By Hugo Harris
It has been confirmed that students at Van Mildert have completed over 6,300 volunteering hours during the 2016/17 academic year.
Six student-led community outreach and volunteering schemes which rely on the support of 200 volunteers have contributed to the achievement.
They are the: Young Persons’ Project (YPP), Primary School Project (PSP), Carers Respite Committee (CRC), Community Visiting Scheme (CVS), Secure Centre Monitoring Scheme (SCMS), and Environmental Conservation Committee (ECC). The YPP began formally in 2002, whilst the PSP will be ten years old in 2018.
Notable fundraising initiatives have included Van Mildert’s JCR Executive Committee taking part in a Tough Mudder Race which raised over £2,000.
Van Mildert is unique for being the only college to have an Outreach Officer as part of the JCR Exec. The college was nominated for every category at the Durham University Volunteer Awards 2016 and won six awards including that for Outstanding Community Partner through the CRC.
Professor David Harper, Van Mildert’s Principal, has praised the college’s achievements: “There has been a very long tradition in outreach and volunteering in Van Mildert College.
Starting with prison visits and widening participation nearly 30 years ago, we now have six very different outreach programmes involving over 200 students and over 6,300 volunteering hours per year. We are one of the largest colleges but undoubtedly the one with the biggest heart.
“These programmes help the local community, provide Van Mildert students with experience in the volunteering sector, together with fundraising and leadership skills; and we hope they will retain this ethos (and the College motto sic vos non vobis) throughout their lives. We are so proud of our students, the work they do in local communities, in addition to their academic and other commitments. They do make a difference.”
Van Mildert’s schemes, which have a range of external partners across County Durham and the wider North East including primary and secondary schools, have also garnered praise from students themselves. A YPP volunteer told Palatinate:
“The project gave me a special opportunity to have a hugely positive influence on the lives of young people. I’ll never forget how much they individually developed and grew in confidence during the project”.
A former CRC volunteer spoke about the career and employability benefits of such schemes: “From online applications, to telephone and video interviews, right up to the assessment day, CRC gave me something unique to talk about and demonstrated a ‘can-do’ attitude that graduate employers desire.”
Photograph: Van Mildert