Want to get out of your bubble a bit, increase your confidence and feel connected more to the world? Two students talk about how much they have grown in confidence and developed valuable skills through volunteering and the Edge Award.
“I was wanting to develop my confidence and social skills and my friend Jefferson suggested I take up volunteering through the Edge Award. Doing so has been a transformative experience,” says AUT business and communications student Ryan Chow.
It certainly has. Ryan has set up an AUT branch of the Student Volunteer Army, has founded the first ever NZ Youth Film Festival Competition and volunteered many hours at numerous other charities and organisations.
Yet when Ryan first signed up for the Edge Award, he felt daunted by the amount of volunteering hours required.
“I thought ‘No way! How would I ever get to that.’ But it isn't daunting at all.”
Edge Awarder Khooshi Patel (right) was also initially worried about the number of hours required but decided to take on the Edge Award to boost her profile and increase her interpersonal skills to improve her chances of finding employment.
“I had never done volunteering before and I thought it sounded like a boring chore,” says the oral health student.
A year later Khooshi has definitely changed her mind about volunteering. She is putting in a huge number of hours across 15 different organisations, including Auckland City Mission, and she's loving every minute of it.
“Yet I would have scoffed if you’d told me I’d do that when I started. I started enjoying it when I began to understand that volunteering is not just a ‘give’. You gain so much – diverse knowledge, skills, connections, friendships as well as that feel good feeling. It does feel amazing to give back.”
Khooshi started by volunteering for the New Zealand Olympic Committee. She didn’t know anyone but soon met people and began to enjoy herself and the experience.
“It was amazing to meet such a range of people, of all ages and backgrounds and work collaboratively in a team. I also enjoyed the warm feelings of giving back to the community.”
Ryan started volunteering for the Red Cross and continues to do so by helping support a refugee family.
“I learn so much from them. It helps you realise there are other worlds out there and helps me remember it is important to look at things from different angles.”
He has gained exponentially from his volunteering experiences. He volunteered at TEDx Auckland – initially as an event volunteer – but is now volunteering with the producer in the official team, utilising his degree by helping with media. It was about being in the right place at the right time and interacting with people around, he says.
While volunteering for the Auckland Student Volunteer Army (SVA) over lockdown, helping deliver groceries and doing flyer vaccination drops, Ryan decided it would be a good idea to start an AUT SVA club. In the first four weeks AUT SVA attracted 60 students – a number that continues to grow.
“We run events, do beach clean ups and grocery deliveries - all kinds of activities. It is an easy way to be introduced to volunteering,” explains Ryan (left).
Another event very close to his heart is the NZ Youth Film Festival Competition that he has set up from scratch. A first in New Zealand, it is aimed at 15–24-year-olds, is free to enter, and is designed to help new and emerging film makers build connections and a portfolio. The competition has him busy creating promotional material and looking for sponsorship and Ryan is relishing the challenge.
“But if I’d never started the Edge Award and picked up volunteering, I would never have developed the connections and confidence to be doing this.”
Ryan encourages students to see volunteering as a great way to do something to meet people while doing an activity, rather than sitting in a room.
“Volunteering is such a portal to opportunities.”
Khooshi agrees and encourages students to start volunteering through the Edge Award.
“Employability and Careers provides lots of information about where to volunteer so it is super easy to get involved. Make sure you find something that you enjoy – sustainability, conservation, event planning, healthcare, working with people with disabilities etc. Just do it once and trust me, you will not regret it!”
Contact Logan here to find out more about the AUT Edge and Beyond Awards.
Or visit the Employability Lab in WA202 on City Campus or find the award programme on line at elab.aut.ac.nz
Cover image: AUT SVA about to do a vaccination flyer drop
Written by Employability and Career writer Angela McCarthy