When 2nd year Law student Anne Bernard answered a call to cover the role of session leader for the Animal Protection Project, she had no idea it would lead to her attending the Coronation Concert in Windsor as a National Coronation Champion Award winner...
While I’m not studying and taking Law exams, I volunteer as a communications officer for the Animal Protection and Green Thumbs Projects, through the V-Team (volunteering team) of the Students Union. I am also involved in sporting activities as an Essex Blades sports club president. I started by volunteering for a day here and there and then I got more involved when I was asked to lead a group one day. This led to me taking on the role of session leader for Animal Protection, and later becoming communications officer for this project.
We live at a time when sustainability is a necessity. I grew up in the countryside of France and my parents raised me with a strong sense of environmental awareness. Other than volunteering to defend values that are important to me, I chose these two particular projects as they brought a bit of my home to Essex.
The Animal Protection Project drives volunteers to local rescues and together, we help the staff with different tasks around the farms. The work usually involves cleaning fields and stables, sorting hay, but also walking goats, grooming horses, and having tea parties with guinea pigs!
The Green Thumbs Project is a community of students gathering up and taking care of a local community garden. They grow potatoes, vegetables, berries, and more. It is very relaxing to be able to get out there, meddle with the ground, and connect with nature in between lectures!
My role as communications officer mostly involves welcoming members into the project, explaining to them the registration process, keeping track of all registrations, replying to questions, sending emails about the upcoming sessions, news about the project, organising the different sign-ups to sessions, and listing attendance.
I have developed a number of skills including good organisational and time management skills because I have to juggle so many different tasks and I receive calls and emails at all times of the day. I have also developed efficient communications skills and a certain awareness of others. The university is extremely diverse and welcomes a lot of students with different backgrounds. As a communications officer, it is important that my emails are accessible, not only to international students like me who may not yet be accustomed to English, but also to both neurotypical and neurodivergent students.
Apart from learning vital life skills, building a resume, and enhancing career prospects, volunteering allows students to have fun and to take a break from their studies while having a direct impact on the community and helping others. There are so many amazing projects to volunteer for here at the university of Essex that every student is guaranteed to find something they love and make lifelong memories and friendships through V-Team!
V-team makes it a priority to recognise the effort of students, and does not hesitate to reward volunteers by nominating them for a range of different awards, both exclusive to the university and UK wide. Here are just a few examples:
• SU Activities Awards
• Big Essex Award
• SU Leaders Reception
• National Societies and Volunteering Awards (NSVAs)
To be perfectly honest, I still haven't processed that I won this award. I was simply out there, helping my community, sending emails, eating carrots fresh off the ground and grooming horses. I was just doing what brought me joy until the volunteering hours built up and V-Team contacted me asking for my consent to nominate me as one of their volunteering heroes. I accepted, and less than a month later, I got an email from the Royal Voluntary Service congratulating me for having been chosen as a Coronation Champion.
It was surreal! Being welcomed into the gardens of Windsor castle and seeing all these people from all over the UK uniting together, singing and dancing, dressed in the colours of the country and waving little union jack flags to the music was a truly magical moment.
Being a regular volunteer at the university does not require much commitment. You can easily try out all the different projects V-Team has to offer. Volunteer whenever you feel like it, for a one-off or more regularly, and give as much or as little of your time as you want. The volunteering community is the loveliest. Having fun and making friends while giving back to your community and being rewarded for it is an amazing opportunity!