Give back, get back

Easy, enjoyable ways to volunteer with college societies

Illustration by Megan Luddy

Getting involved with societies is integral to many students’ college life, however, for many of us, the thought of having to commit extra hours to clubs and societies, on top of our already hectic schedules, is one we really don’t need as we try to balance jobs , a social life and scraping that elusive 2:1 in our end of year exams.

After all, how many of us genuinely have the time to go through a lengthy Garda vetting process, volunteer training and commit to a weekly volunteer programme? These were exactly my own thoughts before I started doing a little bit of volunteering here and there with a college society. I quickly came to realise that volunteering with a college society can be no more of a sacrifice than giving up an extra hour in bed on a Monday morning or skipping one Netflix episode to go down to a local school to lend a helping hand.

The sheer range of volunteering opportunities on campus provide students with  flexibility we’ve never had before, allowing us to give back a little bit of ourselves to our community, whilst getting back much more than we put in.

Trinity VDP

Trinity’s branch of St Vincent de Paul, Trinity VDP is the largest society on campus, with more members than any other. Their myriad of activities can often be daunting to a first-time volunteer, with each seeming just as worthwhile and appealing as the next.

These activities include many orientated around children such as their renowned kids club and climbing club which takes place at Trinity’s very own climbing wall in the sports centre. Their other activities include those to help the homeless, teens and adults and intellectually disabled adults.

If you have a flair for performing the annual VDP panto is one certainly not to be missed. It features a mammoth cast made up of both society members and children from the Dublin area and combines volunteering with performance art.

Suas Trinity

Another well-known society on campus to offer volunteer programmes is Suas Trinity. This is where I personally discovered the ease and inclusivity of college volunteering and realised that there is so much more to university than reading lists and Turnitin.

Suas is, broadly speaking, an educational development charity and its aim is to bring about social change through education. It does this by running a variety of activities in disadvantaged schools in the Dublin area such as a paired-reading programme, homework clubs and their newest venture “Suas ar Scoil”, a workshop-based programme with transition year students set up by an ex-Suas Trinity member Chris Claffey.


Trinity Volunteer Tuition Programme

The steadily-growing Trinity Volunteer Tuition Programme society run similar types of programmes to both VDP and Suas with the aim of to know the children and teenagers they are working with while working together on homework and other educational activities.

The proximity to campus of their activities is a huge attraction to many volunteers with their main base being in the Pearse Street/ Ringsend area. This prime location makes giving up an hour week to nip just off campus and help a child out with their homework all the more feasible. This is surely one society that will be growing its volunteer base significantly over the next few years.

Volunteer Abroad

Of course, for the more adventurous volunteers amongst us there is always the option of spending the summer helping those less fortunate than ourselves in countries across the globe. Whilst admittedly many of these types of programmes have received bad publicity in recent years for the growth of the ‘voluntourism’ trend, Trinity still paves the way for all other universities in sustainable, effective volunteer abroad programmes.

The previously-mentioned society Suas is perhaps better known for its overseas programmes than its Dublin ones. Another society which is well-known on campus for facilitating these kind of volunteer programmes is AISEC. They offer programmes in a vast array of countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and Colombia, with the opportunity to travel after you’ve finished volunteering.

So next time you’re procrastinating in the library, spending hours on end checking your phone without getting a whole lot of tangible work done, consider spending just one of those hours a week volunteering with a college society. I guarantee you, as a former volunteering sceptic myself, that you will benefit from it just as much as those you are volunteering with.