In May 2021, the LSE community celebrated the LSE Volunteer Awards! We came together to recognise and thank all of the outstanding volunteering that students have done over the past academic year, and to hand out awards to student volunteers who went above and beyond in their volunteering roles. One of which was Kitty Thompson (BSc Government, 2021) who was awarded Outstanding Contribution to the LSE Community for her inspirational work in LSESU Sustainable Futures Society. Since then, we’ve caught up with Kitty to find out more about her work!
What were your volunteering role(s)?
Throughout this academic year I worked on a project to help LSE reduce the amount of food waste it was producing, both on campus and in halls of residence. This saw me work with a wide range of stakeholders in and out of LSE, including LSESU FoodCycle, a student society that is part of the wider FoodCycle network.
In addition to this project, I also volunteer weekly as a telephone friend for Age UK. The majority of the calls to my elderly friend each week are spent discussing current affairs and politics which is an enjoyable yet rather unexpected use of the knowledge acquired throughout my politics degree!
How did you feel when you won the award?
I couldn’t believe it! There were so many amazing people who had volunteered on behalf of so many amazing causes that I didn’t know how the award winner would be chosen, let alone that it could be me! Throughout my degree, I have always worked hard within my society roles to create a sense of community amongst the the society members and the wider student body. While I did this to enhance my own student experience, there was also a real desire to prove the stereotypes about LSE wrong. Receiving the award was a lovely piece of recognition for the work I have done this academic year but in many ways, also the culmination of the work I have done throughout my degree.
What achievement are you most proud of through your volunteering?
I am really proud of the amount of work that we were actually able to produce as a team, despite never meeting in person. Having conducted all of this research and put forward relevant solutions. I am also proud of our ability to persuade the relevant people across the university to invest time, money, and resources into helping make these changes happen, again without having met any of them in person. Although the pandemic has really taken its toll, I am proud of what we have been able to achieve in spite of it.
How have you benefited from volunteering?
Food waste is an issue I came into my final year already deeply passionate about and was keen to find an opportunity to exercise this interest. However, from working with LSESU FoodCycle throughout the project I became increasingly aware of the issue of food insecurity within the context of LSE and also as a broader social problem that has been amplified by the pandemic. Without volunteering, I may never have had the opportunity to engage with this issue in a direct way and now, because of volunteering, it is a topic I actively work hard to learn more about and grapple with.
In addition, volunteering has enabled me to defy the negative consequences of remote learning and instead meet many new students and staff at LSE. As well as providing a unique way to meet new students and to become heavily involved in (virtual) campus life, volunteering has provided a unique opportunity to practice and learn important transferable skills that I had simply been unable to develop in my summer internships. The clearest examples of this are team leadership and project management. From balancing your timetable to learning how to speak to people in different professional settings, volunteering is an invaluable way to simultaneously improve yourself and your community.
What would you say to other LSE students to encourage them to volunteer?
There really is no good reason not to volunteer at least once during your time at LSE! LSE Volunteer Centre makes the opportunity to volunteer so easy by offering one off, ad hoc opportunities alongside more regular, permanent ones so even if you only have an hour to spare, there is some form of volunteering available. In addition, the plethora of causes to volunteer on behalf of means that wherever your passions may lie, there will an organisation whose work you will be able to get involved with.