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USW students give almost a-year-and-a-half of voluntary time to South Wales community

Taylor Jones

Students gave the equivalent of almost a-year-and-a-half of full-time work to voluntary causes during the first year of a project organised by the University of South Wales (USW).

The University’s Civic Engagement Scheme was established in 2021 so students could gain valuable work experience with the voluntary sector, working in areas including conservation and the environment, care and social work, or the arts and cultural sectors.

Since being set up, the 138 USW students who have taken part in the scheme have carried out an average of 20 hours on volunteering opportunities with 125 different organisations – which is a total of 2,760 hours, or almost 74 average working weeks – close to a-year-and-a-half.

Organisers of the Community Engagement Scheme, which is part of a joint project with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), are looking for more organisations which may want to offer students the chance of taking on specific projects.

Dr Louise Bright, Director of Research & Business Engagement of USW, explained how the scheme works.

“At the University of South Wales, our vision is to change lives and our communities for the better,” Dr Bright said.

“We are proud to work in partnership with organisations to help improve the future well-being of the communities we serve, and our students are key to achieving these goals.

“The Civic Engagement Scheme supports our students to access voluntary opportunities which are mutually beneficial to them and to their hosts. The uptake of placement opportunities has exceeded our expectations and we have a growing number of organisations reaching out to engage in the scheme.”

The Pit Pony Sanctuary

MSc Management student Taylor Jones has been volunteering with the Pit Pony Sanctuary since February after seeing the opportunity advertised via USW’s Civic Engagement Scheme.

The Pit Pony Sanctuary and Fforest Uchaf Horse and Pony Rehabilitation Centre is close to USW’s Treforest Campus, and provides a safe haven for horses and ponies suffering from neglect, ignorance, or cruelty.

Taylor has been helping to increase the charity’s social media presence and followers in an effort to promote its work and increase much-needed donations.

Taylor has also supported the charity with fundraising and grant applications, working remotely and also spending a few hours at the charity each week.

Taylor’s motivation to volunteer stemmed from her need to keep busy, and of wanting to gain more work experience in a UK setting. She’s also an animal lover, so this was the perfect opportunity.

Taylor said: “I feel that my impact was positive, allowing the organisation to open new opportunities for funding and realising that social media can help to spread the word about their charity.”