Interview with… Emma-Jane Cowey, Durham University Student Volunteer
What projects do you currently work on with the Community Department?
I work with a homeless group on Tuesday, where we do various sports such as kickboxing, table tennis, street dance – which was awesome – and gym. A lot of the girls are really interested how to use the equipment properly, especially the rowing machine. Luckily a university rower taught me so I can show them to how to use it. Next week we’ll hopefully be doing trampolining. The clients respond really well to activities, but many require the motivation of mentors such as myself. The ages range from around fifteen to twenty five, all from differing backgrounds, and a lot find the sport gives them something to look forward to each week. Boys seem to enjoy the kick boxing most in particular, as it gives them a chance to put their physical energy to good use in a structured and safe environment.
I also work with DISC, a project aimed at helping young mums. Their children are cared for in a creche whilst they come to the gym. The creche is so vitally important for it means the children can be looked after whilst the mums have time to stay in shape. We also provide training programmes, so the mums can see their progress, as they are steadily able to lift more or exercise on one machine for longer. It is very rewarding for me, seeing how much they all enjoy it.
I also work with children under foster care, as part of the Collingwood College tutoring scheme. We do various team building activities, such as ‘farmers den’ and ‘frogs and lily pads’. Collingwood students are tutors, so we helped organise the activities, as they were busy getting involved. The children seemed to have great fun playing the games and smiles were aplenty.
When did you start doing Community work for Team Durham?
I began in the first term of my second year, which was October 2007. That year I did one activity every week, and now I do a couple every two weeks so it fits in better with my academic commitments.
What has doing Community work enabled you to do?
I have been first aid trained, and am a Level 1 qualifications as a coach in basketball, volleyball and athletics. I am also a Level 2 dodgeball coach. I have also been able to learn about safeguarding and protecting children, equity in coaching and valuing volunteers. I am also a trained netball umpire and am set to complete my Level 1 coaching course in trampolining this March. I may also learn to coach tennis and table tennis.
How important are these courses for your career?
Participating in such informative and comprehensive coaching courses help me improve my confidence for when I will undertake a placement as a physical education teacher in a school. I also need six coaching badges to pursue a PGCE in physical education, so they will be invaluable in developing my career.
How has volunteering changed your life at university?
It has opened my eyes to how peoples backgrounds can differ so greatly. At school I thought I’d encountered a variety of people, but I have come across so many more people here, most of whom had have difficulties in their upbringing, and its great to see them have fun through sport. I think more students should get involved, there are benefits for them as well as the children and adults involved. I’ve done kick-boxing, fencing and belly-dancing – sports and activities I’d of never had the chance to do otherwise. University is as much about the experience as the academic pursuits, and this has really broadened my Durham experience. It is so rewarding to see the people we help improve and respond to me as both a coach and mentor.
Interview with Tom Bigglestone, Student Volunteer and Media Scholar
Interview with Maxine Reeves - student volunteer and Alumni Scholar
How did you first become involved with voluntary work with Team Durham?
I was emailed about the opportunities on offer and thought I’d give it a go. I also found out about the position of Alumni scholar over email.
What have you been involved with since joining Team Durham Community?
I volunteered with the summer camps over in 2008, eventually staying on for three weeks helping the team organise and deliver their sessions.
What are you responsibilities as Alumni Scholar?
I set up the newsletter to send to all alumni, which details our successes. I also draft letters to alumni, letting them know how they can set up a membership, to keep in contact with each other. I plan the Bi-annual social events, as well as assisting in the organisation of the Alumni Sports Day in London. Our focus is to make the Alumni aware of how their former clubs are doing. We also enable them to be part of our fundraising plans, for many of them want to ensure current students enjoy the opportunities they were lucky enough to have.
How have these roles helped you develop personally?
I have certainly improved my communication skills, from my interpersonal approach to written correspondance. I have also developed my ability to manage people, and also working as a team to meet strict deadlines. It has made me more productive and has definitely increased my work ethic.
Do you believe voluntary work and your experience as a scholar has helped you in deciding on, and applying for, future job roles?
Yes, in the challenging job market one needs skills which are closely related to the job, and the ability to write well is essential to many positions I'm interested in. My confidence in producing correspondance has shot up, and certainly puts me in a better position than I was before.
What other things are you involved with at University?
As well as being a student volunteer and Alumni scholar, I am shop manager at Grey College, and also Social Secretary of Grey College Hocley Club. I am also part of the NUAS Air Squadron, where I am learning to pilot. I usually attend thos once a week at Newcaslte and Leeming Air base.
What have you enjoyed most from working as a Scholar?
What really stands out for me is getting recognition for my work. Sponsors of Team Durham were so impressed by my ideas they have expressed a desire to take up these ideas and use them on their website. To know people have taken inspiration from my proposals is fantastic.