Why you should ABSOLUTELY volunteer at uni
Eritrea? Who dat? If someone had asked me in the summer holidays where the country Eritrea is situated, I would have stared back blankly. If you haven’t heard much about it, it can’t be that important, right?
Wrong. In 2016, Eritrea belonged to the group of countries with the highest number of people fleeing from them: Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan among the top three, followed by Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Myanmar, Eritrea and Colombia, according to the latest figures from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Most refugees flee to neighbouring countries; the countries with the highest numbers of refugees in 2016 were Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, Uganda, Jordan, and Kenya. Germany was the only European country to feature in the top ten. However, a tiny proportion do end up in the UK. In mid-2016 the UK was home to over 117,200 refugees and 34,450 pending asylum cases, a mere 0.23% of the total population of the UK.
Over the past 9 weeks I have been volunteering in the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre’s newly restructured ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) course, which is attended by the most diverse bunch of people I have ever met in one room. After discovering an email address on the CRMC website and getting in touch, I was soon shepherded in to assist in the classroom with the 12-week course. After assisting for 7 weeks, I now lead my own beginner English drop-in session, assisted by a fantastic team of student volunteers recruited through social media and the Warwick Volunteers newsletter.
Aside from developing character and challenging myself, volunteering while at uni has made me feel like I’m actually of worth to the local community. Societies and sports clubs allow you to feel part of the internal Warwick community, and volunteering has helped me feel like a part of Coventry, not just a visiting student with no ties to the locals.
There are a whole host of opportunities available through Warwick Volunteers and really no excuse not to use them! There are projects of all kinds, helping out in local hospitals, care homes, schools, community cafes, woodland, sports centres – you name it, it’s there. A ton of societies also organise community and charity-related events, for example Warwick Raising and Giving, Warwick Star, and various outreach programs directed by departments themselves.
Finally, the main reason I think it’s important to get involved with something good: if we’re in a comfortable position ourselves, we forget that others aren’t. “Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself” – a saying instilled in us in primary school but often neglected.
This is what I have learned teaching at CRMC. It is not only our duty, it is our privilege to welcome others to our country in times of need. If the situation were reversed, and after the outbreak of civil war or persecution I had to flee to a faraway country with an entirely unfamiliar language, I would not want to experience the isolation migrants often feel here. Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.