Charity has a constant presence in St Andrews. Between balls, fashion shows and wine & cheese events, students have ample opportunity to socialise whilst helping local non-profit organizations. With the help of the St Andrews Voluntary Service (SVS), students can take one step further and become actively involved in the town’s charitable culture. SVS Convenor Julian Valladares explains that the organisation, previously a branch of the Christian Union and currently a subcommittee of the Students’ Association, seeks to welcome a wide variety of students and offer them the chance to volunteer in whatever area best fits their personality.
They have been successful so far: SVS receives nearly 200 applications every year. Applicants have the option to apply for up to five different projects across seven different categories: adults with additional needs, animals, befriending, elderly, environmental, youth and youth with additional needs. The committee’s goal is to match each applicant to the project that is best suited to his or her skills and interests.
Projects under the befriending category are perhaps the most demanding, as they require volunteers to develop friendships with local St Andreans in need of support. Volunteers who prefer working with animals can travel to Dundee (with transportation costs covered by SVS) for sessions at a newly opened cat shelter. Volunteers involved with environmental causes can tend to the Cambo Estate’s garden as part of their service. The most popular category is youth-oriented volunteering. Many students assigned to this area volunteer everywhere from Madras to the Dairsie Youth Club. Need for volunteers is abundant, so the committee is in the lucky position to accept every application they receive.
Mr Valladares, aided by SAS’ marvellously designed website, explained that no matter where a prospective volunteer’s interest lies, SVS can give them a venue to exercise that passion. Be it ice skating alongside wheelchair-bound adults or working in St Andrews Botanic Gardens, every potential project appears compelling and unique. Time commitments are flexible; ranging from weekly to bi-weekly to monthly to even one- off sessions, permitting volunteers to maintain their personal schedules while also assisting others.
Lest prospective volunteers fear their work going unappreciated, SVS collaborates with the Union to ensure recognition. Students can log their hours onto the Union’s website to receive thanks and laudations. If 300 hours are logged over the course of a university career, a special commendation will appear on that student’s final transcript. Volunteers may also register for the Saltire Award, which offers a variety of prestigious awards to the most deserving few volunteers. Furthermore, the training provided by the large array of projects is beneficial to an assortment of students. Those who seek to make a career in charity would do well to involve themselves in the administrative side of SVS, while others, such as psychology students for example, may volunteer at nearby psychiatric hospitals for hands-on experience with those affected by mental illness.
Every fully matriculated student at the University of St Andrews is an automatic member of SVS. Anyone, from any year and with any amount of prior experience, can apply to ongoing projects or one-off events with a guarantee of receiving some sort of placement. SVS’s inclusivity and diversity enables it to embody an ideal platform for students, undergrad and postgrad alike, to participate in the very charities they support every time they buy a ball ticket. According to its website: “The SVS exists to facilitate your volunteer experience by matching you with local organisations, refunding transportation expense and supporting you with anything you might need along the way.” All St Andreans are encouraged to visit the SVS website, www.yoursvs.org.uk, to keep abreast of further volunteering opportunities.
The SVS holds office hours on Wednesday and Friday in the main union bar from 1pm to 2pm. You can also find them on Facebook.