VOLUNTEERING ‘ICING ON CAKE’ FOR UNI STUDENTS

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Every year, hundreds of volunteers from Victoria University fan out in teams around Melbourne’s west to garden, paint, collect litter, or join the elderly, disabled, or school children in fun activities.

The University’s award-winning V4U Day draws VU volunteers from all study areas and all campuses, with the aim of building relationships between students, staff, and the local community.

This year’s V4U, held on 13 October, included projects that ranged from creating a ‘flash-choir’ of seniors to sing outside a local Bunnings, to helping children who live with disabilities enjoy a day of fun and sport at Whitten Oval.

Yavuz Yilmazoglu, an international community development postgraduate student, said his day as a volunteer at the Footscray Community Arts Centre offered a true team-building experience.

“V4U provides a chance to connect in such a short period of time – it was very rewarding.”

Now in its seventh year, V4U can also be seen as ‘icing on the cake’ for job-hunting university students.

Student volunteers receive credit toward student leadership qualifications through the V4U program, which has been nationally recognised for excellence by the Australian Association of Campus Activities.

While volunteering is a long established practice in American universities (where it is called ‘service learning’) the practise is much less common in Australia.

Here, many university students do volunteer work through internships or placements as part of their academic training, with an aim to develop their career skills.

However, Victoria University is possibly the only one that has a whole-of-university commitment to the local community, with the express purpose of simply ‘giving’ in an annual feel-good day.

V4U project manager Liz Mordaunt said V4U also connects the entire university community – past and present, students and staff – in a meaningful way.

Host organisations, for their part, benefit from V4U by having eager new volunteers for the day – some who may even turn into more permanent helpers.

Nic Gabb, education partnerships coordinator for Melbourne’s west at Ardoch Youth Foundation, said his volunteers-for-the-day impressed him with their skills and energy.

“It was an amazing opportunity; the volunteers were fantastic and some were very interested in becoming an Ardoch volunteer after their day with us.”

To get involved, email v4u@vu.edu.au

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