National Student Volunteering Week: How and why to get involved
7th February 2020
Fun Fact – this is the 19th year that National Student Volunteering week has taken place. NSVW is running from 10th – 16th Feb in 2020 and its all about getting involved with the community – helping you to develop skills whilst benefiting people and the planet.
From a Sleep-Out to raise awareness on Homelessness to a Green Space project there is a lot to get involved with, all with the chance to win up to £350 for your work! – you can find out more about that here.
Need some more inspiration though? Here’s Charlotte’s volunteering story….
Legal Aid assists those who cannot afford to pay legal costs and fees, it ensures equality before the law, the right to counsel, and the right to a fair trial – pivotal in assisting the community at the hands of the law and supporting Global Sustainability Goal 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
Unfortunately, Legal Aid has faced massive cuts and so today, resources are extremely stretched and limited. Being completely naïve to all these issues I decided to volunteer for a week at a Solicitors Criminal Defence firm, here’s my volunteering account.
The first day I undertook mainly administrative tasks, helping with filing and typing up important legal documents to send out to clients. (You’re probably thinking BORING) But by the end of the day I could appreciate just how much the firm was administratively stretched because of Legal Aid cuts. I could barely keep up with all the Paralegals typing at the speed of light. I was struggling to even file away all paperwork in court bundles in their appropriate place. By the end of the day I had a headache from the constant typing – at that point I was very much looking forward to assisting with court trials later in the week!
The first two days made me realise that even though I had no initial clue on how to create all the daunting documents, I was in fact perfectly capable and it did no good to doubt myself so much. I learnt how to be resilient and persevere even where I felt out of depth.
At this point I was more than happy to get away from the computer and the files to go along and assist one of the Barristers at the County Court for the day. During the day I had to assist the Barrister and tend to the client who was facing trial on theft and burglary. It was at the moments before, during, and after I saw the effect of the trial on both the client and the Barrister.
Even though the client had done wrong, hearing all the pieces put together in the trial made me realise that everyone is always going through something that you have no idea about. At a later point in the day I was shocked when the Barrister doubted himself and asked me what I thought of his defence submission to the court…I was shocked a well educated and stone-faced Barrister thought like that! I learnt how to be empathetic and support those around me regardless of the dynamics of the situation.
By the final day I had to chance to attend multiple different hearings in different Courts. On the very last day I had to assist with a very elderly client on trial for an awful historical crime – let me tell you it was a very difficult and awkward situation to be in. I learnt that my social and people skills were absolute key in maintaining professionalism.
As you can tell from my account it was such a strange but eye-opening volunteering experience which I will never forget.
Not only did it help me build on skills and improve my employability, it also helped me contribute to an area in the society that drastically needs help and break down stereotypical barriers that help to improve the community at large.
I have already found it has helped to improve my studies in my degree and it was an experience which I will never forget – regardless of the good and bad parts.
I urge everyone to get out there and make the most of NSVW, it really will help to develop your skills and benefit the community!
Charlotte Homer is a 3rd year Law student and part-time co-ordinator of the Live Smart programme. If you’re interested in getting involved, contact Charlotte here.
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