We have been offering volunteering opportunities within the BSc (Hons) Psychology programme for a number of years, and have rapidly expanded the number of organisations that we work with in the last four years. The placement opportunities offered in the second and third year provide students with work experience and helps them develop other practical skills that supplement and support the academic side of the programme. Hannah Rowlands recently published a guest blog (http://studentblogs.cardiffmet.ac.uk/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-third-year-psychology-student/ ) about her routines at Cardiff Met, which made us think it would be interesting to ask if she would write something more specific for us. Here is her blog about volunteering:
I chose to study psychology at Cardiff Met primarily because of it is applied nature. This course stood out to me as it allows its undergrads to develop a range of important employability skills. These skills are developed through the vast range of placement partners on offer!
Hence I chose to do the second year option Work, Volunteering and Placement module. Through this module I could apply for a range of placements Cardiff Met offers, such as placements in clinical settings to charity based community projects. There were so many to choose from and I was really unsure of which direction to head in but eventually I applied for Safer Wales Inclusive Service. This involved one-to-one and group sessions with a focus of encouraging positive lifestyle choices to the service users at risk of sexual exploitation. During the course of this placement I was given the opportunity to complete mentoring training. This consisted of a day’s workshop going thorough all aspects of mentoring, and afterwards we were expected to complete a booklet to evidence our understanding. These were then marked by our supervisors at Safer Wales and we were informed if we had passed the course. This helped me a lot on my placement when advising and mentoring the service users, and will aid me in the future on other projects.
The placement supervision consisted of the placement provider completing an assessment grid evaluating my personal employability skills. Additionally, I had to complete a placement incident report. The focus of this was to evaluate my response to an incident of my choice that occurred during the course of my placement. I had to justify the reasons for my behaviour and what I would do differently in future to respond to a similar situation.
Due to the rewarding nature of this placement I also applied for extra volunteering at Whitchurch Hospital through a charity called Student Volunteering Cardiff. Throughout the volunteering I worked with adults who had an acquired brain injury. This was a really interesting experience as working in a clinical setting allowed me to see the difficulties the patient’s face when having mental health issues.
As you can imagine both of these volunteering programmes helped me to develop many key skills, like working in a confidential manner in professional settings, understanding appropriate ways to communicate with both professionals and service users and my confidence and ability to lead activities with service users. These skills will prove important in my later career in psychology. With this in mind I would definitely recommended anyone to get involved in the amazing number of placement partners Cardiff Met has to offer. Not only will it help you develop important skills and be great experience for your CV, but most importantly it is really rewarding and helps you see psychology applied in the real world!
We think it is great that Hannah recognises how she is developing and building skills. The Module Leader, Alison Walker, added this:
Community based placements offer students the opportunity to apply their learning in a range of contexts and gain valuable experience for their CV, whilst at the same time learning about the issues that impact on the local community. The model used by the department means that students are supported through the application process and are provided with 1:1 support for their individualised assessments. It’s great to see how Hannah recognises how she has developed skills in professional contexts.
Much earlier this year I left the office late, and in the dark outside the Student Union was a small group of students standing in the mud behind a small desk glowing with the soft light of candles. This turned out to be STAR raising awareness of the plight of refugees entering the UK. I was impressed by their support for people trying to make sense of a new culture and helping them to adapt to the country that had hopefully provided them some security.
One of our first year students, Wasim Reza, was standing behind the desk that day, and he has written this blog about the important work of STAR:
Cardiff Met STAR (Student Action for Refugees) is a new society for this academic year. The Society is affiliated with a national charity called STAR in order to help welcome Refugees and Asylum seekers to the UK. STAR national aims to better the lives of Asylum seekers and Refugees in the UK, and they do this through campaigning and educating people about refugees and asylum seekers. STAR is made up of 13,000 student volunteers from over 30 universities from across the UK.
Cardiff Met STAR has held a number of fundraiser and awareness events over the past academic year, for example, a candlelit vigil highlighting how thousands of lives have been lost by refugees and asylum seekers who take an overseas route to Europe from Turkey and Libya in an attempt to flee conflict in their home country. The vigil was held on International Humanitarian Rights Day to emphasize and remind people that all humans have the same rights and that we cannot turn our backs simply because it’s not on our doorstep. Cardiff Met STAR has worked to change the sometimes negative view people in the UK hold towards refugees and asylum seekers by showing the film “Dirty Pretty Things” in which themes of both the humanity and exploitation of refugees are explored.
Cardiff Met STAR has also campaigned to make the routes to Europe safer for refugees and asylum seekers while they are traveling to safer countries by supporting petitions like “Safe Routes Save Lives,” which hopes to ensure that there are adequate search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. Cardiff Met STAR, in partnership with STAR, sent a petition to Downing Street on behalf of all the societies working with the national charity to gain the attention of the Prime Minister in order to try and make a difference in the lives of refugees and asylum seekers.
The Society helps refugees and asylum seekers improve their English Language skills by sponsoring an informal English conversation club held once a week at the Oasis Centre in Splott. The sessions are broken into two parts, both an hour each. In the first half, volunteers build rapport with the refugees and asylum seekers, getting to know them and their stories (where they have come from, what their cultures are and to explain other cultures to them). The second half focusses on a slightly more formal English class where the refugees and asylum seekers are in a classroom setting in which the they have the time and opportunity to practise their English. The English language club at the Oasis Centre has been a huge success and there have been more than 35 refugees and asylum seekers in the class. It can be a lot for volunteers at times, however it is a very friendly and supportive atmosphere and everyone encourages and helps each other.
Cardiff Met STAR is not just a society within the university as it has had a positive impact on the greater Cardiff community as well. It gives volunteers an opportunity to help refugees and asylum seekers in who may not have received this kind of support otherwise. For students who are not from Cardiff, it gives them an opportunity to get to know the city of Cardiff better and sometimes learn from the refugees and asylum seekers, some of whom have lived in Cardiff longer than the students. It is a learning experience for both parties, and volunteers go not just to teach but also to learn. Many of our volunteers have picked up a few words of other languages, such as Arabic, and it looks good on a CV as it improves skills such as communication, working with people from different cultures and backgrounds, teamwork and teaching skills.
In the new academic year, Cardiff Met STAR will continue the weekly English conversation club as well as holding events and socials in support of Refugees and Asylum seekers across the UK and beyond. We hope to see you next year!
STAR won the Cardiff Met Student Union Society Award this year for the best Contribution to the Community! This is a much-deserved award and recognition of the work put in by all the volunteers. Please do get involved!
In the spring term of 2012 the Department of Applied Psychology ran a volunteering fair for students. The idea was to bring in third sector organisations so that students could find out about different volunteering opportunities. It went well, and while chatting about it later someone had the idea that we could build on the fair by having a full day that would include information for each level, keynote speakers and, of course, the volunteering fair. At the end of February, we held our third undergraduate conference, with attendees from all years and the Foundation in Social Sciences Programme too. We seem to have come a long way in four years.
The day started at 1030 with around 300 delegates in the main hall. Dr Dan Heggs introduced the day, before a brief talk by careers, and then the keynote speaker, who had come all the way from Aberystwyth University. Saffron Passam talked about her doctoral research, looking at employability and identity. Saffron started with outlining a brief history of employability considering a shift in thinking from a focus on the unemployable, to the idea of a career and improving productivity as part of human capital, before introducing the idea of the protean worker who has choice, skills and is flexible. Saffron then talked about the findings from her research, looking at what employability means for students completing degrees. Saffron’s talk was an excellent way to start the day, with a focus on skills and how they can be seen but also as a way of thinking about how psychology can be used to understand and grasp complex issues. Saffron’s enthusiasm and care for her topic shone through, and that was really appreciated by all.
The year groups then went their different ways, for sessions that would help them prepare for the next level of the programme, and also to later meet volunteer partners over lunch at the fair. For students already volunteering it was an opportunity to see other areas of work, and for those considering where they might like to gain experience they could see a number of our partners. There was also an opportunity to find out about Erasmus exchanges and applied projects with partners.
The final session of the day included presentation from Rachel Roberts and Stuart Abbott about the Healthy University initiative, and was followed by the keynote talk by Dr Debbie Clayton entitled Psychology Isn’t Just About Reading Minds. These two showed how we all need to be able to recognise our skills, and to be able to work together to improve our environments. Debbie talked about COAL (http://www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/health/research/Pages/Center-for-Outdoor-Activities-and-Leisure.aspx) and her research in outdoor activity showing how outdoor and green exercise, linking how psychology students have the skills and knowledge appropriate for helping meet policy agendas for the Welsh Government’s Future Generations Act (http://gov.wales/topics/people-and-communities/people/future-generations-bill/future-generations-act-video/?lang=en).
Catherine Harrison from Career Development Services said ‘Being part of the conference and having an information stand at the employability event was a great way of meeting students, talking to them about work experience opportunities and making job applications.’
The presentations at the beginning and end of the day offered an opportunity to critically reflect on the purpose the day, programme and skills gained through it. As always, thanks need to go to Alison, Helen G., Nick, Leanne E., and Shamima, and staff and especially students for helping out on the day. We look forward now to next year!
This year is an exciting year in the Department of Applied Psychology as we witness the launch of the Psychological Literacy Award. The Department has shown a continued dedication to developing graduate level skills and attributes of our students:
We have become increasingly aware that many of our students are involved in activities outside of the academic BSc Programme that are enhancing their skills, for example:
We would like to be able to acknowledge students who are developing their practical capabilities and will be able to do this with the Psychological Literacy Award. The award is separate to the academic qualification of the Psychology BSc (Hons) Programme, but will allow students to develop a range of transferrable skills and practical knowledge about psychology that will enhance their understanding of the discipline.
For some time now the changing nature of the graduate work market has meant that students are under increasing pressure to demonstrate employment skills and psychology students are very well placed to meet the demands of the workplace. It has been acknowledged that “over the longer term, psychologically literate graduates will be able to demonstrate personal and social responsibility that will make them highly valued global citizens” (Mair, Taylor & Hulme, 2013, p. 15). According to McGovern and colleagues (2010) psychological literacy includes: having a critical knowledge of psychology, acting ethically, communicating effectively, taking an amiable skeptic approach to problem solving and applying psychological principles to the broader community. These are qualities and skills that psychology students have which will lead to successful careers. We know that many students are volunteering, enhancing research skills and applying psychological knowledge outside of the confines of the academic degree and we want to document this psychologically literate way of engaging with the world through the Psychological Literacy Award.
The main goal of the award is to recognise the practical and transferrable skills that psychology students apply to develop their professional and local communities. In order to meet the criteria for the Psychological Literacy Award you will need to complete and evidence the following:
- 24 credits from the Participant Panel to demonstrate an applied knowledge of psychological research methods and ethics
- 30 hours of volunteering to facilitate the development of interpersonal and employability skills
- Attendance at three relevant events (such as training courses or guest lectures) to develop discipline and professional
- Attendance at the Department of Applied Psychology Careers Conference to increase employability awareness
- Attendance at the Department of Applied Psychology Student Conference to enhance critical and creative thinking
All students currently enrolled on the Psychology BSc (Hons) Programme will be eligible to take part in the award and will receive a passport for evidencing their activities during induction activities.
Students completing the Psychological Literacy Award will also still be able to complete the Cardiff Met Award, as many of our psychology students have done in the past:
We have worked closely with the Students Union to ensure that the awards synchronise and students are able to use attendance at even
ts and volunteering hours for both awards (e.g. the 30 hours volunteering for the Psychological Literacy Award can contribute to the hours needed for the Cardiff Met Award). More details about the Cardiff Met Award can be found here:
The Psychological Literacy Award will be officially launched on Thursday October the 15th by Professor Tony Chapman, President and Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff Metropolitan University. More details of the launch event will be advertised closer to the time and tickets to the event can be collected from the Taught Programmes Office (D110).
If you would like to find out more about psychological literacy and the Psychological Literacy Award please follow us on Twitter: @PsychLiteracy
Students can also find out more about the Psychological Literacy Award via Moodle.
Summer, warmth and sunshine often feel far away at this time of year so we thought it would be a good time to catch up with one of our earlier guest bloggers. In June we caught up with Rhian and Banaeshia who were about to embark on a summer volunteering experience in Africa:
In this post we hear from Rhian about her life-changing experience in Africa:
What were your first impressions of Africa?
My first impressions of both Morocco and Ghana were of how crazy the drivers were! When I arrived in Morocco I was instantly hit by the beauty and culture of Marrakech. When we arrived in Ghana, however, we arrived late at night and were instantly welcomed by the intense humidity and rain. As it was the evening and dark I was only hit by the feeling of ‘I really am in Africa’ the next morning, I remember standing by the window for a long while just in awe of the little children running around outside our new volunteer home without any footwear, and the countless women passing carrying their belongings on their heads.
What was the accommodation and place like?
The Moroccan accommodation was lovely. In the heart of Marrakech’s medina, we were privileged to have running water, westernised toilets and nice beds. Even Wi-Fi and a terrace to sunbathe on after work! This traditional Moroccan home was called a ‘Riad’, shared with around 30 other volunteers. The Ghanaian accommodation was far less luxurious, no running water meant we had to rely on rain water for showers and working toilets, so if it didn’t rain, or if the rain water got dirty during storms, we just wouldn’t be able to shower. The rooms were damp and we had the odd mouse and lizard friend, but other than that it was completely fine. After seeing the ‘houses’ that the locals surrounding us were living in however, I honestly felt like I was living in a palace in comparison.
What was the support like?
In both countries the support was fabulous. In both houses we had an employed coordinator living on site, therefore, if we ever needed anything they were always there. They also welcomed us when we arrived, settled us in, explained everything to us and even took us to the local supermarket to pick up some essentials.
What was the work like?
In Morocco I mainly worked in orphanages in Marrakech and in Tamslot, an extremely poor region of Morocco about 1 hour from the city. We were based in a number of orphanages (specialising in babies, boys, girls and children with Down Syndrome) and moved from one to the other in shifts. We taught basic English (as the main language is French and Arabic) and the language barrier was so intense that we mainly just did arts and crafts and played countless amounts of games. We also took the children with Down Syndrome swimming one day which was amazing. We also conducted feeding programmes where we would all collect money and buy food for the homeless people living on the streets of the city.
In Ghana I was primarily teaching. In our first week we were based in a school; in the middle of nowhere in the centre of a massive cornfield! This school had only existed for 6 months, and so the children were virtually illiterate. The school relied solely on volunteers to run; therefore if we didn’t turn up the children would remain unschooled. This school was challenging as they hardly spoke any English and so it getting them to understand what we were teaching them was extremely hard. As they were not used to the schooling structure, the children were very strong-willed and found it difficult to concentrate and complete their work without thinking that they’d rather be doing something else. For this reason, we played mostly educational games with the children and taught them nursery rhymes. However, we did manage to teach the older children the English words for body parts. For the remainder of my time we moved to a different school (called Lisa Finlay) where the children were much more behaved and accepting of the schooling structure. Later, however we found out that this was sadly because the use of the cane was being enforced upon the children in the classrooms. Despite this unhappy form of discipline, we managed to teach quite advanced English, maths and science to our students (mostly children age 8-9). In this school we even managed to conduct a sports day for the children.
Was there anything that shocked you?
What mostly shocked me was obviously how different their lives were in comparison to ours here in the UK. I saw people without things that we Britain’s see as a right of life; things such as water, shelter and even simple items of clothing like shoes. Children in Morocco were mostly beggars which was so hard to see, especially when I thought back to my childhood of climbing trees, riding my bike and going home to a nice warm bed with a full tummy with a family that cared for me.
In Ghana, the poverty really hit me hard. I was so overwhelmed by it constantly, seeing malnourished children without clothes daily. Even more so, we were accustomed to have children in our class that were so ill (from malaria or whatever reason) that they even found it difficult to keep conscious during lessons. On Wednesdays in Ghana we’d all venture to different in-need tribes nearby and give them items such as water filters, soap, industrial sized bags of rice, biscuits and juice for the children, worming tablets and anything that we volunteers had brought over with us to give (such things as toys, clothes etc). Here we would get a clear insight to what everyday life was like for many. The tribes would welcomed us so warmly and offer so many things (such as whiskey shots!) that you would never imagine that they were so deprived. It shocked me how generous these people were when in reality they didn’t have enough things for themselves, let alone for strangers. One woman even offered us her home for the night so she could show me how she manages her crop!
What was your most memorable/ favourite moment?
My most memorable moment by far was meeting the group of children that I had bought health insurance for. While in Lisa Finlay school I got quite friendly with the headmaster, and he informed me that hardly any of the children had health insurance, and so when they get ill, they simply can’t afford to get it treated; this is how so many people die in Africa due to malaria.
Meeting them was an incredible experience as they were the most poor children of the school, but I couldn’t help notice how completely happy they were, which made me very emotional.
What do you feel that you have taken away from this experience?
Apart from the obvious things like lovely photos and great stories to tell, I definitely feel like I’ve taken something from this experienced that has changed me. I feel so privileged these days, for things like a loving family and a comfy home. I feel incredibly privileged for all the experiences I’ve had so far in my life, where in Ghana, the people there are unlikely to even venture to the neighbouring town in their life time, let alone cross continents as I have. After this experience, I now realise how insignificant most of my previous daily problems were; things such as not being able to go out as I didn’t have enough money etc. I have my health, and that’s more than enough for me to be grateful for.
I also now have a very colourful CV! Working in Africa enriched me with many skills that the UK could not (for example in the UK I never would have found the strength to nurse an unconscious child with malaria in the middle of a classroom).
Would you ever do something like this again?
I would definitely do something like this again… in fact I’m already planning to! Working in a country gives you far more than just simply going on holiday there ever could. Not just that, the good you see yourself doing every day makes you feel amazing. Even now I’m still overwhelmed by everything that’s happened to me this year. I’ve seen so much, done so much, and I honestly can’t wait to go do more of the same thing.
Last year, one of our students completed a volunteering placement with NewLink Wales. We have been delighted to learn that she has won the “ Working With Diverse Communities Award“ which was received at a ceremony earlier last month
Alison Walker, module leader for Work, Volunteering and Applied Psychology, heard from NewLink Wales, who described the award as being important as it “highlights the achievements that we have made through our positive work conducted with diverse communities. We wanted to acknowledge the impact that volunteers have made with being part of this work.
The winner of this award has used her initiative and skill set to strengthen her confidence in facilitating a female only youth dance group with our Czech 1-2 group, working closely with our Axis Young Person CEP Worker. The feedback has been wonderful and we want to thank her for all her achievements.”
We are very proud Akhil’s achievement, and knowing how well she had done, we had to ask her about her experience with NewLink:
After getting the news of being offered a volunteering placement at NewLink Wales, I felt very motivated but at the same time scared to jump into a totally new experience. At the beginning, I worked in several roles in order to have an overall view of the opportunities at NewLink. Eventually, I decided to volunteer for the NEW STEPS and the AXIS teams.
The NewSteps project (run with Recovery Cymru) is about building a community for adults in recovery of drug and/or alcohol problems. I mainly supported the art and craft group, which consisted in interacting with adults in a positive manner and giving them creative things to do and meaningful ways to spend their time. The group engaged in activities such as gardening in the allotments and DIY craft, including the mosaic project.
My role in this placement was to welcome new members, to make them feel at ease, and to explain the current projects that were running (like making a personal mosaic board) as well as to support them in general through listening to them and giving bits of advice.
As I am a crafty person this placement appealed to me straight away, but at the beginning I found it hard to initiate a conversation as most of clients were very shy and seemed barely approachable. Being aware of some of their problems made it even tougher as I was nervous to say anything that might trigger a negative reaction. I did gradually learn how to approach people and learned how to handle and support vulnerable people in an empathetic way.
The other project I volunteered with was the Axis project, which is about supporting vulnerable ethnic minority youth groups, such as Roma and Czech communities. Having no experience in working with young people before this role seemed quite appealing, as well as challenging, and therefore I opted for the placement.
The first sessions consisted of familiarizing myself with the youth club and the people going to it. This was a very challenging hurdle to overcome due to what I found to be rude and strange behaviours. I did feel very uncomfortable and so thoughts of quitting crossed my mind. However, I realised my fear of the unfamiliar environment and behaviours and decided to approach this with more confidence and patience. Progressively, I familiarized myself with the people there and helped them to understand that my role was to support them, and so I gradually built a certain status with them. My role in the placement was to offer support with any issues they were facing and to occupy them with fun and challenging activities, like helping them with English and English grammar.
My main objective of the placement was to create a dance group for girls only and to lead it on my own. In the youth club, girls are a minority and dominated by boys. The girls group allowed them to take part and to express themselves through dancing and gave us the opportunity to talk about things important to them, like about sexual health and drugs.
Throughout both placements, I have improved very useful personal skills (e.g responsibility, leadership, authority) but had to also help make sense of the professional context to the groups I worked with. Both placements were challenging, but provided me with insight and made me realize that I am capable of working in these sectors, which I would now consider in the future.
I am extremely overwhelmed for winning the award and would like to thank all the NewLink Wales staff for all the support and the very pleasant experience.
In this guest post we hear from another one of our students who spent their summer experiencing the life of a volunteer abroad. Phillip studied towards his BSc with us and is now completing his MSc in Health Psychology with us. During this time he has been an active ambassador for the university and has supported several student led projects; this summer however he decided to spread his wings a bit further and spent several weeks in India on a volunteering project:
At the beginning of the last academic year I knew I had to do something productive with my summer. As well as making it useful, I wanted it to be fun, exciting and not surprisingly, meaningful. So my mind landed on working abroad, which was something I hadn’t done before but had been thinking about before becoming a postgraduate. However, I didn’t know where what I wanted to go, I just knew that’s what I should do.
After looking into this, I finally landed on a work placement in India for 2 months through an organisation called AIESEC – the world’s largest student run organisation with a mantra of promoting global leadership and fostering cross cultural relations between students. I was to be hosted by students of the Indian School of Mines in the City of Dhanbad – one of India’s more prestigious engineering colleges in the ‘Coal Mining Capital city’.
The focus of my internship was promoting social entrepreneurship; I did not realise the full impact and importance of this idea in India until I was there; business solutions to India’s vast social problems is a widely appreciated approach. The company I worked with: Whiz Mantra Educational Solutions LTD– works with the communities surrounding Dhanbad through improving educational conditions; working with both parents and children in the villages.
As an intern my job was to assist the company director wherever possible on a day to day basis, which meant I often got to go to the sites of work and visit children at their schools or with their families. However the central part of my role was to lead a team for an event which would promote entrepreneurship among university students at the Indian School of Mines. The purpose of the event was to show students the benefits and scope for starting a business as opposed to just joining a company.
Among many duties this largely involved inviting guests and speakers, making arrangements for their stay in the city, and perhaps more dauntingly, attending meetings with large scale Indian companies with the hope of obtaining sponsorship for our event. Having this public relations and business experience was invaluable, as was being in another culture where everything from the business methods down to cultural etiquette forced me to face challenges head on. There were great personal rewards for doing this. After two months of working six days a week, the event was a complete success (but not without challenges of course!).
Reflecting on my two months in India, I can’t stress enough the significance of working abroad. It’s an opportunity to challenge yourself, gain valuable employability experience and greater perspective in a short amount of time. Not to mention it’s a lot of fun, especially if you don’t mind being away from comfortable surroundings for some time! But this isn’t something to be concerned about. I found myself to be surrounded by so many interesting things, sites and, of course, people so often that I was completely at ease.
For more information about AIESEC and what you can do, visit their website – http://www.aiesec.co.uk/. You can go anywhere the world and do pretty much anything. All you need to do is want to do it, be open, and you’ll be more than satisfied!
The following video is in Hindi, but provides a wonderful overview of the work that Phillip was involved with (as well as a cameo or two by Phillip):