VOLUNTEERING is a key part of many lives, with people wanting to really make a difference to the world.

Many volunteers have been doing it for years but everyone has to start somewhere.

At the University of Essex, the Students’ Union is continuing to empower students into volunteering roles, challenging them to get out there and get involved.

The V Team is the volunteering arm of the SU and consists of those volunteering all year round through a range of projects.

Volunteering projects have been running for more than 20 years at the SU, with the V Team itself formalised in 2008.

There are a variety of things students can get involved in, from 15 minutes of volunteering online for surveys and helping blind people, right up to regular projects.


Chris Moore is the volunteering manager at the SU, and spoke about some of the standout projects he has seen this year.

He said: “Earlier this year we went up to Sheffield for national society and volunteers awards with two projects nominated.

“One of which was our wellbeing ambassadors, a campus project based on supporting mental health and wellbeing for students.

“The other was a coding club, who go into primary schools and teach basic coding and website building.

“But there is a whole bunch of projects, from teaching English language up to four times a week to refugees, to improving animal enclosures and helping to build plant boxes for vulnerable and isolated members of the community.

“Even though this year was challenging after not fully bouncing back from Covid, with not everyone back on campus and exams moved online, we still had a record breaking year for hours logged by students and number of students engaged in volunteering.”

One of the other big projects is the Lend a Hand project, which is based out of the First Stop Centre in Braintree.

The project is run by a student committee, between three and six people, who take the lead on recruitment of volunteers, distribution and more.

It offers real and immediate help to members of the community who are struggling with problems in their lives.


Mr Moore said: “The project leader this year was Dakshita Mishra, with Matt Apps as the communication officer.

“They organised it and Matt was there every week, going above and beyond.

“When we had lockdown, they started making podcasts for example so service users can still interact and learn.”

Following the students’ hard work, the First Stop Centre nominated the V Team for both the Young Group Award and Matt for the Young Covid Response Award at the Braintree Council Volunteer awards.

The V Team were named the winners of the award, with Matt a Highly Commended recipient of the other.


The award was handed out at a ceremony celebrating the winners.

Mr Moore said: “It was lovely to win, but when we found out we were nominated that was really nice for us anyway.

“The fact First Stop were so pleased with the level of work our students we doing that they thought it fit to nominate us was amazing in itself.

“For me, I speak for everyone at the SU, that to see students get that public recognition and celebration of the work they do is important and a huge bonus.

“But whilst the award is great, you know it is not why they sign up.

“They don’t do it to chase awards, but because they want to make a difference.

“They want to spend time outside of studies and personal lives doing something meaningful, and that is the most important thing.”