Gayle Higgott (Midwifery, 2017): “Volunteering was the most astonishing experience I’ve ever had. It challenged my thinking in life-changing ways. With University and alumni support, through Cascade, I led a group of midwives on a two-week trip to Greece to help Syrian, Kurdish and Iraqi refugees, specifically postnatal mums and their babies. We knew it might be harrowing inside the camps but, in the end, just getting there was a major achievement.
It was a unique situation. We were able to offer basic midwifery and held workshops to train other volunteers. You learn very quickly that it’s not about you, it’s about being flexible, open-minded and mucking in. I’m convinced that you can make an impact in a day, a week or a fortnight. Unless you do it yourself you will never know how life-enhancing an experience it can be.
I’m now a newly qualified midwife with a family and a career and, as I refocus on my own priorities, it’s tempting to just move on and put the experience behind me. But it’s stayed with me. I can’t physically be there but through this digital world we’ve kept in touch and we’ve continued fundraising. I know that one day I’ll do it again.
As a group of trainee midwives (I'm the one of the left in the photo above) we shared a very special experience which has changed all our lives for the better. I’ll never let go of this experience and it will never let go of me.”
Hugh Jaques (Chemistry, 2000): “I got a lot out of my time at University and was lucky enough to land a great job straight away with Mars Incorporated, where I’m now a strategic capability director. My journey from undergraduate to experienced business leader gave me a genuine sense of wanting to give something back.
I could have just written a cheque but that wasn’t enough. So I spent three years volunteering as a trustee board member with the Students’ Union. It was a two-way process and stretched my thinking constantly. There were lots of challenges, difficult conversations and contentious topics and it tested and developed my ability to cut through under pressure.
Emotionally, it reinforced how important it is to be a non-judgemental listener and respect the views of others and hearing perspectives rom industries and sectors outside my own was hugely enlightening.
There were turbulent views and major choices to make in my last year and helping the board navigate that time developed me as a leader. It was uncomfortable but I’m glad I got to experience the high pressure and urgency because those are the moments that shape you as a person.
It made me realise how important it is for me to work for an organisation that shares my values. One of my volunteering awakenings was seeing how such an agile organisation successfully negotiated a period of tremendous change. As a collective we made improvements around mental health provision, ethical investment policy and approved investment for new services in the Portland Building. I haven’t done any of that myself but being able to enable others to do it was fantastic.
Adding skills to your CV through volunteering is great but giving back gives you a feeling of satisfaction that’s hard to match. You should expect to learn and be challenged as much as you challenge and impart learning to others.”
If you're inspired you can join our amazing team of volunteers. View our latest opportunities at nott.ac.uk/givingtime
Words: Simon Harvey, Connect Staff Writer
One of life's story tellers. Lover of people and their narratives. Wonderer and wanderer. Journalist for more than 30 years and eternal defender of the written word.