and Ireland. Trinity’s Suas society carries out community work here in Ireland, in the forms of homework clubs, mentoring services and workshops, as well as extensive fundraising for causes both home and abroad.

The TCD St. Vincent De Paul Society runs over 20 weekly charitable activities, ranging from soup runs and decorating for the elderly, to soccer matches against Dublin inmates. VdeP also consistently fundraise for charitable causes, as well as networking with other St. Vincent de Paul Societies in other colleges to promote collective awareness and strategy.

The Trinity Access Programmes (TAP) are part of Trinity’s contribution to tackling social exclusion, through a range of innovative, targeted initiatives for individuals who, for socio-economic reasons, have not yet realised their full educational potential. TAP’s mission is to work in partnership across the education sector and with families, communities and businesses to widen access to third level by addressing the reasons contributing to the under-representation of lower socio-economic groups and ethnic minorities at third level.

The Voluntary Tuition Programme is a partnership between Trinity students and local area parents to provide tuition to over 400 children each week. TCD staff, students and graduates are paired for one on one tuition with a local child. VTP also runs extensive programs providing grinds to special needs children and refugees.