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Everything you need to know about Volunteering while at University

Written by: UPSU

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Where can you find volunteering opportunities? 

Your Students’ Union (SU) collaborates with a diversity of charities and organisations in Devon and Cornwall. 

On the UPSU website, there is a webpage specifically for volunteering opportunities under the tab ‘get involved’ ( 

On this webpage you can browse an array of volunteering opportunities that can complement your degree, align with your social interests or enable you to experience something completely new to you.

Alternatively, you can visit the Students’ Union, located on the University of Plymouth campus, and arrange to speak to one of our SU Volunteering Coordinators who will be happy to support you in finding the right volunteering activity.



Do you need to be able to drive to access volunteer work? 

Most volunteering opportunities listed on the webpage are either within Plymouth or its surrounding areas. You do not necessarily need to drive to be able to take part in volunteering opportunities, with some being just a few minutes walk from campus. If travel is required, most places are accessible by public transport. Depending on the organisation you are volunteering for, you may be reimbursed for your travel costs. 

Volunteering events organised by the Student-Led Volunteering programme (SLV) have free, pre-arranged transport allowing you to travel to locations that are not easily accessible by public transportation or by foot. 


What do you need to consider before choosing a volunteering activity? 

Volunteers are highly valued by organisations and contribute significantly to their mission and work. It is therefore essential that they are able to rely on you. Some opportunities may have restrictions concerning days, times and commitment levels, for example. Please think carefully about the commitment you are able to make, for example, making sure you have enough time for other social activities and academic work. Please do not make a commitment you are unable to make. You do, however, have the right to change projects or withdraw from volunteering with proper notice. 

If you are concerned about making a long-term commitment with volunteering due to your lack of availability or if you just want to give something a go, there are one-off volunteering opportunities available. You can also attend a SLV trip as a one-off event with no commitment. 

You may also be able to ask for a ‘setting-in period’ when you start volunteering at a new organisation. This could involve visiting the project a few times before you start, shadowing another volunteer or having a trial period before you commit to any long term involvement. This process will help build your confidence, enable you to find out more about the organisation and get to know others before you start.


What are the rights and responsibilities of someone volunteering? 

As a volunteer you have rights and responsibilities and these should be explained to you when you start volunteering for an organisation. They are designed to give you a voice, and to ensure that volunteering is of real benefit to yourself and the community. As a volunteer from UPSU, you are acting as an ambassador for us and as such, should behave in an appropriate manner..


What support can the SU provide to volunteers? 

Whether you are volunteering for an SU project, or for an external, third-sector organisation, UPSU's Volunteering Team will always be on hand to provide support and guidance whenever you need it. 

Please let us know if you experience any problems whilst volunteering, and we will endeavour to help you. A meeting can be arranged at any time throughout the academic year. In addition to this, there will be a key person you can talk to within the organisation you are volunteering for.



Does the SU offer international volunteering opportunities? 

UPSU does not actively promote overseas volunteering and conservation opportunities, as we do not have the resources and time to assess and check each group to see if they offer a suitable, worthwhile and safe experience.

All volunteers are covered by our insurance policy whilst volunteering with activities facilitated by UPSU. In addition to this, all the community groups that UPSU works with have a valid insurance policy and we ensure that you will volunteer in conditions that are safe.

However, if you are interested in international opportunities, RAG (the main student fundraising group on campus) picks out fun and exciting adventures every year, available for all students to sign up for. This year they have partnered with Choose a Challenge to offer some amazing adventures with charities close to thier hearts. If you want to take part in the experience of a lifetime, check out their overseas adventures on the RAG webpage.


What internal volunteering opportunities does the SU offer?

The SU Buddy Scheme: There are two UPSU buddy schemes available for all University students to access; you can either sign up to become a buddy or to access a buddy. If you volunteer as a buddy, you will support the wellbeing of a student by becoming their friend at University.

The Buddy Scheme is designed to be very informal; you may meet up for the odd coffee and chat or attend a Give It A Go activity, for example, or perhaps just be a study buddy and meet in the library once a week and offer academic encouragement. Find out more about the Buddy Scheme here. 

Student-Led Volunteering (SLV): SLV offers volunteering projects and events which are organised and led by fellow University of Plymouth students with your student lifestyle in mind. They offer a diverse range of one-off volunteering opportunities open to all students throughout the academic year. There are three main volunteering groups: Animal Conservation, Green Team and Special Olympics. Find out more about SLV here.

Raise and Give (RAG): RAG is the main student fundraising group on campus. They have a committee of passionate student volunteers who help to organise fundraising events and opportunities for University of Plymouth students. Their membership is free and gives you access to all of their social events as well as information about volunteering and fundraising opportunities throughout the year. 

Make a Smile: Make a Smile is a national charity consisting of student-led volunteering groups. Make a Smile Plymouth aim to bring joy to children disadvantaged by their circumstances, for example, hospitalised or have a physical or cognitive disability. They visit these children dressed as their favourite character in the hopes of making them smile! 

You can either dress up yourself or come along to the event without the fancy dress and help the events run smoothy. If neither of these sound like something that you would be interested in, you can also work behind the scenes and support fundraising! Find out more about Make a Smile Plymouth here.


What are the benefits of taking part in volunteer work? 

Volunteering allows you to give back, have self-development and make a real difference. It allows you to be part of something bigger than yourself and make a difference to someone’s life. 

Volunteering enormously benefits mental and physical wellbeing. From the friends you make, the fun you have, that great feeling you get when you realise that you're making a positive difference to someone else's life. We hear time and time again from students how their volunteer work has massively enhanced their student experience and made their time in Plymouth so much more enjoyable!

Your volunteering experience is also a great addition to your CV and/or to refer to during an interview. It may help you answer those tricky interview questions, for example, being asked to demonstrate where you have worked as a team, or gained experience in a particular environment. Volunteering is also a great networking opportunity; you never know who you might meet and what opportunities may come from it! 


Interested in volunteering?

If you are interested in volunteer work, please make sure you check out the UPSU volunteering webpage for more information and to browse the latest volunteering opportunities brought to you by your SU. You can also pop in for a chat with the volunteering team in the Students’ Union or drop them an email:

Our next Student Volunteering Fair takes place on Thursday 27th April 2023 from 11:00-14:00 in the Students' Union main room. Here you will find more information about volunteering and meet a diversity of organisations that you could volunteer with. Everyone is welcome! Find out more here.