My volunteering experience at UWE Bristol

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By Bailie, Occupational Psychology student.

Last August, I made the move from Los Angeles to Bristol. I had no friends or connections out here, so I was worried I might become isolated. At the start of term, I started volunteering and I got so much out of it, including new friends. Here is my experience of volunteering with UWE Bristol.

As I made my way through the sea of students at the UWE Bristol Fresher’s Fair, I found myself at a booth called Fusion. They connected me to METRO Church, where I volunteered almost every week. Spoiler alert, I met my best friends here, and it was the main reason I passed all my modules. But we’ll get to that in a second…

Volunteering was always something I felt like I should be doing, but I didn’t know where to go or who to ask. I thought that volunteering had to be extreme, like going on a 3 month mission to Uganda. I really undervalued helping people in my community and my church in small ways.

Volunteering at the Wild Goose Cafe

My perspective changed drastically when a group of us began volunteering at Wild Goose Cafe every Wednesday. Wild Goose Cafe is a charity that helps homeless people and those with addiction problems to access a multitude of services, from finding accommodation to applying for benefits. I played a very small role on Wednesday nights: providing hot meals as a food server.

You wouldn’t think that something so small could bring such a big reward. Being able to see people, who fight for their lives everyday, finally have a reason to smile because Chicken Tikka Masala is on the menu, is a feeling I cannot describe. It’s a feeling you truly have to experience for yourself. 

What volunteering taught me

As a Psychology major, I am always trying to learn more about people. Volunteering has educated me about people beyond my school or academia. I know this sounds cliche, but there’s so much more to a person than meets the eye. Serving food at Wild Goose Cafe helped me to understand people’s hearts.

In just a short couple of seconds, I was able to see who a person really was, instead of how they are usually seen by society: addicted, homeless, violent, destitute, to name a few. Who knew I would be dramatically changed as a person, all because I went to the UWE Bristol Fresher’s Fair. 

How volunteering helped me prepare for the future

As I now approach the “real world” and start looking for job opportunities, it’s easy for my complaining to start snowballing. Complaining that it’s too hard, or that it takes so much work, or that (where I’m at currently) I have no idea what I want to do.

I then imagine the faces that I served on Wednesday nights, and how privileged I am to even have the opportunity to look for a job. I have zero right to complain, and I am thankful that my experience at Wild Goose reminds me of that. 

The added benefits of volunteering

The friends I have made through METRO are my best friends. Being across the world, away from home and the people I grew up with, meant that I needed my METRO crowd more than ever. I needed these friends in many different ways, especially when it came to navigating what those across the pond call “university.” 

British education is considerably different from the American education I’m used to. My friends in Bristol helped to make sure I was disciplined and motivated in my studies. I can firmly say that without them, I wouldn’t be on track to graduate. Volunteering has given me perspective and provided me with a second family. I am forever grateful for that.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I’m saddened that my time in Bristol has been cut severely short. However, I’m thrilled for those Zoom calls and FaceTimes with my METRO friends that I always look forward to. Reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned and friends I’ve gained through volunteering reminds me just how lucky I was to be a food server. 

Find out more about volunteering at UWE Bristol.

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