Loughborough Students’ Action Group, which helps to inspire and harness the volunteering power of students from across Loughborough, is the latest Big Society Award winner. Last year they helped over 2,000 students to give something back to the local community around where they study.
Loughborough Students’ Action Group was set up in 1997 with a simple aim - to get as many students volunteering as possible. They offer a range of projects and levels of involvement, from one-off mass events like litter-picking or making-over a community centre to regular sessions like a weekly soup kitchen or going into schools to share the cultural diversity that attracting students from all over the world offers. Key achievements in the last academic year include:
- recruiting 2,303 volunteers who gave 19,000 hours of time which would be worth £120,000 at minimum wage
- fundraising over £70,000 to fund projects including kids’ camps
- running 36 regular projects and 150 one-off projects
A large part of Action’s success is due to their exploitation of good-natured rivalry between the 16 student halls in Loughborough. An Action representative in each hall encourages other students to get involved and a league table is kept to show how much time each hall has given - so far this year Harry French Hall is in the lead for the fourth year running with over 1190 hours of volunteering already undertaken. Action also find that once a student has taken part in a volunteering activity they are likely to stay involved and give more of their time.
Commenting on the award Prime Minister David Cameron said:
We have seen through the National Citizen Service that once someone has tried volunteering they are likely to carry on giving their time. That’s why the work Loughborough Students’ Action Group does in helping a whole generation of local students make their first steps in volunteering is so important. Their commitment to involving the whole student community including international students with the local community is fantastic.
By making volunteering the norm in their community Action has given thousands of hours of time to making a difference to local people and this Big Society Award recognises that. I hope they continue to inspire even more people to get involved.
Billy Marsh, Chair of Action said:
Winning this Big Society Award is indescribable - it’s something I’ve always believed in and I believe that Action embodies. There’s a hundred and one reasons why people volunteer but at the end of the day, we like to think that our volunteers do it because they genuinely care.
The vast majority of our volunteers come from further afield than Loughborough, but many like to treat it as their new home. With this kind of attitude, our volunteers make sure that this new home is one that they can be proud of whilst at the same time giving a little back to the place that has taken them in. To us, all of our students are superheroes, saving the world one project at a time.
Action were nominated for the Big Society Award by their local MP Nicky Morgan who has seen Action’s work first-hand attending a number of events and volunteering herself at their first Soup Kitchen project in October 2011.
Successful volunteering isn’t just about numbers for Action. They also have a real focus on building community links and particularly on making international students feel part of the local Loughborough community. When they recognised that international students weren’t volunteering because they were unsure of requirements like CRB checks and didn’t know how to get involved Action produced an International Students Volunteering Handbook. The year after the handbook was produced the number of international volunteers soared from 30 to 180 and currently 25% (472) of Action’s volunteers are from a non-UK background. Action have used the additional skills they bring to offer local schools and community groups to share information on cultures as diverse as Spain, India and China and share language skills with the community.