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Celebrating Volunteers' Week 2023

Rachel Soper
May 31, 2023
Volunteers’ Week 2023 is 1st-7th June and is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering in their communities. We wanted to take this time ahead of Volunteers’ Week to say a big thank you to all those volunteering with SOS-UK! Our programmes and campaigns wouldn’t be able to run without the input from thousands of volunteers each year.

Student volunteers take an active role SOS-UK’s work a number of ways. Here’s just some of the ways volunteers support our charity, and ways you can get involved!  

Green Impact

Green Impact is our sustainability engagement programme for staff, aimed at embedding sustainability across organisations, with student volunteers playing a crucial supporting role as auditors and project assistants. In 2022-23 so far we have trained more than 250 students, and more than 7,000 students have volunteered their time since the programme begun!

Green Impact Project Assistants (GIPAs) volunteer their time to help staff at their institution embed sustainability. GIPAs are trained by SOS-UK, and then spend a few hours each month with an assigned department to progress sustainability initiatives and projects. The tasks they take on vary depending on the volunteers’ own skillsets and interests, as well as the nature and goals of the department they’re working with. Student volunteers often bring creativity and innovation, as well as adding additional resource to drive sustainability. The GIPA volunteering programme also increases student-staff collaboration and supports volunteers to develop professional skills.

A group of Green Impact auditors posing for a photo
Green Impact auditors at UCL

As Green Impact auditors, students volunteer to conduct audits of participating teams. They receive IEMA-approved training from SOS-UK, and then go on to conduct a sustainability audit of a department to verify their progress and provide feedback.

We currently have a number of Green Impact auditor opportunities open to students, which you can register for below:

·      Auditing primary healthcare organisations, such as GPs and dentists (happening in Autumn 2023). Register here.

·      Auditing companies from the Babraham Research Campus and National Lottery Heritage Fund at the end of June 2023. Register here.

"Volunteering for Green Impact offered me the opportunity to make a tangible difference to the environment, while honing my green skills and putting them into action. The skills gained through this programme, such as professional auditing and analytical skills, were invaluable in my pursuit of a sustainable career." Green Impact auditor

Drug and Alcohol Impact auditors

Drug and Alcohol Impact (DAI) student auditors are invaluable volunteers who assist us and their university and students' union to not only score their participation in the DAI programme and find out if they have achieved accreditation, but also to discover the students' perspective on the work that is taking place!

The student auditors learn about the auditing process and develop key skills through the interview process. They have the opportunity to discover and ask questions to senior staff about the work that is taking place at their institution in regards to healthy, inclusive cultures around drugs and alcohol, in addition to making suggestions for improvements and next steps which will benefit students in the future.

“Interesting to hear about all of the positive and in-depth work going on that I wouldn't have been aware of otherwise. You just see the end result, not all the hard work that goes into some of the incredible things on offer / available.” Drug and Alcohol Impact auditor
A group of student auditors conducting an interview at a table with a member of staff
Drug and Alcohol Impact auditors
“It was a wonderful learning experience knowing so many initiatives are in place in the University and there are things they aim to do in the future as well.” Drug and Alcohol Impact auditor

If your university/SU are involved in the Alcohol Impact or Drug and Alcohol Impact programme, reach out to them to find out when their next audit will be taking place and enquire as to whether you can be involved!

Teach the Future volunteers

Teach the Future (TtF) volunteers are actively involved in advocating for climate justice education. Their asks include mainstreaming and reviewing climate justice education across the curriculum, adoption of a youth-written Climate Education Bill, integrating the climate emergency and ecological crisis into teacher education, prioritizing sustainability in school inspections, and retrofitting educational buildings to net-zero standards.

The TfT Scotland team recently organised a reception at the Scottish Parliament where they presented their updated asks to politicians, councillors, students, teachers, and other stakeholders, and facilitated conversations on how to achieve these in Scotland. 

TtF Scot staff and volunteers, with support from SOS-UK, at the reception
TtF Scotland staff and volunteers, with support from SOS-UK, at the reception. Photo credit to Charli Morachnick (@echoechophotography on Instagram)
“The scale of support for our asks from government, civil society and most importantly the young people in attendance was encouraging to see. This overwhelming welcome of our asks will give our campaign new strength to hold the government to their word to finally deliver real climate education to Scotland’s learners.” - Michael Heffernan, Ttf Scotland Volunteer

TtF Wales | Cymru are currently reviewing their campaign asks and organising a Senedd parliamentary reception at the end of June (see the event registration page here), where those will be presented to MSs and other key stakeholders, providing a space for young people, educators, organisations and politicians in Wales to collaborate in the climate education space.

Recently, Teach the Future England volunteers have been meeting with MPs and Lords to promote their updated asks and Climate Education Bill. Volunteers have also been involved in a research project analysing past GCSE/National 5 exam papers for quantity and quality of climate change/sustainability related questions. You can read about the findings of this project here.

Photo of TtF England volunteers with Nadia Whittome MP, sponsor of the Climate Education Bill, during a drop-in session for MPs
Photo of TtF England volunteers with Nadia Whittome MP, sponsor of the Climate Education Bill, during a drop-in session for MPs

Teach the Future volunteers play a crucial role in raising awareness, engaging politicians and stakeholders, and working towards policy changes to ensure climate justice education becomes a reality. Teams across the nations are always looking for new volunteers to get involved and organise for climate and ecological crisis education – you can sign up to join us here!

Responsible Futures auditors

Responsible Futures is a supported change programme partnering students and staff to embed sustainability in all student learning. Partnerships (the institution and their student’ union) undergo a two-day student-led audit every 2-3 years to achieve Responsible Futures accreditation. Since the programme’s launch in 2014, over 180 students have been involved in audits, many of them volunteers. During the audits, students review evidence, conduct focus groups and interviews, and provide feedback and recommendations for the partnership to take forward. Student auditors are instrumental in ensuring Responsible Futures remains a supportive, collaborative, and meaningful process for institutions and students’ unions.

Checkout our website to see if your institution participates in Responsible Futures, and send us an email if you'd like us to connect you!

“As a student of the institution, I feel as though I am leaving the audit process with greater pride in my university and a richer understanding of sustainability as a whole.” Responsible Futures auditor
A group of student auditors posing for a photo
Responsible Futures auditors
“Through the Responsible Futures audit and other processes, [the University of Worcester and Students’ Union] allow students to have a voice in sustainability, which is something we cherish so much.” Responsible Futures auditor
“I also enjoyed how participative the process is. I believe it is important to involve different levels of the institution. As a student I have often felt that we have very few opportunities to speak up and take part in the decision making, especially when it comes to decisions about the university.” Responsible Futures auditor

Keep an eye on SOS-UK’s social media

We’ll be sharing some more experiences of student volunteers on our social media throughout volunteers’ week, so make sure you’re following us on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. We will also continue to post future opportunities on our social media, in our newsletter, and via our ‘Take Action’ page.

Thank you again to all our inspiring volunteers, past and present!