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How I used my King's Service Time: Ninian Schmeising-Barnes

King’s is committed to building a better world, which is why service is prioritised just as highly as education and research in the University’s mission. Every King’s staff member is entitled to three paid days off per year to spend volunteering with a local organisation or institution.

We’re speaking to colleagues from the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine about what they’ve done with their service time and what the opportunity has afforded them. Keep reading for an interview with Ninian Schmeising-Barnes, Research Assistant in the School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences, who volunteered with the Scouts during the Queen’s lying in state.

Ninian, why did you choose to volunteer with this particular organisation?

I was asked to volunteer my time to assist at the Queen’s lying in state where I acted as a Marshall for the 5 nights that the event took place at Westminster Palace. When I was asked, I felt like this was a really important thing to give my time to. I have been a scout since I was 10 years old and still run a group now. As the Queen was the patron of Scouts, it felt important for me to help others pay their respects.

Has volunteering taught you any valuable lessons? If so, what are they?

The volunteering I did involved night shifts (11pm-7am) which were very tough to say the least. This taught me a lot about my own resilience and ability to find the positives in less than ideal situations. It also taught me how much joy helping others can bring, even if you don’t feel joyful at the time. I definitely experienced a great sense of achievement and felt really happy to have helped so many people to pay their last respects to the Queen.

What do you gain from the experience?

I was enlightened by the camaraderie shown by those waiting in the famous queue, who were all from different backgrounds, classes and sometimes even countries(!) but who pulled together based on a common desire to show their respects to the late Queen. I also made some great friends with other volunteers who I am still in contact with, and great memories of cold, dark nights spent handing out blankets and water to people waiting 15+ hours along the embankment.

Ninian Schmeising-Barnes in Scouts Uniform at Westminster Abbey

What has volunteering taught you about community, giving back or yourself?

I think this experience taught me how great it feels to be part of a group of people who share the same passion for helping others. It was really great to meet likeminded individuals and surround myself with others that just wanted to help was a great way for me to reflect on my own values and how important it is to do whatever I can to help others in the community. I think it also taught me how resilient people are. Some people stood waiting for over 15 hours and to speak to them and hear their stories really inspired me.

Do you have any advice for colleagues who haven’t used their service time? How did your team respond to hearing about your experience?

I would say that if you have any ideas on how you’d like to use the time, even if they seem crazy, just ask. At first, I was nervous to ask to use the service time as I felt a bit cheeky, but my managers were really supportive and helped me to get everything sorted in quite a short time frame. As you can see this isn’t your typical volunteering, so I would say don’t be afraid to think outside the box and consider whacky ways that you can give back to the community.

My colleagues were nothing but supportive. They were all really excited to hear about my experience and were really impressed at what I’d done. I hope that me using my service time helped to inspired them to use theirs this year.

Finally, how important are volunteers to the organisation you support?

Scouts relies very heavily on volunteer support. We support thousands of young people every year to go on big adventures and to gain skills for life, but this relies on lots of very enthusiastic adult volunteers to make this happen. There are lots of different roles available, and they don’t all involve nightshifts (😝). There really is something for everyone, whether it’s going camping, helping with the books, or preparing for meetings with our young people. Like any charity, every single part is essential and without the wonderful volunteers it would be impossible to provide the young people with all the great experiences they get from Scouts.


Thank you Ninian!

Find out more

Visit the Service Time intranet page to learn more about utilising your service time. The time you can take to volunteer is pro-rated if you work at King’s part-time. If you have used your Service Time this year please record all volunteering hours with King's Volunteering online.

In this story

Ninian  Schmeising-Barnes

Ninian Schmeising-Barnes

Research Assistant

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