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Shining a spotlight on volunteering at Durham

Durham inspires      
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Whether you’re thinking about volunteering in 2024, or are just curious about the opportunities available, now is a great time to consider how you could get involved.  

As outlined in our University Strategy 2017-2027, we have a long-term commitment to volunteering, which has a positive impact on the City of Durham and our wider community.

Our volunteering scheme enables colleagues to volunteer for up to five days (or 35 hours) a year during work time. You can choose to volunteer on a variety of activities, either individually or as part of a team. From being a School Governor to practical volunteering support such as beach cleaning, there's an opportunity to suit everyone. 

Katie Binks, Volunteering and Community Partnership Senior Manager, Quentin Sloper, Director of Student Enrichment Directorate and Stacy Porter Staff Volunteering Coordinator, are pictured at the awards ceremony.
Katie Binks, Volunteering and Community Partnership Senior Manager, Quentin Sloper, Director of Student Enrichment Directorate and Stacy Porter Staff Volunteering Coordinator, are pictured at the awards ceremony.

Our 2023 volunteering achievements

In 2023 alone, 1,964 staff and students volunteered over 22,800 hours to support our wider community.

Our staff and students have gone above and beyond to raise funds, complete collections, and give their time to over 70 charities like Feeding Families, Foodbank and Stray Aid, along with hours of support for schools and children’s services.

Colleagues have taken part in 27 beach cleans, collecting over 190 bags of rubbish from five local beaches. 1,300 students have volunteered 17,000 hours across student-led projects, community partner opportunities and community events. 

The commendable volunteering efforts of our staff and students have been honoured in the 2023 County Durham Together Awards.

The Awards are held each year in partnership with Durham County Council, shining a spotlight on some of the inspirational, selfless, dedicated people who go the extra mile in our local community. Durham was awarded the title of Business of the Year for its Volunteering and Outreach programme, which actively promotes volunteering in our local community.

Congratulations to everyone involved!

Colleagues at a beach clean
Colleagues at a beach clean

35 years of volunteering Durham

This year we are celebrating 35 years of volunteering at the University.

The anniversary celebrations will launch on Wednesday 17 January 2024 at the annual volunteering fair held at the Palatine Centre and will involve our community partners. 

The fair is a fantastic opportunity to showcase all our volunteering opportunities and will be followed by a ‘celebrating collaboration’ event.

As part of celebrating 35 years of volunteering at the University, an exhibition on the history of volunteering at Durham will be displayed outside Bill Bryson Library later in the year.

Look out for further details about the exhibition and celebration events throughout the year on the Durham University Volunteering SharePoint site.

Helping in the community

Through our Staff Volunteering Scheme, volunteers have been able to further their passion for helping in the community.

We spoke to Paula Willerton in our Finance Department about the volunteering projects she has been involved in.

Paula, why do you volunteer and what projects have you supported?

My journey started by volunteering independently from the University in the kitchen at the Re-F-Use café in Chester-Le-Street most Saturday mornings. I absolutely loved it. I quickly became the toast and egg frying queen then advancing to Yorkshire puddings which I was told were awesome!

Working alongside all sorts of characters before attending foodbank sessions advertised through the University, I later realised they supported the Café and wanted to discover what they did and what it was all about.

Two years of volunteering later, I’ve never looked back. 

I currently offer monthly sessions at Durham Foodbank and one-off sessions with Stray Aid Dogs, Daisy Chain, Beyond Limits, Stockton Road Cemetery, beach cleans and making festive crafts.

Hey, if the Chief Financial Officer can get involved at the foodbank, why can’t you?

What was your best volunteering experience at Durham to-date?

This is a question with many answers and it’s difficult to choose just one as they all offer something different. I’m going to choose the foodbank sessions, making up emergency food boxes, sorting through food donations, checking, and organising into monthly expiry dates to name a few. Why? Well, once shown the ropes, you’re trusted to deliver the many various tasks all of which help the local community, reduces food waste, and helps people who may be less fortunate.

It provides escapism from a busy working day, an opportunity to meet other people, a bit of therapy and just helps to give something back without getting anything in return - apart from accomplishment, camaraderie and satisfaction that my time has been well spent. What more do you need!

What advice would you give to colleagues who don’t regularly volunteer?

Just try it. Doing something different can be daunting the first time especially if you don’t know anyone else, but you soon will. Once you’ve tried, I’d be surprised if you don’t volunteer for more! The sense of achievement from doing something for those less fortunate than yourself is very satisfying.

If you’re unsure, speak to colleagues that have previously volunteered and ask them what they thought. I’m sure they will encourage you to give it a go.

Don’t forget Durham allocates you 35 hours towards volunteering a year, that’s 35 hours of fun with friends. What’s stopping you?

Staff volunteering facts and figures

From 1 October 2022 – 30 September 2023:

  • 9,051 volunteering hours spent.
  • 540 new members of staff signed up to the scheme.
  • 667 active volunteers.
  • 106 team challenges completed.



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