So we’ve heard from LSE Volunteer of the Year 2019, Annie and LSE Voluntary Organisation of the Year, ReachOut! We’d also like to shine a spotlight on Outstanding Contribution to the LSE Community award winner Regina Legarte. We caught up with her recently to find out more about her volunteering roles within LSE and in London. Regina volunteered with Body & Soul and as a Peer Support within LSE , whilst studying for her BSc in Social Anthropology. Take it away Regina…
What were your volunteering roles (in particular the ones contributing to LSE and fellow students)?
One volunteering role I had was as an Impact Volunteer for the Monitoring & Evaluation Team at the charity Body & Soul. In the summer between my second and third year of university, I was an intern for Helen, the Fundraising & Partnerships Manager – I wrote about my experience of the internship in a guest blog. I decided to continue to volunteer for Body & Soul and help contribute towards the incredible work they do. As an M&E volunteer, I organised and digitised notes written by volunteers working with some of Body & Soul’s youngest service-users, using the data to track changes in their lives and analyse the impact of Body & Soul’s work.
An important part of my experience of and involvement in the LSE community was my volunteering as a Peer Supporter. As Peer Supporters, our role means that we have to be able to adapt to many different situations. Using open communication and making sure to be open-minded, approachable, and understanding, we are there for fellow students no matter what the problem is – however big or small, whether it’s about academic studies, mental health, personal relationships, anything at all.
Being a Peer Supporter therefore also means letting LSE students know that we exist. During the term, we would have stalls giving out free fruit and hot drinks, telling people about the Peer Support Scheme and asking how they were. Every week during term, I sat in LSE Life at our designated Peer Support spot for an hour with a sign so that anyone who might want to come talk to a Peer Supporter would be able to. We would also put posters up around campus to let people know who their Peer Supporters were and how to contact them. We had to be proactive in terms of making sure we were reaching as many students as possible, so that they would know about the different kinds of support they had.
My role, fundamentally, is to be there to listen. Peer Supporters are there for any student, but more importantly for those who are struggling to be heard, who are unsure as to where to turn for when things are difficult.
What achievement are you most proud of through your volunteering?
I’m most proud of securing funding from the Aberdeen Standard Investments Charitable Foundation (ASICF), which is going towards Body & Soul’s Young Explorers Programme – a service that provides focused support to children aged 8-12 who have been adopted from the care system. While I assisted in the writing of various funding applications and wrote many emails approaching companies for funding and in-kind donations, this was one application on which I had the opportunity to take the lead. Securing funding for the essential services that charities like Body & Soul provide is difficult; most of the time, I received no response to my efforts to reach out and involve businesses in charitable giving. This is why, when I heard that my application was successful, I was proud for two reasons: firstly, that I had persevered and succeeded; and secondly, that I was able to really contribute something to the Body & Soul community.
How have you benefited from volunteering?
One important thing I gained from volunteering for both Body & Soul and the Peer Support Scheme was that I feel like I very much grew in confidence, learning not to pass up the opportunity to take the lead. I was able to take initiative, to develop my leadership skills, and to trust myself and my abilities more. In this way, volunteering has helped me to grow more into myself, and to gain important experiences and skills that has helped me in other parts of my life, and will continue to help me in my future endeavours.
It has also helped me to understand a bit more about how I can enact compassion towards myself, not just other people. Being kind to yourself means allowing room for mistakes; it means giving yourself breathing space and understanding your own needs; and it means understanding that you can’t always help everyone in the way that they need. We’ve all helped to support our peers and fellow students in our own ways, whether or not we’ve been trained as a Peer Supporter. Sometimes it’s more difficult to show the same compassion towards ourselves. This is a valuable lesson that I’ve gained from volunteering.
I’ve had the privilege to work with and learn from some people who taught me best how to imbue compassion and empathy in the work they do, such as Susie Ward, who co-ordinates the Peer-Support Scheme, and Helen Watson, the Fundraising & Partnerships Manager at Body & Soul – not to mention all the Peer Supporters I’ve worked with! I think, last of all, one of the greatest benefits volunteering has given me – can give to anyone – is the learning you gain from everyone around you, from the communities that welcome you, and from the friends that you make. It’s this learning that helps our communities grow by filling it all the more with kindness.
What would you say to other LSE students to encourage them to volunteer?
I would say that volunteering is a meaningful way to really enrich your experience at university. Not only do you make friends and meet all kinds of inspiring and successful people who have achieved brilliant things, but you are also given the opportunity to demonstrate the kind of commitment and dedication that appeals to employers. Through volunteering, you gain and build on essential skills that are valuable in the workplace, in academia, and in everyday life. You learn how to see the world differently and understand others’ experiences of life. And, most of all, volunteering helps you learn how to find meaning and purpose in work, and how to put that meaning and purpose in everything that you do. It’s very much worth getting into.
We’ve got more than 200+ ongoing opportunities on CareerHub so make sure you search them for further volunteering information. You can also book a one-to-one with David Coles, the Volunteer Centre Manager, if you have more questions. And why not follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up-to-date with our events and opportunities and read our blog for more volunteering tips and stories.