Every year we love to catch up with our student volunteers to hear about their experiences and listen to their reflections. In the summer, Freya Thompson (BSc in Politics and History) spoke about her experience volunteering with Crisis at Christmas last year and asked her questions to help her reflect.
What volunteering were you involved in?
The main volunteering I do is working overnight at a Crisis at Christmas outreach centre for homeless people in London, assisting in various roles. I completed two shifts in Christmas 2019 and one in Christmas 2018, and plan to continue in 2020. Roles included manning the entrance as part of security checks, working in the cafe to provide hot drinks overnight, supervising sleeping rooms to ensure peaceful environments were kept and providing a listening ear to any guests who needed it. I have also run Vertical Rush for Shelter, ran a half marathon for World Cancer Research Fund and have volunteered at Lovebox Festival on behalf of Crisis.
Did you develop any skills through volunteering?
At Crisis at Christmas, I learnt how to manage difficult/tense situations involving tough working hours (10pm-8am) with limited breaks, learnt how to work with new people often (we were paired up with a new volunteer every hour and the range of volunteers was large) and developed my ability to provide someone for guests to talk to in time of need.
How has volunteering help your personal development and/or your career?
Volunteering in general has helped me develop into the kind of person I want to be. I’ve worked with Crisis before outside of Crisis at Christmas through helping to supervise events that they’ve run such as the London 5k and 10k in June 2019. I have also volunteered for Shelter, a charity with a similar cause, by running the Vertical Rush in March 2020. My career choice at the moment is leaning towards working in government/the Civil Service a I would like to help and serve the people – homelessness in particular is an issue I am very passionate about alleviating and I believe this is an area I would focus on if I were to ever take up any representative role.
How did you manage volunteering and other commitments such as your studies?
The volunteering I have completed have all taken place over a matter of days and I know well in advance when they will be. For example, Crisis at Christmas is always the full week of December that includes Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing Day, therefore I can easily plan around this, and we do not celebrate Christmas that much. Outside of Crisis at Christmas, any charity events I have done such as Vertical Rush and completing a half marathon for World Cancer Research Fund in September 2018 require training over a long period of time as well as a long fundraiser, but I found it to be a nice break from my studies and my part-time job.
How did volunteering change your LSE experience?
Volunteering is a part of who I want to be as a student. I have grown up in a very privileged environment and am lucky to be a student at LSE in which my life prospects are looking very positive. Being able to give back to people sleeping rough in particular is of such importance to me and I cannot imagine continuing my experience at university without it. LSE itself sees firsthand how homelessness is increasing in London and I would hope that the SU will organise more charity/fundraiser events to support local homeless people and make our campus a better place.
What would you tell other LSE students to encourage them to volunteer?
There is nothing to lose from it – you can only gain! I’ve never spoken to anybody who has volunteered and regretted it. And there is a different kind of volunteering for everybody. For example, in summer 2019 I volunteered on behalf of Crisis with MyCause UK and worked as a steward at Lovebox Festival, which gave my free access to the festival afterwards! If music is your thing then this is a fantastic opportunity! And if you’re more into fitness, then there’s plenty of opportunities to run, walk or dance your way into volunteering. Lastly, if you’re just a regular person like me, Crisis at Christmas is the perfect opportunity for you – they have daytime and nighttime roles and the gift of giving back really makes you realise how material things really do not matter at Christmas.
If you were inspired by this blog, it’s not too late to get your volunteering started! Check out one of our other 200+ ongoing opportunities or book a one-to-one with David Coles, the Volunteer Centre Manager if you have more questions. If you are short on time, then take a look at the one-off opportunities happening over the rest of Lent Term, organised by the LSE Volunteer Centre. If you want to share your volunteering experience with us, why not write us a blog? Have a scroll through our blog page to read what other students have written and get inspired!