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Students at the University volunteer for a wide range of organisations, including The Samaritans, Chapter, Girlguiding, British Red Cross, Chester Safe Space, Canal and River Trust, Passion for Learning, Citizens Advice, Shannan Trust and Claire House Children’s Hospice. Almost 100 students who have made a difference through volunteering were invited to attend the evening at the University’s Queen’s Park Campus.

All the students who attended had completed the University of Chester Volunteering (UCV) award scheme. The awards are based on the number of volunteering hours, and also other tasks, including workshops and presentations. The UCV Platinum + is awarded to those who have volunteered for over 500 hours, UCV Platinum is for those who have carried out over 300 hours of voluntary service, the UCV Gold is for over 150 hours; and those who complete 50 hours or more of volunteering gain the UCV Silver award.

Entertainment was provided by Kate McCullough, a first year student studying the Popular Music Performance degree course at the University’s Kingsway Campus and magician (and University Porter), Paul Shanley, was also on hand to wow guests with impressive close-up magic tricks!

This year saw the pilots of our Student-Led Projects: Chester Student Dog Walkers; Welly Wednesdays and the Contact the Elderly Tea Party, and the décor and gifts for attendees reflected the theme, with the hosts even donning wellies with their suits! 

Student-Led Projects are volunteering initiatives, run by students, for students. They either take the lead on a project developed by the Volunteering and Mentoring team, or come up with an idea of their own, meet with the team to develop their plan and then get started. The Volunteering and Mentoring team is on hand to offer support, resources and training, but the hard work lies with the amazing Project Leaders. The students who stepped up to the task this year have shown leadership, commitment and enthusiasm for their respective projects and the leaders of the projects took to the stage to talk about how the projects have impacted them this year.

Megan Hassall, Project Leader for Chester Student Dog Walkers, said: “Being a Project Leader is honestly one of the most exciting and rewarding things that I have done. I think we have achieved so much more that what we set out to, as not only have we given students a way to take a break but we have connected them with new people who they have actually become amazing friends with! The reaction we have had from the community and the dog owners has had a major impact on me as a project leader as it has been nothing but positive, we have really helped the owners in such a dramatic way. I am excited about what the project holds for me next year.”

Three accolades were especially celebrated during the evening – the first being the Students’ Choice Award, which was developed to allow student volunteers the opportunity to recognise organisations that have provided an outstanding student volunteering experience. Local charities were nominated for their exceptional support of the University’s student volunteers, including providing exciting training courses, being flexible towards study commitments and being an inspirational environment, in which to volunteer.

The finalists of the Students’ Choice award were: The Royal Osteoporosis Society (Manchester Central Support Group) and Healthwatch Cheshire, and the winner was Cheshire Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball Club, which was nominated by student Stephanie Taylor.

Stephanie, who is a second year Digital Photography with Radio Production student, said: “Cheshire Phoenix has been like a family to me. I always say to people, I volunteer my time - I don’t need to be there helping, but If I wasn’t there then I wouldn’t be as happy as I am in life like I am whilst helping the club. It has brought out my talents as well as helping me gain confidence. The feeling of achievement I get out of helping is phenomenal and without the club and without the volunteering opportunities I don’t know where I would be in life!”

More information about Cheshire Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball can be found at: www.cheshirephoenixwbc.co.uk  

The second award was the Charity’s Choice Award, where charities were encouraged to nominate exceptional student volunteers who had gone ‘above and beyond’ in the work they have carried out, voluntarily, in the last academic year, and who have demonstrated real volunteer leadership qualities.

The finalists for the Charity’s Choice Award were: Daniel Branch, a second year Learning Disability Nursing student, who volunteers with St John the Baptist Church and the Samaritans; Jane Denton, a first year Childhood and Youth Professional Studies student, who volunteers with Healthwatch Cheshire; and third year Graphic Design and Photography student Nicole Quirk, who volunteers with the Cheshire Downs Syndrome Support Group (CDSSG). All finalists had done exceptional voluntary work, and the winner was Nicole Quirk.

Lucy Liddiard from CDSSG, who nominated Nicole, said: “Nicole designed an infographic about the work of the charity, which was used as part of a major campaign to coincide with World Down Syndrome Day 2019, the infographic was also used at the charity’s AGM and supported a successful bid for funding towards a new speech and language communication project for children with Down’s Syndrome. CDSS said Nicole has consistently supported our charity with a smile on her face. She has never asked for recognition and never said ‘no’ to a task. She is an absolute superstar”.

For more information about CDSSG please visit: www.cheshiredownssyndrome.com/

The final special award of the evening was the University’s Choice Award, which was developed to recognise any student who volunteers within the University or on a University Led Project. Staff across the University were able to nominate a student who had gone above and beyond in their volunteer role, and demonstrated a real commitment to volunteering for the University of Chester.

The finalists for the University’s Choice Award were: Joe Moodie, a second year Conservation Biology student, who led the ‘Welly Wednesday’ conservation project this year and Michael Hewson, a Master’s Social Work student, who volunteers as a Student Representative for his course. The winner of the award was Noah Young, a third year Archaeology student who was nominated by Jo Morison, Project Officer for his work as a School Mentor.

Jo said: “Noah has volunteered as a school mentor for three years and has been a dedicated volunteer since he started, going above and beyond the minimum requirements of the role. He has also been one of our most reliable volunteers for communication, always keeping the team updated on when he will be in school and how he is getting on.”

Sue Davis-Mccoy from Rossmore School was thrilled that Noah had been nominated and added: “I am delighted you are putting Noah forward for this award, he really deserves it. Noah has gone above and beyond, bringing in something every week to show the children he works with. Noah is very passionate and knowledgeable about history and archaeology and has used this passion to great effect in different classes.”

Dr Chris Haslam, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Student Experience and Corporate Performance, at the University, said: “The University is very proud of all of our student volunteers, and it has been a pleasure to celebrate their achievements at this event. At the same time, this evening has also provided the University an opportunity to recognise and thank the many charities and local community groups who help shape this volunteering into practical, meaningful and beneficial activity. Volunteering is a fantastic way to get involved in the local community, whilst developing key personal skills, and this event has been a brilliant way to celebrate this with our students and our local community partners.”

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