Appeal to students after poor turnout at community volunteering event
Community leaders are keen to find out how students would like to get more involved in Jesmond life after only a few students attended a community volunteering event at the library last week – despite an increased advertising campaign to previous years, and the offer of beer and sausage rolls. The event, held in conjunction with Newcastle University Students’ Union’s Go Volunteer Scheme, aimed to get students into volunteering projects around Jesmond, but the number of students attending the event was low.
Wednesday’s event (November 8th) saw community groups including Keep Jesmond Clean, West Jesmond Primary Allotments and Jesmond Community Pool come together to promote future events and volunteer opportunities. Although advertised using social media, posters around Jesmond and by local councillors, most of the students who did attend were already engaged with the local community in some form.
Director of the Friends of Jesmond Library group, Chris Clarke, said more dialogue was needed between students and the local community, including advice from students about what they want from the Jesmond community and how they’d like to engage with the community.
“Students are obviously only here for a year or two, so they come in, and they’ve got their own lives and they go away again – you feel like you’ve never had an opportunity to meet any of them,” he said. “This [event] is just part of people’s efforts to try and make students feel at home.”
Despite the low turnout, Phil Hay – volunteer co-ordinator with Go Volunteer – insisted it wasn’t because students are disengaged with the wider community. In the last year the numbers of students wanting to help the homeless, refugees and asylum seekers has increased, but these projects are based in other areas of the city, “so a lot of students living in Jesmond are volunteering, just not in Jesmond”.
Hay agrees that there is some animosity between residents and students, but believes that there are possibilities to “develop projects which can help build better relationships between both groups…because Jesmond Library is at the heart of the local community, it has great potential to be a hub for future volunteering activities which can bring together local people of all ages.”
One such project being developed by Go Volunteer is a virtual reality project, led by students from varying degree disciplines. Their aim is to bridge the gap between old and young, and students and the community, by filming around Jesmond to create a VR exhibition for the community to attend and experience.
Second year geography student Kieran Moxon volunteers at Jesmond Library as part of his career development module with Newcastle University, completing 12 hours of volunteer work a week. He says he found last week’s event informative. “I didn’t really know any of this existed until tonight. There’s so much, but at uni you don’t really get told about any of it.”