By Rebecca Wilson, LCEH Volunteer
Throughout a student’s time at university we are reminded, every so often, that taking the time to volunteer would further enrich us and of course, our CV’s. Voluntary work helps develop ’employability skills’. Employers uphold voluntary work as a good sign in a potential employee.
Moreover, high levels of volunteering improve the public and ethical profile of the university. It is unfortunate, however, that so little focus is given to the altruistic purpose of volunteer work. A desire to empathise with those who are in need of help is partly what makes us human and it is implicitly discouraged unless it successfully accompanies our studies.
We are left with philanthropy as a means of guaranteeing ourselves a successful career.
By virtue of attending a university, we find ourselves as members of a student cohort, a ready-made community with the ability to show collective solidarity towards issues directly affecting members of the university; but also to people residing outside of our campuses.
The homelessness crisis in the UK is widespread, affecting all communities. In the last twelve months, there has been a noticeable increase in the numbers of rough sleepers across the country, a fact that will become evident to anyone who walks the streets at night in London. These people are not exceptional cases, they do not experience situations that students are immune to.
During our outreach work as part of The Labour Campaign to End Homelessness, we students speak to human beings who should be considered equal to everyone else, who have become homeless as a result of losing their jobs, family loss and breakdown, violence at home, mental illness and addiction. It is of absolutely no surprise that these factors are more often than not exacerbated by having no definitive residence or address.
It is not unusual for many of the people we feed, clothe and talk to during our evening outreach to tell us that we are the first people to approach them that day. They are often emotional about the simple prospect of conversation.
The skills we acquire by being students: our ability to communicate through varying platforms, to rally a large and diverse group of people, to fundraise through creative, innovative means MUST be used to benefit those who are otherwise forgotten by society.
Students are more than capable of being the change they want to see in the world. By going on outreach with The Labour Campaign to End Homelessness, we demonstrate to our peers of all backgrounds and opinions that eliminating the homelessness crisis is duty we all share. Talking directly with the very people experiencing homelessness further aids our ability to influence policy, challenging those who would rather plead ignorance to this humanitarian crisis.
For students, it should not be a consideration of how much money you are willing to spend. Rather, what matters is how much time and effort you are willing to afford to people other than yourself. To be apathetic towards injustice is unforgivable. Human rights are being infringed when people are considered outcasts of our society, when they are stolen from, verbally and physically abused, when they are hungry, thirsty, cold, sick, lonely.
Students are in a unique position to challenge that.