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“Volunteering is also a great way to tap into communities of like-minded people and make new friends, to diversify and broaden your social network.”

Caitlin Elise Nisos studied on the MSc Social Development Practice in the Development Planning Unit of the Bartlett. We spoke to her recently about what she’s been up to since graduating in 2015.

Where are you currently working and volunteering?
I work for a neighbourhood-focused community organising charity, in their development/fundraising department. I provide support to the lead team on fundraising appeals and events to solicit financial support for the organisation’s various programs.

I’m also a volunteer member of Architecture Sans Frontières-UK, a charity focused on equipping practitioners to intervene in the built environment towards socially-just ends, and of the London Intergenerational Network, which works to highlight the value and potential of intergenerational connections and collaborations. I serve on the Board of Trustees for Castlehaven Community Association in Camden. I see a key feature of each of these roles as facilitating opportunities for learning, dialogue and experimentation to strengthen the ways in which communities support the rights and well-being of their constituents.

What volunteering were you involved with whilst you were at UCL?
I did a lot of one-off volunteering engagements, usually supporting specific events, and participated in the Global Citizenship Programme - Voluntary Sector strand. The one-off events were nice because they required a low time commitment and I could fit them around my academic schedule. The Global Citizenship Programme allowed for more in-depth engagement with a particular organisation, and the voluntary sector more broadly.

What useful skills and experiences did you gain as a volunteer when you were at UCL?
In general, volunteering allowed me to contribute to the London community, nurture my own roots within the city, network with third-sector practitioners from various disciplines working on a variety of issues, and gain experience in the ‘field’.

The Creating Connections events put on by the VSU were some of my favourites as well - great opportunities to network in a different context, while offering  an interdisciplinary space to engage in conversations about pertinent issues to the sector.

How has volunteering helped you in your career so far?
Volunteering has given me first-hand experience with a variety of issues, which lends to my understanding of others’ realities and professional credibility, a network of contacts and translatable skillsets. As an example, I got to know Castlehaven Community Association through the Global Citizenship Programme work, kept in touch and was later asked to join the Board of Trustees—the opportunity to get to know them and have them get to know me would have been much more difficult without the initial connection through volunteering.

What would you say to UCL students considering whether or not to volunteer?
Volunteering is an important vehicle for learning through doing, which is invaluable experience to learn more about yourself and how you want to interface with the world, the issues you care about, the type of work you want to do. It’s also a way to support causes when you feel less able / interested in giving monetarily—there is tremendous value in helping people on the front lines to do their job better and with more support. Volunteering is also a great way to tap into communities of like-minded people and make new friends, to diversify and broaden your social network.

There are so many ways to engage and with such a variety of organisations, it’s very possible to find something that really fits into your current personal plans and supports where you want to go next. Or you can pick something to shake up your world and throw you out of your comfort zone. Both valuable pursuits, check it out!

Interested in volunteering? Here’s how you can get started.

Read more stories from our alumni