Conor Doyle (Teenline); Amy Johnson UL Student; Andrea Habenicht UL Student; Clare Cullen (Habitat for Humanity)
A Kildare student is encouraging others to volunteer in their communities after her work at the Muiriosa Foundation led to the flourishing of "an extremely beneficial relationship".
University of Limerick student Andrea Habenicht from Monasterevin was speaking about her experience to mark the nationwide launch of StudentVolunteer.ie, a new website linking students to volunteering opportunities.
The volunteering programme is modelled on the President’s Volunteer Awards (PVA) at UL. Now the Limerick university and nine other third-level colleges have joined forces to develop an online resource which matches students’ interests and expertise with volunteering opportunities.
“This bespoke higher education student volunteering management system, database and website marks the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in higher education student volunteering in Ireland. It is designed to connect higher education student volunteers across Ireland with local, national and international charitable and voluntary organisations. I’m proud to say that UL set the blueprint for what will now be a national asset for higher education institutions as well as charitable organisations in Ireland and beyond,” stated Professor Don Barry, President, University of Limerick.
The website is the first of its kind and aims to enhance students’ awareness of their role and responsibility in solving challenges such as homelessness, social exclusion and our ageing population.
Students at UL, and the nine other institutes, can browse and apply for volunteering opportunities nationally or internationally; manage their profile and volunteering activity online; track volunteering hours; gain recognition and apply for volunteering awards.
“My experience as a student volunteer has been an extremely rewarding and positive aspect of my life over the past three years. I genuinely encourage people to volunteer in any capacity but in a situation whereby you gain as much as you give. I take part in the Buddy Programme at the Muiriosa Foundation which matches individuals with intellectual disabilities with people like me from the local community. I can happily say that this is no longer volunteering to me - merely meeting a friend every week for coffee and a chat,” said Andrea, a UL psychology student from Monasterevin.
Each year thousands of students carry out more than 100,000 hours of volunteering. This new online system is open to students of all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), private colleges and VECs and non profit organisations are welcome to submit volunteer opportunities for consideration.
According to Billy Norman, Customer Account Manager in Unilever, volunteer experience can help distinguish graduates in the job market.
"In an increasingly competitive employment market, when I review CVs the selflessness of a volunteer can stand out like a beacon in a sea of self-interest. The functional expertise that a volunteer can learn in an organisation, offers a head start compared to others who start at the beginning when entering permanent employment for the first time,” Mr Norman said.
UL student Malachy Sheeran from Killaloe, County Clare agrees.
“I don’t volunteer for recognition or self-gratification but as a mentor said to me in today’s competitive climate employers are looking to distinguish between potential employees and voluntary experience demonstrates character and commitment in a person as well as a civic awareness,” he stated.
UL acknowledges students’ volunteering achievements on their academic transcripts and holds an annual ceremony to recognise the commitment of its students to their communities.
“The President’s Volunteer Award ceremony is a very special occasion as it offers us a wonderful opportunity to recognise the voluntary contributions our students are making to the broader community. During this past academic year UL students contributed over 17,000 hours to volunteering work,” Professor Barry concluded.