International Pen Pals
University of Limerick International Division
Every year in Ireland thousands of students from our universities and institutes of technology carry out over 100,000 hours of volunteering. Ten third level colleges have now joined forces to develop studentvolunteer.ie - a brand new online resource which matches students’ interests with volunteering opportunities. The portal is the first of its kind globally and aims to enhance students’ awareness of their role and responsibility in solving challenges such as homelessness, social exclusion and our ageing population.
“In our work for the Saint Vincent De Paul Society here at UCD, we know that we’ll never be able to solve the housing crisis or eliminate poverty in Ireland. What we can do, is make somebody’s day a little bit better. Volunteering is a great opportunity to make friends, it broadens your perspective on the world, and makes you appreciate what you have. It’s an opportunity to put a smile on someone’s face.” Dan Kieran, student, University College Dublin
Potential users include up to 100,847 (HEA 2015) students across all higher education institutions and up to 8,000 registered Civil Society Organisations. For charities such as Barnardos, Habitat for Humanity, TeenLine and Special Olympics Ireland, student volunteering is a vital component of their ongoing work:
“With over 3,000 registered volunteers under 25 years old, Special Olympics Ireland depend on the student volunteers among our younger supporters to assist with our fundraising activities and sustain our programmes through working in our clubs, helping at events and participating in committees at local and regional level”. Claire O'Connor, Volunteer Services Manager, Special Olympics Ireland
Shortlisted for the 2016 THINKTECH awards, studentvolunteer.ie has been developed under the umbrella of the Campus Engage Network based at the Irish Universities Association. There are currently 10 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) invested in the portal: UCD, NUI Galway, IT Tralee, UL, MU, Trinity, IT Tallaght, DCU, UCC and DIT. The online system is open to ALL Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), private colleges, VECs, etc.
Students can browse and apply for volunteering opportunities nationally or internationally; manage their profile and volunteering activity online; track volunteering hours; gain recognition and apply for volunteering awards.
The civic role and responsibility of colleges and their graduates is becoming a central issue in the global education discussion, with increasing pressure on institutions to demonstrate how higher education is adding value to society.
“By effectively using technology to make volunteering easier, Campus Engage is helping universities and institutes of technology to scale up this socially impactful enterprise.” Kate Morris, National Coordinator, Campus Engage, Irish Universities Association.
The value of volunteering is recognised by the United Nations who have designated December 5th as International Volunteer Day (IVD).
Volunteering has numerous benefits for students and for society. Ireland’s new National Skills Strategy 2025 focuses on graduate attributes such as high level cognitive, leadership, entrepreneurial, analytical and interpersonal skills. Volunteering is an excellent outlet for students to test, refine and put these skills into action. These skills are very much valued by employers:
"In an increasingly competitive employment market, when I review CV’s the selflessness of a volunteer can stand out like a beacon in a sea of self-interest. The functional expertise that a volunteer can learn in an organisation, offers a head start compared to others who start at the beginning when entering permanent employment for the first time.” Billy Norman, Customer Account Manager in Unilever
“Now that I’m working, the skills learnt as a volunteer are even more applicable to my work. My ability to listen to the needs of my clients and advise on solutions is what determines our success. On any given day, I meet people on sites, offices, even socially where they take my degree qualification as read but my ability to listen to what they want while less obvious, is just as important.” Andrew Halpin, Alumni, Institute of Technology Tallaght
Evidence shows that getting out and volunteering can improve individual mental health and well-being. Volunteering is also an excellent pathway for international students in Ireland to integrate into their communities and make new friends. Higher education institutions across the country are battling student retention. Getting involved in extracurricular activity on and off campus is proven to keep students in college. International volunteering cultivates core graduate attributes such as cultural awareness, languages and increased understanding of global social responsibility.
“Supporting students to engage with local community groups through volunteering is crucial to our aim of being embedded and relevant to the region and our local community. This platform allows students to maximise their involvement in volunteering, find roles that will serve their goals and be acknowledged and rewarded for their contribution.” Brian Norton, President, DIT
Higher education institutions are now acknowledging students’ volunteering achievements on their academic transcripts or diploma supplements. Participating colleges are beginning to use studentvolunteer.ie to track their students’ volunteer hours so they can recognise their efforts at the end of the college year in Awards ceremonies such as the President’s Civic Spirit Awards in IT Tralee or the President’s Volunteer Awards in UL:
“The President’s Volunteer Award ceremony is a very special occasion as it offers us a wonderful opportunity to recognise the voluntary contributions our students are making to the broader community. During this past academic year UL students contributed over 17,000 hours to volunteering work.” Professor Don Barry, President, University of Limerick
For more Information contact:
Kate Morris, National Coordinator, Campus Engage, Irish Universities Association, firstname.lastname@example.org, 086 8166490
Lia O’Sullivan, Communications Manager, Irish Universities Association, email@example.com, 01 7996022
Notes for Editors:
Group Shot Photo Caption:
Celebrating the launch of studentvolunteer.ie are; Front row l-r: Breffni Gorman (Special Olympics Ireland), Dan Kiernan (UCD), Ciara Gaffney (Trinity College Dublin), Jenessa Scott (IT Tallaght), Lilly O’Mahony (Habitat for Humanity). Middle row l-r: Roisin O’Donovan (DIT), Darragh Moran (Maynooth University), Andrea Habenicht (UL), Suzanne Connolly (Barnardos). Back row l-r: Conor Doyle (TeenLine Ireland), Ann-Marie Bright (IT Tralee), Shane Gaughan (NUI Galway), Vito Moloney (DCU), Callum Petford (UCC).
Campus Engage: Based at the Irish Universities Association, Campus Engage members, including universities and Dublin Institute of Technology, work at a national level to support all colleges to implement local and national policy on civic and community engagement, to address grand societal challenges. Engagement is considered the third pillar of higher education, alongside teaching and research. www.campusengage.ie
Dec 5th UN International Volunteer Day: The International Volunteer Day (IVD), on December 5th, was designated by the United Nations in 1985 as an international observance day to celebrate the power and potential of volunteerism. United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to coordinate IVD. IVD is viewed as a unique chance for volunteers and organisations to celebrate their efforts, to share their values, and to promote their work amongst their communities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and United Nations agencies, government authorities, and the private sector. IVD 2016’s theme #GlobalApplause – give volunteers a hand, recognizes volunteers worldwide and all they do in making peace and sustainable development a reality.
The logo for studentvolunteer.ie was designed by DIT student Conor Grogan following a nationwide competition.
THINKTECH awards: Finalists compete for access to an award fund of up to €750,000 in grants as well as support and mentoring to further develop their social innovation. THINKTECH initiative is run by Social Innovation Fund Ireland and funded by Google and Department of Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government.
StudentVolunteer.ie enables students to have the opportunity to: enrich your personal development and employability skills, have a fun experience, meet new people, and give back to your community. Sign up now.Register Now