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27 June 2023

Planting the seed to support King's local communities

Abbie Russell, Volunteer Engagement Officer

As part of an initiative to give back to the local communities surrounding King’s, colleagues at the university are encouraged to spend up to three days volunteering using ‘Service Time’.

Stephanie wearing a white hat, kneeling down and gardening at Coin Street Neighbourhood's Community Garden.

To help more members of the King’s community identify volunteering opportunities King’s Volunteering launched a new online platform in June 2022. So far, more than 1,100 students and staff have already signed up to find volunteering roles.

One such colleague is Stephanie Lambeth from Student Services who, with a wealth of experience working for a Trade Union, at the National Union of Students (NUS), one of the Lottery Good Causes distributors and the Civil Service, has a passion for equality and the difference such organisations make to peoples’ lives in their fight to target inequalities at work. In the past, she’s also been appointed as an Equalities Rep and Union Learning Rep for Prospect, and is currently a Union Learning Rep for the King’s Unison Branch.

While browsing the new King’s Volunteering platform, Stephanie discovered Coin Street Neighbourhood’s gardening project, and decided to put herself forward to volunteer once a fortnight, using her King’s Service Time to do so.

“I’m really enjoying it! I love the South Bank area and being outdoors, being active and meeting new people. I already dabble in a bit of (amateur!) gardening in my spare time, so the opportunity really appealed to me. I started on a pretty chilly day in March and so it’s nice to feel the weather getting warmer!

“The garden, called Bernie Spain Gardens, is beautiful and well used by local residents and workers, and tourists. It has raised beds, veg, fruit, flowers, herbs and trees in abundance. Coin Street provide refreshments at the session, and everyone comes together for lunch afterwards using produce we harvested from the garden that day (my favourite was a spinach and feta pie).

“I have planted seeds and watered plants, removed weeds, and maintained the site with the help and support of the other volunteers. It is a very welcoming and friendly environment. This is just one of many projects run by Coin Street where they welcome help from volunteers.”

Stephanie wearing a blue hat standing in front of a raised garden bed at Coin Street Neighborhood's Community Garden.

Laura Reynolds, Community Participation Manager at Coin Street Neighbourhood, said volunteers make a “huge impact” to their programmes.

“We could not deliver the projects we do without the support of volunteers like Stephanie – each volunteer enriches the organisation with their own experiences, skills and knowledge.”

As well as its gardening project, Coin Street Neighbourhood also relies on volunteers for its tutoring sessions for young people and weekly wellbeing sessions for local older people. Most of the roles involve a mixture of providing practical support in delivering groups and getting to know and support local people.

In 2022, using her Service Time, Stephanie also volunteered with the Sustainable Merton’s ‘Community Fridge’, where she helped to re-distribute food that would otherwise be thrown away, to those in need. As part of this work, she gained a food hygiene qualification at the Community Fridge project – a good example of how volunteering can help you gain new skills and qualifications.

Service Time

Everyone employed by King’s can choose to spend up to three days (21 hours) per year doing voluntary work for another organisation or volunteering scheme, regardless of the role you have at King’s. The time you can take to volunteer is pro-rated if you work part-time. This can be volunteer work within the community or giving time to charitable organisations. More information about Service Time is available online (internal link).

Feeling inspired?

King’s Volunteering is your one-stop shop for discovering opportunities and building connections with people and organisations that are driving positive change in our local, national and international communities.

From one-off events to regular volunteering opportunities, there's something for everyone. Whether you are passionate about the environment, education or mental health, King’s Volunteering can connect you with an organisation and a cause that's right for you.

We all have our reasons to volunteer, whether it’s advocating for a social issue, gaining new skills, improving our wellbeing or meeting new people. Whatever your motivation, sign up to King’s Volunteering to connect, discover and make a difference.

Why volunteer?

Research shows that there are great benefits from volunteering (Stuart et al. 2020) which could include:

  • building relationships with the local community.
  • learning new or building on existing skills.
  • professional and personal development.
  • wellbeing, improving morale and physical and mental health.

Stuart, J., Kamerade, D., Connolly, S., Ellis Paine, A., Nichols, G. & Grotz, J. (2020). The impacts of volunteering on the subjective wellbeing of volunteers: A rapid evidence assessment. WhatWorks Centre for Wellbeing.