Student Volunteering Week commenced on Monday 22 February 2016 at Newcastle University. The event encourages students to become actively involved with volunteer work, as well as praising the hard work undertaken by those already involved.
There was an assortment of activities that took place throughout the week including T-shirt printing, a visit to Cockle Park farm, litter picking, gardening, and cooking. Separate discussions that concentrated on the skills gained through volunteering, sustainability projects, and beekeeping and pollination were also held throughout the week.
Go Volunteer worked with Whitley Chapel First School, located in Hexham, to help rejuvenate a pond. According to Natasha Hemsley, an MSC Environmental Resource Assessment student at Newcastle University, “There was a lot of manual labour involved. We had to remove the old pond liner in order to put a new one in. We also planted trees at the school.”
The money required to install a new pond was granted by Newcastle University and the Green Grants scheme, which works with schools across Northumberland to create ponds, wildlife gardens, and allotments. The Green Grants scheme relies on the help of volunteers, including students. The scheme distributes small grants to provide schools with such resources; in the past year a total of £32,000 was distributed in two batches amongst various schools in Newcastle and Northumberland whose applications for funding were successful.
“The Green Grants scheme currently works with 17 schools. We are in the process of building bird boxes which we will distribute to eight schools”, said Kellie, a Go Volunteer. “We tend to work with first, primary, and middle schools. We recently helped install an outdoor seating area at one primary school using sustainable products. The Rupert Woods community works with disadvantaged children and encourages them to explore the countryside. The grants are allocated depending on how much each school requests which can range from £500 to a maximum of £2,000. Some schools organise other ways of raising money, such as bake sales, to meet the costs.”
A visit to Cockle Park Farm, one of the top agriculture technology centres in the UK, was scheduled on Wednesday 24 February which gave volunteers the opportunity to plant organic food products and do a spot of gardening. Other activities arranged during Student Volunteering Week were litter picking in Fenham and cooking in the Agriculture School’s kitchen. The opportunity to build bird or bat boxes for local wildlife and beehives was available to students on 25 February at Venue.