Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Volunteering - Benefits All Round!

Recently I attended a seminar by the Clore Social Leadership Programme. 2011 Chlore Social Fellow Laura Hyde, has worked in the student movement for a number of years and reported on the “Strengths of the Student Movement and its Relationship with the Voluntary Sector”. 
Preparations for the tea party

It quickly became apparent to me that what I have known to be true since starting my job as RUSU President, is now being expressed quite eloquently in her report.
She writes: “Students’ Unions are amazing organisations doing some excellent work, having a significant impact on individuals and wider society – they just need to tell more people!”
A truer statement has never been uttered. RUSU (and by ‘RUSU’ I don’t just mean the five Student Officers and RUSU staff. I mean the thousands of students who are engaged in a huge number of ways) is an amazing organisation.
I could use this blog to describe in vast amounts of detail, exactly what is great about everything we do, such as our advice service, our commercial services, our brand new lettings agency and, of course, our representative function. However, I am going to talk about volunteering as this is very fitting to the findings of Laura’s report.

RUSU runs a wide variety of volunteering opportunities for students. These provide you with the opportunity to get to know the area you live in, acquire key transferable skills and fundamentally enhance your university experience, whilst supporting and benefiting the local community. It is always a great pleasure for the Student Officers to talk about students’ involvement in volunteering when we meet with members of the local community.

Here is an outline of just a few of the great volunteering activities that RUSU has been involved with recently:
  • 708 students have signed up to receive a weekly volunteering newsletter updating them of new opportunities to build links with the community and develop personally. This is a 250% increase on the number of students signed up last year.
  • An amazing £4,342.09 was raised by RAG (Raising and Giving) in the first 9 weeks of this term.
  • 50 local elderly residents will be attending a Christmas tea party catered for by our Baking Society with decorations made by the Domestic Do It Yourself Society (RUDDIYS). Entertainment will also be provided by our very own Dance, Breakdance, Tap and Modern, Gospel, Music and Swing Dance Societies. This event is a great collaboration between volunteering and societies.
  • An on campus a 'Uni Bike,' bike hire scheme has launched with five bikes already having been hired out and new ones being donated from the local community.
  • The Baking Society have been cooking with the residents at the local 'Lakeside Care Home' every Wednesday afternoon during term.
  • The Community Choir has succesfully performed three concerts since September and will be celebrating its first anniversary in February 2013.
  • A Homework Club has been started at a local Primary school with an average of 10 children attending each week.
As you can see, RUSU is hugely benefitting the voluntary sector within Reading and the wider community and we encourage as many students as possible to take part in these and other exciting volunteering opportunities.

If you are looking to personally develop as well as make good friends and meet new people, please consider volunteering. We as a Students' Union will provide you with lots of support and you never know, you could even get to see yourself in the local press as has previously happened!

If you wish to find out more about the opportunities available, pop into the Student Activities Centre in the RUSU building.

James Fletcher
RUSU President

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Sexual Health Awareness Week Review

Last week we held RUSU’s first ever ‘Let’s Talk Sex,’ Sexual Health Awareness Week.

Generally speaking, students have a lot of sex – but not always safely – and for that reason it is incredibly important to keep an active check on sexual health. Unfortunately going to a sexual health clinic remains a taboo and this is one of the main things RUSU is attempting to change!
In an effort to tackle this stigma, RUSU attempted to break the world record for the most sexual health screenings carried out in 24 hours - the aim being to encourage people to come en masse, hopefully highlighting how simple getting tested really is!  In addition to asking individuals to get involved, we also encouraged competition between committees of JCRs, sports teams and societies by offering free Summer Ball tickets to the committee who got the most people to come and get tested. The competition got pretty fierce but in the end it was cheerleading who won and got an amazing 39 people tested!

After 24 hours the grand total tested was 528 people, smashing Surrey Union's record of 460.

We were over the moon with this result! The nurses at the clinic were also incredibly impressed and very surprised! (They thought we'd only get 50!) I hope this campaign has demonstrated how simple testing really is and emphasised the importance of having regular check-ups – it is recommended to do so every 6 months. Tests can be picked up from the clinic or university medical practice at any time.

Other events in the week included a sex ed. class run by ‘Sexpression UK’, a screening of ‘Philadelphia’ hosted by LGBT who also spent the week raising money for National Aids Trust (NAT), along with the RAG and RUBaking societies selling world aids day ribbons and cakes! Collectively they raised around £250!

Finally, the campaign culminated in the ‘Safe Sex Ball’ held on World Aids Day. We had some excellent Moulin Rouge d├ęcor (including a giant windmill!) and some class performances from the likes of UniTrash and Fleur. We had a great time on the night and a near sell out during Week 8 suggests we didn’t do too badly.

Thanks to everyone who was involved in the success of this week, particularly the Student Officers and Ben (our LGBT Part-time Officer) who really deserves a huge portion of the credit for any successes. Lastly, thanks to every person who came to an event, who got tested and who packed out 3sixty for the Safe Sex Ball. I’m really proud of what we achieved in this campaign; hopefully it will help trigger a change in attitudes towards sexual health at our university!

Happy Week 9, work hard and play safe!

Sophie Davies
VP Welfare and Representation