Oxford Hub is a local charity with links to the University, and has a range of volunteering programmes that bring people in the city together. One example is the Together Neighbours programme (formerly “Practical Support”), which was set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This involves Oxford Hub members providing local people with support for everyday practical tasks, empowering the community to support one another on an ongoing basis.
Charlotte Morgan, a second-year French student at Keble College, shares her experiences as a member of the programme.
What does volunteering on the Together Neighbours programme involve?
“Being an Oxford Hub member on the Together Neighbours programme can involve anything from picking up and delivering shopping or prescriptions, to dog walking and topping up electricity metres for vulnerable people. Around halfway through term, I started volunteering, which involved me collecting and delivering shopping to a vulnerable person in Oxford each week. I did this for the rest of term and will hopefully be able to continue doing so when I am able to return to Oxford.”
“Volunteering is a great thing to do because it allows you to give back to the local community, and specifically play a role in helping those adversely affected by the pandemic. 2020 was undoubtedly a tough year for us all, but I think volunteering helps you realise how badly some people have been affected. On a more personal level, being involved in Together Neighbours has been a great way of keeping fit, as it involves me cycling to the shops to get the shopping and then cycling to the person’s house. Volunteering has also been a good way of getting out and doing something rewarding and positive.”
How have you managed your time around volunteering?
“I have not found managing my time around volunteering too difficult. Of course, last term there were perhaps less opportunities to socialise than during a usual term, which undoubtedly freed up some time in my schedule. Additionally, lockdown gave me some more spare time, since things I usually do regularly, such as play football, were halted. In general, I tend to try to plan ahead, ensuring that I know what I have to do in a given week and then plan my week accordingly. I also usually volunteered on a Friday or Saturday, which tend to be my quieter days of the week.”
What are the benefits of volunteering for you?
“I’ve found my experience with Together Neighbours very rewarding because it really does make a difference to the local community. Alongside this, it has enabled me to interact with people that I would not usually encounter in the so-called ‘Oxford bubble’. The experience has also been beneficial in maintaining my fitness levels and has allowed me to get out and engage in a different type of volunteering to what I’ve done previously.”
How have you found volunteering during a pandemic?
“Whilst non-remote volunteering during a pandemic may seem daunting at first, I have found it extremely enjoyable. Safety-wise, I have never felt unsafe volunteering, particularly because a lot of resources have been made available by the Oxford Hub, which offer advice and support, and you can send an email to one of the staff members if you have any questions or concerns. Moreover, since many volunteering opportunities have been moved online, it has been refreshing to still be able to do some in-person volunteering during the pandemic.”
Do you have any advice for those keen on volunteering during the pandemic?
“My advice to anyone considering getting involved with volunteering would simply be to go for it! It is a really great way to continue to get something valuable and enjoyable out of your student life at Oxford. There are so many different volunteering opportunities out there that are extremely worthwhile, so I would recommend doing some research and definitely giving volunteering a go.”
Together Neighbours will continue to run throughout the pandemic. If you would like to get involved, you can find out more and sign up on the Oxford Hub website. There are also remote volunteering opportunities available too, including Schools Plus, providing free 1:1 tutoring for local children and teenagers, and FELLOW, providing free support to those who would like to build up their English skills. If you have any questions, the team are happy to answer them; just drop a line to email@example.com