On the back of turbulent year, we asked our students how volunteering shaped their LSE experience and why they’d recommend others to get involved.
“Regardless of your career ambitions, the resources you can provide to a charity or project are truly invaluable”
Food waste and food insecurity are two issues that I care deeply about and so, to help tackle them within the context of LSE and its wider community has shaped my final year at LSE in ways I could not have imagined. Over the course of the academic year, I led a project to assess the state of food waste at LSE, in conjunction with LSESU Sustainable Futures Society. Among other things, this project saw me work in close collaboration with both the LSE Volunteer Centre and LSESU FoodCycle to ensure that as much surplus food is able to reach as many people in need during the next academic year.
As I hope my experience demonstrates, volunteering at LSE truly comes in all shapes and sizes. Whatever your interests and degree happen to be, I can guarantee there will be a volunteering opportunity that aligns to it, and if not, LSE grants you the freedom and support to make your own! For example, I have a keen interest in the concept of sustainable business and so, I took an outside option in geography entitled “Sustainable Business and Finance.” The project and the course ended up becoming a symbiotic relationship of sorts, with the theory from the course being applied to project, and the project giving me real world examples for the course and an opportunity for practical application.
In addition to being able to contribute to the LSE community, this experience has allowed me to develop my project management and communication skills, as well as the ability to manage my time and balance competing tasks. Regardless of your career ambitions, the resources you can provide to a charity or project are truly invaluable and will only help to develop your own skillset as you go on to future projects. While I recognise that some students may be unable to commit as much time to volunteering as I have been able to, there are also many volunteering opportunities that are either ad hoc or involve a small weekly time commitment. The former includes writing letters and cards to refugees and the latter could be devoting 30 minutes a week to take on the role of a telephone friendship volunteer with Age UK, to name just two. There are so many ways to volunteer as a student at LSE that your inevitably hectic schedule need not stop you!
Kitty Thompson is a BSc Government 2021 graduate and was Marketing Director of the LSE Undergraduate Political Review. She was recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to the LSE Community award at the 2021 LSE Volunteering Awards.
“It was beautiful to see the whole LSE community come together for a good cause”
When the academic year 2020/21 started, I knew that it was going to be challenging. Lectures were going to be online, and seminars were either in a strange socially distanced setting or on Zoom. I knew that I could get sucked into a psychological black hole over winter in lockdown and thus needed to set myself goals to stay motivated and protect my mental wellbeing. Volunteering was the perfect opportunity to stay positive and escape social isolation, as I could interact with fellow LSE students. I initially just wanted to run a marathon for myself around Christmas for St Mungo’s, a charity that helps the homeless in the UK. But I quickly realised that we could start a broader initiative and together with LSESU RAG and the LSESU German Society, I co-organised the LSE Christmas Run for the whole LSE community. We got together a core team of 4 people and managed to motivate over 30 runners, who joined our fundraising efforts and collectively raised over £7,000. It was beautiful to see the whole LSE community come together for a good cause and raise awareness for homelessness. And I was proud to be part of it!
During winter, I developed a passion for backcountry skiing and explored the Alps. I realised again that I could combine my passion for sport with volunteering and created a challenge to “climb and ski” 8,600m in 24 hours. I wanted to honour the first winter summit of the K2. I then realised during the training that it was too ambitious and delayed it to next season. But I still managed to raise substantial funds for Women for Women International that helps women in conflict zones with education to rebuild their lives.
Overall I am grateful that I had the opportunity to volunteer over the pandemic and distract myself from the crisis. I am proud of what we together achieved for St Mungo’s and Women for Women International. I’m looking forward to future volunteering!
Jakob Franke graduated from LSE in 2020 with a BSc in Government and History and currently pursues the MSc in Public Policy and Administration at LSE. He is from Munich and passionate about politics, nature and running.
“Volunteering continues to inspire and motivate me to learn more”
In 2014 I began volunteering at the LJS Asylum Seekers Drop-In, a charity which seeks to help individuals from over 40 countries through the UK’s asylum process. In 2019 I became the youngest member of the charity’s main council, overseeing policy, resources and management. My first year reading Politics and International Relations at has complemented my contact with asylum seekers profoundly. It has deepened my understanding of the tensions states face between security, economic and humanitarian concerns in regards to its treatment of non-citizens, and developed a specific insight into how laws form the backbone of societies. My charitable work has also prompted me to learn about and scrutinise the economic, legal and political structures which cater for today’s global storms of profound disaffection; contemplating, for example, why Western citizenship equates to feudal privilege, and whether a level of inequality is necessary for broader prosperity in periods of crisis.
The process of volunteering regularly, and especially under forms of pressure – most notably the debilitating and crippling effects of COVID-19 on asylum seekers – has accelerated my development in the skills of time management, communication and problem solving. Volunteering continues to inspire and motivate me to learn so I can be in the privileged position of giving back. I am convinced that it not only affords individuals with great opportunities to develop holistic insights into what makes and breaks healthy societies, but contributes greatly and responsibly towards the fundamental development of such societies.
Noah Gershon has been studying Politics and International Relations at LSE since 2020. In addition to his charitable works, Noah is an aspiring entrepreneur and is enthusiastically involved in the development of two technology and environmental-based start-up companies.
Note: this article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the LSE Department of Government, nor of the London School of Economics.