UCL News


Celebrating UCL's volunteers

24 June 2004

Students and staff were rewarded for their inspirational involvement in volunteering projects at the VSU awards this week.

Volunteers at work in the ‘Teddy Bear Clinic’ Organised by the Voluntary Services Unit, which provides 300 opportunities for students and staff at UCL to volunteer every year, the awards were attended by volunteers and representatives from 130 participating community organisations.

Speaking at the event, Professor Michael Worton, paid tribute to the difference volunteers make to the fabric of community life across London. "The VSU awards are a celebration of the contribution made by UCL students and staff to the London community. As UCL repositions itself as a global university with strong local ties, it is more important than ever to forge links with the wider London community, and volunteering is an essential part of that vision. UCL is not an ivory tower, but a vital part of the richly diverse community in London."

Established in 2002, the Voluntary Services Unit is funded by HEFCE through the Active Community Fund. Last year over 200 students and staff took part in community action projects ranging in diversity from being a football coach at a youth club to walking dogs in an animal sanctuary.

Among this year's award recipients were Ms Xulin Foo (School of Medicine 1) and Ms Lok Sze (School of Medicine 4), who created a new project, known as the 'Teddy Bear Clinic'. Taking place in schools and childcare centres, volunteers arrive armed with miniature medical equipment, such as thermometers and stethoscopes and their 'patients', teddy bears. Children from ages three to ten learn the principles of diagnosis and good health practice, as well as dispelling any fears they may have of doctors. "The Teddy Bear Clinic broadens children's experience of visiting the doctor by changing their perceptions, in a fun environment. As well as meeting lots of new people, I also gained exposure to working with children, which will be helpful if I choose to specialise in paediatrics," says Ms Foo.

Another award recipient was Ms Elizabeth Button (Speech and Language Therapy 2), who has been volunteering at the Visitors Centre in Holloway Prison for two years. "I wanted to work in a prison to get a feel for the reality of life there. As a student of speech and language therapy, working in a prison is an area that I am considering in the future and I have been fortunate to meet a lot of different people from all walks of life. I have also learned new skills, such as dealing with potentially aggressive situations as well as empathy, which is essential when dealing with the public," says Ms Button.

Ms Lucy Chamberlain (English 1) volunteered for the first time last year, and visits an elderly lady, Maisie, once a week. "She is not surrounded by close family or friends, so my visit provides a bit of light relief. Maisie loves to tell me stories and we simply chat. Volunteering offers me an alternative outlook on life and I really enjoy it," says Ms Chamberlain.

New initiatives at the Voluntary Services Unit include the creation of a magazine, 'Halo', and the new Volunteering Society. As Ms Petra Wahlqvist, Voluntary Services Assistant explains: "The main point of volunteering is, of course, to help others and give something back to the community in which we live. However, volunteering is also a wonderful way of broadening your experience of life as well as offering valuable skills for a career in the global market place, such as problem solving, teamwork and leadership. Whether you can offer an hour a week or a weekend, we always need new volunteers to help make a valuable contribution to communities across London."

To find out more about volunteering at UCL, use the link below.

Link: Volunteering Services Unit