Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Rose Award Winners 2016!!

The Volunteering Team are thrilled to announce that our Kingston:Lebara Programme won the 2016 Rose Award for Engagement with an External Organisation /Business /Industry/Not For Profit/International Partner. We are incredibly proud of this achievement, and we think it captures and celebrates the dedication and hardwork that ourselves, SAIL and Lebara Foundation have put into our partnership in order to provide a high impact and successful international volunteering programme in India and Sri Lanka. A huge congratulations to the staff behind the project! 

The past three years have been incredibly exciting as we have watched our project grow from one cultural exchange in Tamil Nadu, India, into a detailed programme tailored to the mothers and children we volunteer alongside, and we have even piloted a Professional Skills Academy in Sri Lanka with success! We are even more excited to watch this programme continue to grow, adding in new elements and amending with feedback each trip. For example, this summer we added in a staff role to enable Kingston University and Student Union staff to volunteer alongside our students, offering additional skills, insight and knowledge to the workshops run. 

Next year we are looking into adding into more language lessons, to help enhance volunteer communication abilities with local the children and mothers they volunteer with. We will also be sad to see the phenomenal Tawnya Cheatheam (SAIL) leaving the project, as she will be moving a new job role. It has been amazing to work with her over these past 3 years, and we wish her the best in her new post. However, a huge hello and welcome to Rachel Williams who will be taking over from Tawnya, and joining the Kingston:Lebara family.

If you are interested in applying to the project, applications will open on 1st December 2016. We will be running information sessions at the end of November 2016. To register your interest for the information sessions, please email 

Say hello to our new Volunteering Assistant

Hi, my name is Elif Bulut, and I am currently a 3rd year Psychology student at Kingston University London. I am a 22 years old, Kurdish citizen from Turkey. I have been a member of the Union of Kingston Students family since 2013 and I am now officially part of the Volunteering team as a Volunteering Assistant.

As every individual, I have started to develop a vision, ideology and ways of building my future and make social changes. I am very proud to mention that, Union of Kingston students has always been there to make sure that I achieve my goals, improve my skills and gain experiences to build myself and others a better future.

Let’s just touch on the Volunteering department within the Union, and why I was so excited to become part of it.

Due to my minority ethnic and religious background in Turkey, I have always volunteered at local Kurdish and Alevi community centres. Since being part of the local community centres, I have realised that every individual has power over the world to make a change. I have volunteered the England Alevi cultural centre and Cemevi in Hackney and Croydon, and have taken part in so many different activities involving youth activities and events for our local community, such as festivals. My local Alevi community centre has now become a huge part of my life. Furthermore, I believe that in order to achieve social change and build better future for everyone, we must get together and work together.

Due to previous experiences, I was very excited to be part of Union of Kingston students volunteering department. As I have mentioned before, I love working towards positive social changes, hopefully improving others’ lives, and making the world a better place to live in (hopefully one day in peace J ). 

One of my other goals in life is to make sure that I always stand by those who need me and make sure to help be their voice.  With the Volunteering Assistant role I hope to help positively influence many other students within Kingston University, like myself, to become actively part of the team and work towards making positive change. Not only within our current communities, but also here to help students to gain more experience, improve their skills and help to help them to build a better future.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Welcoming the new Knitting for Charity Student Leader, Victoria

Hi I’m Victoria Cooper and I’m the new project leader for the volunteer group Knitting for Charity. I’m a second year fashion student and I’m hoping to specialise in knitwear, which I’m sure doesn’t come as much of a surprise!

I started to become involved in this project last October when I joined as a nervous first year volunteer, and I soon became a regular knitter, helping to make knitted or crocheted items for the charity Knit for Peace. Knit for Peace sends items all over the world, including both locally and globally, items identified for their need in the places they are sent.

I really love this project, not only because in a way it relates to my studies here; but as someone wanting to go into the fashion industry it feels good to know that I am doing something to help people in need. The fashion industry has such a bad reputation for putting profit before people’s wellbeing and by getting involved in this project I feel like I am doing my bit to help rather than hurt, and I want to be able to continue this idea when I go into the industry.

I’m really excited to start leading the group this year and I’ve got some ideas to do some fun themed projects around Christmas and Easter. It doesn’t matter if you are a complete beginner, I hadn’t knitted for about eight years before I joined this group and we also welcome any crocheters.

Sign up to the project on the Volunteering Portal, and come along to join every Wednesday 1
-3pm, in the Students' Union, on Penrhyn Road Campus! We run on a drop in basis, so you can come for as long or as little as you want.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Thames River Clean May 2015

Hi I'm Theo Mills, and I was student-leader along with Kathy Stanley-Quist of the 2015 Thames River Clean, as part of the Sports Volunteering Steam. We were supported by Volunteering Projects Design and Development Coordinator, Sarah Dutton.

I started scuba diving back in September of 2013 and have fallen in love with the sport. The club brings together an amazing group of people and one of our biggest events in the calendar year is the Kingston Thames River Clean.

Originally thought up and masterminded by fellow diver and Kingston alumni Chris Elliot, 2015 was the 4th consecutive year that the river clean had been held. Having sadly missed last year’s river lean this was my first year attending and also helping to organising the event with other members of KUSAC and the Students' Union (SU).

I joined the committee just before Christmas of 2014 and was amazed by the amount of work that actually goes into making this event possible. Just for a one day event there is so much work behind the scenes that goes into making it possible. This involved applying for grants, contacting people to attend the event and general organisation of location and equipment. After careful consideration on much deliberation we settled on the 30th of May as the date for the clean.  In order to secure the date, The Environment Agency gave us the go ahead, closed off one of the arches of Kingston Bridge, provided us with a river barge for rubbish, and informed all river users of the activity. We also had to organise insurance, recruitment of volunteers from all over the community, timetables, lunches, health and safety briefings, risk assessments and much more. It was exhausting but amazing to see so many get on board including, KUSAC, KUBAG, KU Kayakers, KU Mountaineers, Kingston Council, Environment Agency, Metropolitan Police, RNLI, Thames 21, Aquanauts and Capital Clean Up.
The hard work paid off and the river clean was an amazing success. In total we pulled out over 460 items from just a small stretch of the river. This included 31 trollies and 7 different push bikes. All the volunteers did an amazing job on the day, and made it and exciting and enjoyable day for the public and everyone involved. 

Next year I will be heading up the committee, and I look forward to helping keep this wonderful project going. It is clear we are helping to improve the environment around Kingston and this is an event that bring a number of different people together for a good cause.  

We are also recruiting for the 2015-2016 River Clean Committee, and welcome applications. If you are interested and are a student at Kingston University and in a sports team, please email, outlining why you think you would make a brilliant committee member.  

Friday, 20 March 2015

Volunteering Celebrates International Day of Happiness 2015

Are you feeling happy? As part of the UN decreed day, Kingston University Students' Union took part in International Day of Happiness for the second year running, and wow, did we hand out a lot of hugs! Everyone's arms hurt the next day from handing out so many hugs and high fives! We think it is a measurement of not only dedication, but real success.

International Day of Happiness, is held on the 20th March of each year, and is designed to showcase the UN's awareness of the need for happiness and good well-being for the everyone to grow as a global economy. It isn't all just about money! For the global community to grow, we should strive for all to feel safe, secure and connected to our communities. Here at KUSU we think this is pretty important, and helping to spread a bit of happiness is certainly worthwhile.

This year we were lucky to have a bit of sunshine, in comparison to last year's rain, which always helps cheer everyone up. We took along our happiness tree, and set up in Kingston town centre. There we handed out free hugs, high fives, handmade jewellery, sweets and successfully added a lot of new pledges of happiness leaves to our tree. It is now looking somewhat less wintery.

Each pledge of happiness, is designed to get individuals thinking about what makes them happy, and what they could do over the next year to increase or spread positivity. It is tied to our tree, to showcase the growth of positivity each year, as the number of leaves increase. Pledges can be anything, as long as it is both personal but positive. They ranged from seeing family and friends more, to working towards passing driving tests.

Originally we had a goal to hand out about 100 hugs and high fives, and as many pledges as possible. However, we surpassed that with a total of around 500 hugs and countless high fives. We had many thank us for helping make them smile, and many of our volunteers decided to go on celebrating happiness, even when we had to pack up.

Happy International Day of Happiness.

The Volunteering Team xx

This week marked the celebration of Global Festival, with an entire week filled with events and stalls from each society, and even some volunteering projects. The aim of the week is to celebrate diversity here at Kingston University, and to embrace the amazing things our students groups do.
This year as part of the festival, KUSU’s BeeAware project, which aims to raise awareness of the declining bee population, hosted a honey tasting event to highlight what would be off the table should the honey bee die out.

The event proved very popular, with students and staff queueing to try some of the honey related items on show. The favourite type of honey proved to be the orange blossom, with the chilli honey being a bit too spicy for many. However by far the favourite item to try was the bee pollen, which is nice added to salads or smoothies. Bee pollen is thought to be great for energy with high protein and vitamin B levels, as well as helping with hayfever.

When BeeAware volunteers spoke about the many products that would be unavailable should the bee decline continue, such as cotton, lipsticks and almonds, many seemed genuinely shocked about the actual impact of bees. Fingers crossed this means that the group successfully added a few more to helping save the bees.

To find out more about BeeAware, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Supermarket River Sweep…

I started learning to SCUBA diver in February 2013 and fell in love with being under the water. Chris Elliot (aka The Master) asked for help on a project he and Matt, another student, were running in the autumn, the second river clean.  I went along on the day to help on the shore and was blown away by the amount of rubbish that was dragged from such a small section of the river Thames.
Jump forward six months and Chris approached me asking if I would organise KUSAC’S third Thames River Clean.  I was in my final year of study and commuting from Sussex, but jumped at the chance to be involved in such a brilliant scheme, little did I understand the amount of work that has to be put in before the scheme can even get off the ground. Thank goodness for Chris and the Union of Kingston Students’ Volunteering Office who were there to support and help me to keep the project on track.
The date was arranged and things were running smoothly when…. Mother Nature decided to throw a spanner in the works and sent rain, rain, rain and more rain, so much that the Thames was flooding!  So with time and the weather against us we had to postpone until the New Year.

This delay though gave us time to work with Thames 21 and train up future student organisers of the River Clean and other environmental projects.  It also gave us time to build stronger links with other organisations and companies such as Aquanauts, a local scuba and snorkelling shop whose owners, Ian and Lynne, donated cylinders and air for our divers to use along with volunteer divers from their dive club who were indispensable.

So the new date is in place Saturday 24th May 2014. The Environment Agency have given us the go ahead, closed off one of the arches of Kingston Bridge, provided us with a river barge for rubbish, and informed all river users of the activity.  KUSAC ready, Divers information collated and all ready for the off, insurances checked, volunteers organised, KUBAG loaning equipment, Aquanauts equipment and divers ready, volunteers organised, KU Kayakers and KU Mountaineers ready.  Parking organised free by the Bentalls centre, Local council on-board, Environment agency organised, Metropolitan Police Kingston informed and aware of project… so now to cross fingers and toes and pray for good weather.

The day arrives… I have stayed at Simon’s (Dive Manager for this project) and am up at daft O’clock (that’s before 6am!) and walk along to meet Chris to collect the equipment.  Then on to Horse Fair Quay where the river clean is being carried out.  By half eight the majority of volunteers have arrived and organising is in full swing.  Volunteers are signed in, and health and safety talks have been given so now it is down to business.

The first group of four divers enter the water; the kayakers are providing surface cover and protection to our divers under the surface.  Sarah and Steve from the Volunteer Office, volunteers from Kingston University Mountaineering club, KUSAC, KUBAG, Aquanauts, Thames 21 and other Kingston students and alumni were ready on shore to pull the debris ashore.

The goal was to clean as much as we could, of the area behind the Bentalls centre on Horsefair Quay; oh and to beat the last river clean trolley count!
The water looks murky from above but it is not until you go under the surface that you realise how bad the visibility is down there. It looks okay until you move or move an item that is in the thick gloopy muddy silt on the bottom.  The divers had to use their hands to “feel” where the next item was located or sit and wait for the silt to settle take in their bearings and then reach for the item knowing that as soon as they moved the silt would come back up and reduce their visibility to just the end of their noses.  So the divers grab the grapnel that has been lowered down to them from one of the shore people, dive under the water and attach it to whatever item they have discovered and then tug on the rope to let the shore party aware that something needs to be pulled up.  The divers then move away from the object so as not to get trapped though keeping an eye on the item in case it gets tangled in
other debris.

On the shore the volunteers from all the different sports clubs along with all other volunteers, members of dive club, Aquanauts, Thames 21, and the local RNLI team from Teddington who also popped in to help for a couple of hours, are ready and eagerly awaiting the treasure trove of items that the Thames is going to sprout forth.  From divers to water and shore rescue teams, litter pickers, waders, pullers and grabbers, tea and coffee makers, washer uppers and general go to it girls and guys all hands were on deck.

Not only did the RNLI give us water cover, after lunch they also helped to pull items from the river by loaning their muscle power to pull debris from the Thames.

And so the massive task of stacking all of the materials/bicycles/debris on to the floating rubbish barge began in earnest.

  The final tally of rubbish included, 105 metal shopping trolleys, 388 glass bottles, 244 drinking glasses, 3 prams, 22 bricks, 45 CD’s, 3 coconuts, 1 stove, 1 microwave oven door, 2 dead pigeons, 2 battery packs,  2 mallets, 2 gas cylinders, 30 skateboards, 1 children’s bicycle, 13 adult bicycles, 14 scaffold poles, 4 logs and many many many items that are far too many to list but in total there was over 4 tonnes of rubbish removed from the river that day!!!

An absolutely amazing achievement by all those involved.
I am so pleased with the result and the hard work and dedication from all of those involved. The day itself ran really smoothly with everyone finding a job or role that they could do.  Many a smile and some laughter, with a Christmas like quality to the air sometimes with people wondering what was going to be dragged out of the river next!!

I want to extend an HUGE thank you to all involved (majority shown here) for working so hard and managing to help in retrieving such an huge amount of rubbish from the Thames with little to no fuss, you were all A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

4pm and all divers out of the water, time to clean up, wash down the area, clear up and go home!  By 7pm Chris and I had put the last bit of equipment away and were shattered.

Time to go home and relax with a nice glass of red wine, until the next time, on your trolleys, get set, GO...  Kathy J
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