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Tara Nelson is in her first year studying BASc. Arts and Sciences. She volunteered for Action Against Hunger and UCL’s Dance Society, where she participated in a charity showcase.  Action Against Hunger ran a 100 volunteer strong event at Borough Market in November 2017, raising money to help global efforts to eradicate food hunger. She is also a Lloyd Scholar, and is involved in numerous community volunteering projects as part of the scholarship programme. 

Tara spoke to Nick Batley and Jenny Murphy from the Volunteering Service about her time as a volunteer for both organisations. 

How long have you been volunteering with your projects, and for how long?

For Dance Society, we had a charity show case last Sunday, so that was a really quick turnaround. We did the entire project in a month, before showcasing. I was one of the choreographers for the event, so if someone had a question or wanted to practice, I would just meet with them for a couple of hours. For the last two weeks, I’ve volunteered probably every day for about two hours.

What sort of things did you do with Action against Hunger?

For Action Against Hunger, me and some other UCL students volunteered at an event called Auction Against Hunger. It was an event that the public had bought tickets to where they could sample things from different chefs. We helped ensure they had the best experience, answering any questions etc. There were some long queues so we were talking to guests, reminding them to participate in the silent action and getting support for the live auction.

How did the silent auction work?

There were iPads there, and you could also bid from your phone. You had to log on to the website and bid that way. There were screens along the venue showing you who had the highest bid. So we were kind of reminding people as they were queuing to go and do that because if they wanted to  bid or something they wouldn’t realise, or if you didn’t log on you wouldn’t see what bids were available.

What were your first impressions when you started volunteering?

For Auction Against Hunger, it was quite scary because we were in Borough Market, and in a big market hall and there were a lot of people there from Action Against Hunger. So it was quite daunting at first, and I wasn’t sure what I could offer. But once we’ve started, everything came into place, it was quite natural with everyone was having a good time and helping facilitate that environment. Reminding people that they were there to raise money for charity was a definitely a nice volunteering opportunity – and heart-warming.

Was everyone on the project supportive?

Yes, everyone was very supportive! Even the chefs were really appreciative of us; and they were very appreciative of the fact we were volunteering. It made it nicer to interact with them.

Do you think you’d go back and do more volunteering with the charity?

Definitely, they had another event that I wasn’t able to go to, but a few friends of mine went to, that I think was for three solid days, and they said it was amazing. So hopefully, I’ll be back volunteering with them soon!

How did you find out with your volunteering with the Dance Society?

I do a lot of dance society events anyway, and they send out emails with the opportunities so taking part in the Triple Bills Showcase was on this mailing list, as well as the Bloomsbury show and another volunteering opportunity coming up after reading week, which was also posted in our Facebook group, and there would be a training session in reading week.

Have you found that the volunteering that you’ve done has helped you settle into UCL

I’ve met quite a few people at UCL through volunteering that I didn’t really expect to meet when I started. At every opportunity I’ve been to, I’ve met people from UCL, be they Lloyd Scholars or not. Having the interaction with other years isn’t something you necessarily get as a first year in a degree, and being able to interact with finalists and people not on your degree programme, I think that it adds something to your university experience that you don’t get by just staying on campus.

What has been the best thing about volunteering so far and what has been the most challenging?

A lot of the volunteering that I’ve been doing so far has been events organisation and prep, which can be quite long. So when you sign up seeing that it’s 6-8 hours long, it can be daunting. When you do it though, you’ve never tired; you remember why you’re there, you’re doing it for a good cause, and the exhaustion only hits when you get home, and it’s more like a buzz to know you’ve done something useful with your Friday night, and you can tell your flatmates about it. I think it’s just the feeling you get with volunteering, there’s nothing else you can really do to get that feeling.   

Do you have any further plans that this volunteering has inspired you to do?

For me, the problem isn’t the volunteering, but the time to do the volunteering, it’s just trying to fit it in around everything, but I’m hoping to start tutoring on Friday evening with a youth group, as my other volunteering has been with events, so I am looking forward to one-on-one volunteering.

If Tara’s experiences with Action Against Hunger and UCL Dance Society have inspired you to get involved, check out our other Event Organisation opportunities!  Or if something else strikes your fancy, please visit our online directory to view all the current roles we have on offer with our 400+ London-based partners!