After signing up with Conservation Volunteers at the AUT Volunteering Expo, AUT student Toni Darling says the Expo and AUT Edge Award gave her the push she needed to get involved in conservation.
“I’ve always been interested in volunteering, but I’d been lacking in motivation to actually go and do it. This expo makes it easy,” says Toni.
Ecomatters engagement and environmental advisor Gabriella Ezeta says volunteers need to be reliable and self-starters because not-for-profit organisations are often stretching to the work they want to do and need people who can hit the ground running.
“My colleague came to the Volunteering Expo last semester and had a good response with students signing up, so we felt it worth putting the time in to come again.”
Ecomatters was one of the 20 organisations attending the Volunteering Expo last week as part of Employability Matters, a week of employability events on campus for AUT students.
The Volunteering Expo attracted over 160 students keen to find volunteering opportunities that fitted their interests. And there was plenty, including motorcar event support, environmental and sustainability work, stroke rehabilitation, scouting, surf lifesaving, St Johns and Engineering without Borders.
AUT students have a particularly high level of engagement in volunteering, more so than other universities, says Siobhan O’ Grady, corporate partnership & volunteer engagement officer for Conservation Volunteers.
“The value is not in signing people up on the day but how many come through and actually volunteer – and AUT stands out for that. I think the AUT Edge Award has a lot to do with it and from our end it has a very easy system to show each student’s contribution to us for the award.”
Organisations say they are simply looking for students who are willing to commit some hours, have a desire to do something good and/or give back to their community and are reliable.
Volunteering is a two-way activity, states Morgan Hancox, Laura Ferguson Rehabilitation’s marketing and volunteer coordinator.
When interviewing a volunteer, Morgan always asks if they have any personal goals that the organisation can support.
“Many want to improve their social skills and we’re happy to help them with that. Others want to learn more about something or want to work with a particular group of clients.”
She is looking for volunteers who are caring, understanding and patient – and they can be from any study background as long as they are over 17 years.
“Some of our clients have difficulty communicating – Laura Ferguson offers rehabilitation for stroke – so volunteers need to understand that.”
The AUT Edge Award is a plus in Morgan’s eyes, as are other awards that students are working towards.
Volunteering Auckland represent a number of organisations needing volunteers for one off and ongoing events around Auckland. Volunteer Khyati Raja says students offer a lot. “We give organisations access to people who want to give back and help match them up. The more volunteers we get, the more that can be done.”
Fellow volunteer Ganesh Mahadevah believes it is really important for students to try some kind of volunteering early on because it exposes them to people in different situations and builds more networks in different areas.
“It is good to dip toes in the water and if they don’t like something, then to try something else. Volunteering Auckland has lots of options. You often don’t need specialist skills but can usually rock along and do the activity.”
So far the AUT Edge Award students have done over 16,000 volunteering hours around Auckland, says AUT Employability director Anna Williams.
“Our students are contributing to the community, while gaining invaluable skills that are making them more employable. As SEEK volunteer said at our recent graduation, when choosing between two candidates, 90% of employers will choose the one with volunteering experience on their CV.”