My experience with social responsibility at The University of Manchester
Written by Catherine Riacha, a 3rd year Politics and International Relations student.
Despite that your course is (obviously) the most time-consuming part of your university experience, there’s so much more to explore during your time as a student at Manchester. With the University of Manchester being so keen on social responsibility and being awarded the Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community trophy by THE, there are loads of opportunities to be socially active through your extracurriculars.
Even though my Politics and International Relations course allowed me to dive deep into social responsibility issues by examining the intersectionality of ethics, sustainability, the economy and its impact on society, I craved to get actively involved with organisations outside of my studies that focused on human rights and social justice. In my second year of university, I decided to browse through the University’s Volunteer Hub – and saying that I was overwhelmed by the opportunities available is an understatement. There were so many volunteer projects, ranging from university-based ones, to ones with big national charities and non-governmental organisations. The volunteering causes were also extremely diverse – from sustainability projects and gardening to working with vulnerable people in mental health charities, migrants, older people, or volunteer positions aiming to tackle poverty and homelessness – the possibilities are truly endless.
In the end, I committed to a semester-long weekly volunteering placement at a Manchester-based charity called Migrant Support. The application process was very straightforward and volunteering hours were very flexible. After undergoing Adult Safeguarding Training and other checks, I was ready to begin my first shift – after which I knew volunteering was the best choice I made in my second year! Migrant Support is a charity offering free classes to migrants and asylum-seekers in areas, such as ESOL tutoring, careers advice, IT skills classes, conversation classes and other support! During my time there, I interacted with a group of about 15 migrants weekly through conversation classes, where I aimed to improve their English language skills, by simultaneously talking about services available to them in the city, including career support. The migrants I interacted with were all extremely lovely, which made it quite hard for me to leave at the end of my semester. They were all very passionate and eager to learn, and it was very satisfying to see their progress both in the language and in their confidence. Volunteering at Migrant Support opened my eyes to the struggles that migrants in the UK endure, both mental and bureaucratic, which also sparked my interest in pursuing that field as a potential career path. Throughout the process, not only did I make new friends and help vulnerable people, but also gained lots of experience and improved my communication and teamwork skills.
Another activity I actively pursued as part of my social responsibility journey, is becoming a committee member in the Amnesty International student group at the University. Amnesty International is one of the biggest global human rights organisations, aiming to end all forms of torture and ensure that the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are enjoyed by all. I applied for the Social Secretary role, as I was interested in coordinating all events, campaigns and social activities that we chose to pursue throughout the year. This allowed me to interact with the local Amnesty International organisation, as well as the Students’ Union’s Campaigns and Democracy Team. Within our society, we have organised multiple activities, such as craftivism sessions, movie screenings, stall exhibitions, letter-writing workshops and more!
Overall, the University and Students’ Union have allowed me to get involved in loads of extracurricular activities, which not only enabled me to participate in social causes I care about, but also significantly enhanced my university experience and time in Manchester!