25 November 2020

The spirit and excitement of giving back to the community was evident at the University of East London's (UEL) first ever Virtual Volunteering Fair, drawing students who learned more about charity missions ranging from youth development, gender equality, caring for the elderly, food security and mental health.

The Virtual Volunteering Fair gave students an exciting opportunity to learn about different charities and build their networks. One organisation present at the fair was the Bookmark Reading Charity, which helps build reading confidence and skills for children through their six-week reading programme. The programme involves two 30-minute sessions each week with a child who needs extra support with their reading.

Student Violeta Barkauskaite said,

I think it's amazing what they do. I was very surprised to hear there are so many children that are struggling with reading. I'd like to help,"

           Violeta Barkauskaite, UEL student and volunteer, said.

Another popular charity among the attendees was Future Youth Zone, which 'gives young people somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to.' Future Youth Zone offers young people a safe and fun place to spend their free time and inspire young people to live healthier, happier, more aspirational lives. Raymond Lau, a volunteer and staff training manager at Future Youth Zone, noted that sports, music and cooking programmes are among some of the popular activities at the charity.

Due to Covid-19 regulations, the charity has had to adapt their programmes while still meeting the demands of young people.

Raymond said, "For example, under the cooking programme, we had to adapt to the situation by delivering cooking ingredients to the young people’s homes and move the cooking lessons online via Zoom."

Oluwatoyin Osuntuyi, a student interested in volunteering with Future Youth Zone, said there is a lot of negative news surrounding youth and crimes. He added that, "this reality can be reduced if youths are engaged from a young age, by giving them stability, so that they can focus on channelling their energies into positive activities and engagements."

The Felix Project's deputy volunteer coordinator Holly Kalra said the Virtual Volunteering Fair was impressive. The Felix Project works to fight hunger across London, taking otherwise good food that cannot be sold by supermarkets, farmers, wholesalers, restaurants etc and delivering it to charities that cook meals and prepare food parcels for vulnerable people, as well as primary schools to distribute to children and their families.

Other charities that were present at the Virtual Volunteering Fair included St Joseph’s Hospice, Quo Vadis Trust, Hestia, Institute of Imagination, Lauriston Lights, Newington Green, Prince's Trust, Royal Docks Learning and Activity Centre, Soroptimist International East London, Speak London, Literacy Pirates, Poplar Herca, Sphere Support, Streetlight UK, St Joseph’s Hospice, The Mix and Toynbee Hall.

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