Archive for the ‘Talking topics & opinion’ Category
Last week at vInspired, we had the pleasure of welcoming John-Paul Flintoff to speak at our regular Innovation Lunch. These lunches provide an important opportunity for vInspired staff to meet, learn from and be inspired by individuals who are using their skills and talents to make a difference.
At first glance, John-Paul’s credentials don’t mark him out as someone who wants to change the world. As an experienced journalist, writing for the Financial Times and Sunday Times among others, it’s easy to imagine Flintoff as a cynical old hack, with little interest in making a difference. However, it’s clear within minutes that Flintoff is different.
Indeed, it was precisely his own journalistic investigation into sweatshops in Manhattan that inspired him to learn how to make his own clothes – and then encourage others to do the same. ‘These days, we don’t make things, we just buy them,’ he explains – an approach which dulls our own sense of agency and our understanding of how clothes are made.
He shows off his attire, and explains how with the help of his Great Aunt Peggy, a YouTube group called ThreadBanger and a second-hand treadle sewing machine, he learnt how to cut patterns and sew his own shirts and jeans. The results are impressive and Flintoff is fiercely enthusiastic about the learning and discovery process that underpins his new hand-made wardrobe.
He explained how a network of friends, relatives, a local seamstress, a haberdashery and online resources helped him to perfect his art: ‘Every time I made a mistake, I thought YES, I’m one step closer to getting it right.’ And when you find out that he now grows hemp and nettles so that he can spin his own yarn to make Y-fronts, you can see how far he’s come.
Changing the world
Flintoff’s latest project is no less awe-inspiring – he’s out to change the world and to share his world-changing tips with others. He’s the first to acknowledge that it’s a pretty ambitious goal, and that anyone who says they want to change the world runs the risk of being laughed at – or at least perceived as a bit odd. But he’s steadfast in his view that we all have the creativity, resources and passion to make positive change happen. As Flintoff points out, ‘We all make history, all the time – through the infinitesimally small actions that we take (or don’t take) every day.’
We’re already change-makers, whether we know it or not, and Flintoff’s latest book, ‘How to change the world,’ is designed to help us direct our energies towards the things we most want to change. ‘Be clear about what needs fixing’ advises Flintoff – once you know precisely what the problem is, you’ll be better equipped to identify possible solutions.
He also encourages a step-by-step approach to making change happen, by crowd-sourcing ideas and solutions, cherry-picking your favourite ideas and taking action. ‘Don’t over-think the problem – it will become huge, alarming and too big to deal with,’ he explains. ‘Each step leads you further down the path of change, so start now and get on with it!’’
So, who cares if people laugh or think you’re a bit odd? You CAN change the world. Starting now!
John Paul Flintoff’s new book, ‘How to change the world’ is available now.
Priya Desai is a Speech Language Therapist and Children’s Author.
Here, she explains why children’s literacy is so important to her and why she wanted to get involved in Team v’s latest campaign to improve children’s literacy through the power of story-telling at a recent reading workshop run by Team v Harrow…
“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Dr Suess, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut
As this Dr Suess quote suggests; learning to read is empowering and takes a reader on a journey of discovery. In this day and age, where we have so many distractions; computer games, ipads, iphones. It is easy for reading practise and reading for pleasure to be sidelined.
There are SO many reasons for why learning to reading is essential and a skill which cannot be overlooked in a child’s early years. Books introduce a whole new world for children; one they can learn from, one they can enjoy.
As a child learns to read, they will learn new words and develop their own imagination skills, which will directly impact on their own writing and storytelling skills. Therefore, it is essential that parents and caregivers, support reading skill development and find the time to do so.
Learning to read is all about, “Practise, practise, practise”. Not only reading school books, but also signs on the road, words on packaging, headings on a newspaper. It’s all about trying; trying to recognise letters, familiar sound groups, familiar words, wherever you are in your environment.
I recently took part in a reading workshop run by Team V in Harrow. It was wonderful to meet the children that attended the workshop and hear about the stories they like to read. I read them one of my books, Jake Monkey-Tail; I enjoyed hearing each child’s responses to the story and also what part of the story they enjoyed the most.
This always interests me because whatever a child enjoys most is what they will take away with them, and this is what will then inspire them in the future. Perhaps when they need to write a story or perhaps, depending on the context of the story, when they need a boost of confidence in their own lives.
On hearing about Team V, I was immediately impressed by the initiative and hence keen to be involved and help out in any way. Patrick, who represents Team V Harrow, impressed me with his confidence and enthusiasm in supporting and encouraging the literacy needs of young children within his community.
The Team V volunteers are not only a caring and passionate group of individuals but also inspirational role models for their own peer group and younger children within their community.
Speech and Language Therapist and Children’s Author
Team v leaders have done an amazing job running reading and story-telling workshops all over the country, just like this one in London:
Year two of Team v is now open for recruitment – if you want to change the world, one brand-new campaign at a time. apply now!
Why do people volunteer? Or why should someone who’s never volunteered try it? The truth is, there isn’t one single convincing answer to this question. In fact there are hundreds, thousands, even millions of possible answers…
Volunteering is well and truly a product of relationships between people; their interests, passions and aspirations. And there are quite a few different types of those!
That’s why volunteering is so special: it reflects and celebrates such a diverse range of life. Speak to more than one volunteer and you’ll have more than one reason why people believe it was a worthwhile experience. And that’s pretty awesome if you ask us.
Here are a few of the most common benefits of volunteering. But seeing as everyone has their own unique reasons for giving their time, feel free to add your own personal examples in the comments section below….
To give something back
On a basic level, volunteering offers the chance to step back from our everyday lives, appreciate what we have and contribute back in whatever way we can to those who perhaps aren’t as fortunate.
Why not try….
To develop career prospects
Volunteering can do good for others – as well as yourself. So it’s a great way to build skills and experience to develop your career. If you’re not convinced, just read about the experience of Mark, who used volunteering to find a full-time job and take inspiration from our 5 reasons why volunteering can help you to establish a career.
Why not try…
Why not combine the good you can do through volunteering with the chance to explore the world and embark on an adventure in far-flung places? As explained in this blog a few weeks ago, volunteering overseas can be a truly life-changing experience.
Why not try…
To try new things & have fun!
If you think that volunteering is all work and no play – think again! Young people all over the country are using their passions to spread positivity to others, enjoy new once in a lifetime experiences and meet amazing new people along the way.
Why not try…
Festival volunteering - go to some of the UK’s hottest festivals for free!
These are just a few examples of the reasons why people volunteer. What’s yours? Tell us why volunteering has been a worthwhile experience for you in the comments below.
When I was a child my Mum used to shop in Elphicks, a family-run department store in Farnham. It had a particular fascination for me: because while shopping was boring, Elphicks had a couple of children’s sit-on toys. One was a well-loved stuffed animal of unidentified genus, while the other was a motorised horse. Stick in a coin, and this would lurch backwards and forwards in an alarming manner: an exciting prospect for an adventurous five-year-old. I would climb on, trying to look nonchalant, and hope that one day Mum might just dig out a coin as a reward for me being good. I was never good.
One day a kindly old man put some money in, and I was thrilled to be shaken around uncomfortably for a couple of minutes while Mum looked on with a slightly disapproving smile on her face. This was my first experience of a Random Act of Kindness, and I didn’t understand at the time why someone would be so nice to a total stranger.
People today are focused to the everyday grind of struggling against businesses that put profits above service, so it is a rare pleasure to confound their expectations by doing an unexpected favour.
If you are between 13 and 25 and feel kindly towards others, why not sign up as a Junction49er? Come up with an interesting project that will help your community and we can offer advice on Funding and Project Planning; and put you in touch with other Junction49ers – other young people who have completed similar projects. Your reward will be immense personal satisfaction, and you can apply for our v10, v50 and v100 volunteering awards.
To wet your appetite, this great film by Life Vest Inside shows how What Goes Around Comes Around. It never fails to make me well up.
C’mon then let’s get our marching boots on and hit the street cos today is INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY (IWD)!
I’d never really thought much about IWD before…up until 2005 that is. Suddenly I found myself marching on the streets of India wearing a baseball cap shouting catchy slogans about women’s rights.
I’m always one to get involved me. Shaking it to Beyonce may make me believe that I run the world (at least till the end of the song) but on that day I felt like I’d been kidnapped by a group of feministas and I didn’t want to go home… it was way too fun.
Volunteering in India
For three months I’d been volunteering with a small grassroots organisation in Tamil Nadu, South India. I’d been having a great time looking after children in one of their children’s homes, me playing games (hide and seek – my favourite) and them doing their homework. Just kidding, I helped out with English classes and general tasks…whatever needed to be done really.
The organisation also did a lot of outreach work – amazing stuff like supporting women and girls to set up small businesses, empowerment programmes for women experiencing domestic violence, as well as HIV and TB prevention work.
So what was the point of our rally on the 8th March 2005?
Many participants on the march experienced a double discrimination due to their poverty and gender and this was a chance to highlight their plight. There was seventeen year old Suganya who wanted to go to University but her family could only afford to send one child and so her brother was the preferred option. Then there was Venda a single mum ostracised by her community finding it impossible to get a job to support her family. And Rita, who worked with female survivors of domestic violence and wanted to inspire other women to stand up for change.
That day I took my hat off to everyone at the march; everyone wanting to celebrate the strengths of women and raise awareness of the gendered inequality that stubbornly persists worldwide.
Recent news items in the UK remind us of the vulnerability of young women in relation to domestic and sexual violence. As well as the news that women are still hugely under-represented in decision making roles in businesses and government; reminders of the progress that is still to be done.
Find out more and get involved
My 2005 IWD experience remains treasured in my memories, not only as an example of the wonderful people you meet whilst volunteering but only it opened my eyes to issues that I’d been aware of but never truly explored.
For those of us who aspire for a more equal world but are unsure where to start, taking small actions (including dancing your way through a IWD rally) can take you a long way. See the International Women’s Day website for some great resources and ideas on getting involved. Or keep an eye out for opportunities on vInspired – we’ve previously recruited women’s-related opportunities for Platform 51, Race for Life, Girl Guides and BRAC.
There’s no doubt about it – volunteering helps to develop new skills, make new contacts, and new friends. It’s a great way to make employers notice your CV. Here’s why volunteering is a real career kick-starter….
1. It boosts your confidence
Volunteering is a fun way of giving your confidence a big boost by trying new things. 92 per cent of young people who have volunteered through vInspired report they feel more confident as a result.
2. It builds employable skills
Volunteering improves core skills such as team work and communication, gives invaluable experience and makes connections with future employers. As a result, your CV and applications forms will stand out and show that you mean business – essential in the current job market.
3. You get a head start
Volunteering helps you get ahead in your career. Research shows that 72% of employers agree or strongly agree that volunteering can have a positive effect on an individual’s career progression.
3. It’s fun!
Aside from anything else, volunteering gives you a fantastic buzz and helps you decide what types of work you enjoy most. Volunteer in something you’re passionate about and you’ll get a lot more out of it. Not only that but it’s a great way to make new friends with people who share similar interests and aspirations
5. It’s a world of possibilities
Volunteering opportunities exist in almost every field of work – from working at film companies, to charities, events companies, or even abroad. Have a think about the kind of thing you want to do. Opportunities vary from one off, half-day things to virtually full time, 12 month activities. The list is almost endless. So what are you waiting for?!
In just 5 years, we’ve created over 1 million volunteering opportunities on vinspired.com, which can help you build valuable career skills. There’s going to be one just right for you. Simply enter your postcode and interests, and opportunities will appear straight away. Happy volunteering!
Recent statistics from UCAS have revealed that overall applications to universities are down by almost 9% nationwide and almost 10% in England.
While these percentages seem like small change, this drop represents approximately 45,000 individuals who have decided that university isn’t for them.
It’s perhaps not coincidental that this drop comes as the new academic year sees a major tuition fee hike from £3000 to £9000 per year. Interestingly, the demographic hardest hit is mature students.
Having worked for almost four years for the Principal at the University of Glasgow, I’ve seen first-hand how having a mix of people from all demographics and soci-economic backgrounds adds to the rich fabric of the University population.
So what has put them off? Is it that their ‘maturity’ has allowed them to better evaluate the forecasted debt that increased tuition fees might bring? Maybe. It could be any one of a number of reasons.
Most would agree that real ‘value’ for a mature student going to university is boosting their social mobility. With the cost providing a barrier, and for those looking for a change in their lives to re-train, learn new skills and better themselves – doesn’t volunteering hold a great alternative answer? I believe that it does.
It’s proven that prospective employers value volunteering as part of a CV; and that may bring some magic to a future UCAS application form too.
Of course we are a youth-led charity but that doesn’t mean that after 25, your volunteering life stops (I hope not anyway!). In Glasgow I volunteered at a special needs centre for young adults; a Centre one of my sisters attends as she is differently abled. I started volunteering there when I was 18 until I moved to London in July 2011.
Initially, my Business degree seemed immaterial compared to using my time to sit and talk to people- to interact with them. Or so I thought.
Endless presentations, tutorial talks and meeting new people at university had (without me actually realising at the time) enabled me with stronger confidence in talking and engaging with people. And I used my somewhat limited marketing and finance knowledge from Uni to assist the Centre in an application to secure funds for a mini-bus, and to publicise fundraising events.
If mature students are put off by rising fees but they long to re-train or bring something new to their lives, I say: try volunteering; try something different; try to help out. There isn’t anything that says just because you can’t afford the fees you can’t have education under another guise.
You may find, as I did, that education in the “school of life” can be best attained via a combination of meaningful volunteering and studying – as has been proven by the inspiring stories that have been shared during Student Volunteering Week.
And in some cases, volunteering may in the immediate-term at least, be the more valuable option available to you.
As a Volunteer Coordinator at Kingston University Students’ Union, Student Volunteering Week means two things to me. Firstly, I will drink a year’s worth of tea in one week for a much needed caffeine fix. Secondly, and much more importantly, I’ll get to meet many exciting new volunteers either at one of the special taster events we organise or just as a result of the extra buzz that having an official week brings to student volunteering.
My day-to-day job focuses on working with student volunteers and organisations to create that perfect match, which makes for a happy volunteer and a satisfied organisation.
Student Volunteering Week gives us the chance to pause from that, step back, and highlight some of the great things that Kingston’s student volunteers are currently up to.
It gets us extra attention from the university (including this year a shout out from the Vice Chancellor in his prestigious monthly newsletter), plenty of extra visitors to our blog and usually some local media coverage which the volunteers involved love.
As well as bigging up our current volunteers, we try and make it as easy as possible for new ones to get involved. Each year we organise different taster sessions which are always hugely popular.
Already volunteers have got together to give a new lease of life to a neglected nature trail and brightened up the kennels of rescued greyhounds at a local shelter with a fresh lick of paint.
Coming up we’ve got plenty of crafty happenings including bunting workshops on campus to jazz up local street parties over the summer, and a visit from charity Knit for Peace on Thursday.
These may only be taster sessions but they are often the first step for students to get started and realise that volunteering provides the perfect outlet from their studies, makes them feel good about helping others and looks great on a CV!
Lucy Kerrigan is Volunteer Co-ordinator at Kingston University Students’ Union
Today marks the beginning of Student Volunteering Week 2012, organised by Volunteering England. Currently in its 11th year, the campaign’s theme is Back to basics: community roots, turning the spotlight on informal volunteering and community action.
According to Volunteering England, 63% of students take part in some form of formal voluntary activity whilst at university and 95% of students who volunteer are driven to do so out of a desire to improve things or to help people - providing strong and positive links between themselves and their communities
Volunteering undoubtedly enhances employability, with 51% of recent graduates under 30 years old in paid work saying that volunteering helped them to secure a job.
Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, has said: “Young people should think seriously about volunteering. As well as offering them a great opportunity to develop new skills and give something back to their community, it’s also a way to get fantastic work experience for their CV. Student Volunteering Week 2012 is a great opportunity for young people to find out about how they can get involved.”
At vInspired, we think the free time you have between your studies offers the perfect opportunity to connect with your local community and build valuable experience to support future employability and career aspirations. We have loads of student or careers-related opportunities on vinspired.com, offering great ways of making a difference and gaining professional skills along the way.
The 2012 campaign is looking to engage with current and potential volunteers through social media to encourage more individuals and organisations to think about volunteering. You can keep updated with what Student Volunteering week and student volunteers have to say through the #svw2012 hashtag on Twitter or visiting Facebook.
For a full run-down of Student Volunteering Week events and activities, visit the Volunteering England website.
Are you a student volunteer? What benefits have you gained by giving your time to others during your studies? Share your experiences and views below.