Lorna Stevenson (MSc Social Policy (Research) 2018 and LSE Access and Admissions Specialist) shares her experiences on the impact of volunteering on her student life. She’s currently volunteering with Parkrun as a co-Event director and there always looking for enthusiastic volunteers. Read on to find out more about Lorna’s volunteering experience.

Volunteering at a science fair.

The impact of volunteering

Volunteering was one of the best experiences from my undergraduate days. My involvement in science outreach lead to my first job, working for the University Museums organising the very events I had originally volunteered out. It’s hard to be stressed when blind-folding children and sending them on a smell trail to experience first-hand life as a mole! Returning to study as a part-time MSc student means I have quite a lot of things to juggle, but I’m still finding volunteering a life and career enhancing experience.

Volunteering as a School Governor

Volunteering as a water polo gamesmaker.

I have two main volunteering roles at the moment. The first is as a School Governor. I was a teacher before deciding I was more interested in the policy side (hence starting my MSc in Social Policy (Research)) and this is a great way to stay involved in schools. Also, when I moved to London I switched from a general role in a small organisation to a more technical role in a larger organisation and wanted to keep up my breadth of skills. As a governor I oversee a £2 million budget, have been involved at the sharp end of HR on recruitment and disciplinary panels and helped fundraise by throwing wet sponges at the Headteacher! Governing works best as a longer-term commitment and would suit PhD students here for a few years – no knowledge of education needed but its good to be confident in picking apart data to ask probing questions of your Head. It takes 2-3 meetings per term plus at least 2 school visits per year. I’m lucky that my employer gives volunteering leave which I’ve used to do my visits and help out on school trips. Inspiring Governance helps match aspiring governors with schools, although I found I had most luck just emailing local schools. I was fortunate enough to find a spot at the school directly opposite my flat so I get a cheery “Hello Miss Lorna” from some of the students as I head out to work in the morning.

When you’re guidewalking a parkrun at 9, but you have a wedding at 11.

Volunteering with parkrun

My second role is with parkrun. Lie-in lovers might be unaware of this growing social phenomenon but every Saturday morning 90,000 people in the UK get up to run, walk or jog 5k around their local park. I started going to my local parkrun as part of my triathlon training, but soon got sucked into volunteering. parkruns are completely free and so rely on volunteers to keep time, process results and direct runners. I’m not naturally shy and soon got a reputation as “the loud marshal” happily cheering everyone around the course. I’ve also acted as a guide walker for a visually impaired participant, baked a lot of cakes and done every job except time-keeping (too high pressure!). Parkrun volunteering is great because there’s no commitment  – just let your local event know a couple of days before if you’d like to help out and you get told everything you need to know on the day. However, a couple of months ago our long-standing Event Director announced she was standing down. With everything else on my plate I was nervous about taking on another role, but fortunately a good friend was having the same dilemma and we agreed to step-up as co-Event Directors, taking on responsibility for the long-term health of our local parkrun. The next 12 months will involve lots of liaising with the council, completing risk assessments and grant applications and working out how to expand the reach of our event, but it’s a great opportunity to give back to an organisation that has given me so much joy and again to keep up the type of skills my next job might be looking for.

Also want to make friends through volunteering?

London is an amazing city but when I first moved here I found it really hard to make connections. Now, when I walk down the street I often bump into people I know through school or parkrun and whatever else happens, come Saturday morning there will be tea, cake and friends! I’ve also had really good feedback from employers about the high-level skills my volunteering maintains so who knows, maybe my next job will also come from a volunteering connection?

Also want to volunteer?

Check out the parkrun facilitator role if Lorna inspired you to volunteer wit the organisation. You can also check out one of our other 250+ ongoing opportunities or book a one-to-one with the Volunteer Centre Manager if you have more questions. And why not follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram to stay up-to-date with our events and opportunities and read our blog for more volunteering tips and stories.