Volunteer Spotlight: Rachel Nafzger

Rachel Nafzger

Volunteer in Plymouth (VIP)* Project Leader 2011 - 2012

*VIP is now known as Student Led Volunteering

"When I think back on my time at Plymouth there is one word that leaps out. Volunteering. As a visually impaired student I found settling in at Uni all the more daunting. The traditional Freshers week scene was not particularly accessible to me. I had to think of other ways to make friends and become a part of my new community. I turned to the students’ union for help and was soon a part of the volunteer society Volunteers In Plymouth. I found that volunteering was a great way to get to know some of my fellow students. Working as a team and learning new skills together formed many friendships that are still just as strong, even all these years after graduation. I also enjoyed the wide range of projects that VIP had to offer. From helping disabled children access sport at Ability Games, to planting trees at a barn owl sanctuary, VIP made it really easy for me to try new things, explore new places and escape the books and study for a while.

 

My time as a volunteer with VIP opened up opportunities that I had never even imagined. During my second year at Plymouth I decided to step up to the challenge of project leader for one of the projects I had previously been a general volunteer on. I lead the rural railways project, recruiting and looking after groups of up to 20 volunteers per session. In my third year I was elected Vice President of VIP where I worked with a committee of 8, helping to look after a society of over 200 volunteers. These experiences helped with putting great things on my CV, gaining valuable skills for future employment and developing my confidence. But it didn’t stop there. I somehow managed to win a regional V-Inspired award. This lead to me being head hunted by Coca-Cola to become one of 8 UK ambassadors for their London 2012 Future flame campaign. It was a year long media campaign where I used my university story to encourage the UK to get involved with the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay. I was fully media trained and was interviewed for things like BBC Breakfast, a national press conference at the tower of London and on stage at Hyde Park. I was also invited to speak at various events including International Women’s Day Conference and an equality and diversity conference for the civil service. Of course, I also had the incredible honour of carrying the Olympic flame for 300 metres of its 2012 relay journey. All these experiences not only provided me with some stand out stories for my future but were also amazing fun! Who knew the small step of joining a Uni society could lead to so many adventures?

 

My voluntary work whilst at University was directly responsible for me securing my first paid job after graduation – Volunteering And employability Coordinator at a student’s union. It has also helped my CV stand out when searching for other opportunities. I still volunteer even now and am still finding that it can lead to some great things. Being a volunteer child supporter at a local infant’s school has recently lead to me becoming a school governor, for example. I turn to volunteering when I want to learn new skills, get to know new people and provide positives to focus on during life’s challenges. I wouldn’t be without my voluntary work, but I’m pretty sure I would never have considered it as such a valuable thing to do if it hadn’t been for my experiences with Volunteers In Plymouth."