Mahatma Gandhi once observed, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” This perfectly encapsulates the essence of what volunteering can offer, it’s an impactful way to make the student experience a meaningful one. Volunteering can be a rich, diverse, and colourful opportunity for any individual that gets involved.
Preeti Bhat is a second-year medicine student at the University of Galway. She is currently volunteering with COPE Galway’s Homeless Service on their Street Outreach Support programme. This volunteering role supports staff when they engage with people who are rough sleeping in Galway City. The team links these individuals with relevant support services and provides food, refreshments, and essential items.
Ms Bhat shares, “I have thoroughly enjoyed volunteering for COPE Galway so far. I really enjoy going out there on the streets meeting and talking to folks that we are serving, understanding their life story better, what their lived experiences are like. It’s enjoyable forming that bond and that connection with people”
Even though finding time for extras as a student can be a difficult task, when it comes to volunteering you can fit it into your timetable- knowing whatever time you can give will be well spent.
Ms Bhat found that she could fit her role into her schedule: “Volunteering is one of those things you can put in as much or as little as you want in terms of your time commitments and tailor it as you go. You are going to get a positive experience either way and there’s always something good to come from volunteering.”
Ms Bhat says that as a student volunteering was a great way for her to branch out of her “academic bubble” and to experience new things and meet new people.
She says: “I really enjoy meeting the other volunteers on a week-to-week basis. We are all from different walks of life and backgrounds and that’s really cool. Being able to meet other people who are vastly different than you, that have a different perspective, but who are also very much like-minded in the sense that we are all there for the same purpose, to support people who are homeless.”
Volunteering has been proven to help your mental and even physical health, with studies showing that those who volunteer are linked with having lower mortality rates. It’s also seen to significantly reduce symptoms of depression. Volunteering can provide a chance to develop and learn current and new skills and it always looks well on a C.V., as experience and transferable skills are an invaluable asset for any profession you might pursue.
Ms Bhat describes how volunteering has allowed her to feel a sense of fulfilment. “Life is more than my academic pursuits or my career, I want a very holistic full-fledged life and I think one part of that is giving back and getting involved in the community.”
COPE Galway is a local organisation that believes in empowering people, creating change, and strengthening communities. They work with individuals and families across their homeless, domestic abuse and older people’s services. With around 200 volunteering roles, there is an opportunity for students to volunteer across all services, with any time you can give, and make a real difference in our community.
Volunteering offers so much, from meeting new people and experiencing new things to creating and being part of positive change in the community. With all that in mind it may just be worth a shot.