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You get out as much as you put in

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Kate Lawson is a second year student from Leicestershire who came to Coventry to study sociology. She lives in Coventry, even though it would be commutable from home because she didn’t want to ‘miss out on the full student experience’.

It wasn’t until her second year that Kate took up some of the volunteering opportunities through the University but even before she came here, she was already an active member of the guiding community.

“Guiding is part of me,” said Kate. She started off in the Brownies as a youngster and then when she became a guide, she embraced the guiding pledge, which is to help others.

Kate worked her way to eventually become a qualified leader and has gone on to organise county events and has been part of international camps for guides and scouts from across the globe.

Kate at an international Guiding camp

“I know it is something that amuses my friends, but guiding is something that gives me a sense of belonging and I throw myself into it. When I was young, I used to rely on people like the guide leaders to show me the ropes and to organise things for me to do. Now, I’m the guide leader and doing it for others and it’s a really great feeling.”

It was through guiding that let to one volunteering experience that turned out to be quite monumental.

“I was talking to someone from guides who told me that Leicester Cathedral were looking for volunteers and I approached them to see if they would consider me. It was great to be accepted and I made sure I learned more about the place so I could start showing visitors around.

“When Richard III was reburied in the Cathedral, I was working at one of the volunteers on the day – it was amazing to be part of something so historic. My enthusiasm for the place was heightened by the historical element of bringing the King to his final resting place – which wasn’t a car park!”

Some of the volunteering Kate has been doing at University is something she somehow manages to fit in with all her other activities with the guides and her studies.

“I particularly enjoy the Make A Difference Days” said Kate. “The foodbank distribution work is something I find particularly rewarding.

Distribution centre selfie!

“The first time I went to help out, we were given a briefing which put the work we were doing into context. These centres do an important community service. Some families still find it tough to make ends meet even though one or both parents might be working. Once the bills are paid, there sometimes isn’t enough to fill the cupboards and families rely on these centres to put food on the table”.

Kate goes to help out at the foodbank every couple of weeks and will continue to do so even during the holidays as it’s not too far to get to Coventry from Leicester.

“I admire what they do so much, it is something that I want to commit to 100%” added Kate.

Another volunteering opportunity came in the form of Robot Day at the Transport museum. Even though Kate studies sociology and not doesn’t come from an engineering or electronics background, she still volunteered to work on this day as she thought she could use her organisational skills from her guiding experience.

“I was put on a craft stall with two lovely people and we worked with children all day, helping them to create their own little 3-D robots out of paper and cardboard. Not only did they enjoy the day, but I met some great people and also got to see the amazing Godiva robot as well as a Tessla car, which I was very tempted to drive off in!”

Volunteering has given Kate a lot of real-life experience but she realises that when she was younger, she wouldn’t have been able to go on half of the guiding activities if it wasn’t for other people volunteering their time to enable her to go on some of the trips.

Kate and fellow Guider volunteers making camp fun

“It’s now my turn do volunteer to organise overseas trips or big events, so that other young Brownies and Guides can have the kind of experiences I’ve had. Volunteering works both ways. You get as much out as you put in.”

Aye Aye me volunteering hearties – Kate in pirate mode (top centre)

Volunteering for things has given Kate first aid training, safe space training, leadership qualifications and so much more and she’s not stopping there:

“I’m going to put myself up for course rep and module rep as well as I want to volunteer to be the voice for my fellow students and help them with their concerns.”

As Volunteering is a way of life for Kate, she was initially reluctant to put any of her volunteering work onto her CV:

“I don’t volunteer to tell others how much I do in a ‘look at me’ way, I do it because I genuinely enjoy volunteering.

“Our excellent employment personal tutor, Kavita, told me that I should not be shy of putting my volunteering work on my CV because it will genuinely help me when it comes to applying for jobs. Employers like to see that you have filled your time at University with a variety of experiences and I can honestly say, volunteering has enriched my life and life skills like nothing else.

Kate still finds time for Guides

“I’ve learned how to organise my study/volunteering/life balance in such a way that I can maximise every minute of every day and fit in as many things as I can.

“We only have one life and I intend to carry on making sure that volunteering is a big part of mine.”

If you would like to find out what volunteering opportunities are available, then visit the CUSU volunteering web page at:



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