Monday, 28 October 2013

Putting your UNI into the CommUNIty

This week is the start of my very first campaign – putting the UNi into commUNIty.

We all know that we live in a community but do any of us know what that actually means as being part of a community can often be taken for granted. We all belong to a community and without interactions with other people and feeling part of something, people can be left feeling lonely.

As a campus based University, we live in our own campus community, but sometimes this means we can isolate ourselves from the wider community that we are a part of. The aim of my campaign is to raise awareness of why it is important to be part that wider community and celebrate the positive effects that students can have within it.

One of the main issues I will be focusing on throughout the week is recycling, but more specifically glass recycling. For second and third years living off campus I am 99% sure that glass bottles will be left to stack up in the back garden, kitchen or even as an ornamental feature in the living room, ready for a mass clear out at the end of term. I can be this sure as this is exactly what I did in both my second and third year, but not recycling glass can have a detrimental effect to the environment. One glass bottle can take over 1 million years to decompose in landfill, however glass is one of the very few materials that can recycled infinitely without losing strength, purity or quality and can therefore be remoulded into make new glass bottles. Not recycling glass (especially food jars) can also have unwanted consequences in your home. In my third year, I lived with all boys who clearly thought I would be a mother figure and would make the rubbish ‘disappear’. Unfortunately, I didn't take up this position, which resulted in having some very unwanted visitors.

With the University having a ‘no car’ policy and there being no real clear information about where the nearest bottle banks are, what are we supposed to do? By the end of my campaign I want to have made glass recycling easier for you. To do this, I will be asking you where you would like to see another glass bottle bank out of three possible destinations: Abbot Cook car park, College Arms car park, or in a location near the church opposite the Park area entrance. Once a place has been decided on, I will be lobbying the Council to provide us with another glass bottle bank. I will also be lobbying the University to provide us with a more centralised glass bottle bank on campus. I have already liaised with the University Halls, who have agreed that students living in the community are more than welcome to use the bottle banks situated in the Halls areas. This does of course still require you to transport the bottles, so every lunch time I will be handing out FREE glass recycling bags for you to use!!

Of course the week will not be solely dedicated to glass recycling. I will also be working with the People and Planet Society, to highlight the benefits of shopping at local businesses that source their items ethically. Using local shops is great for the community, as they usually stock different items and therefore add diversity amongst the franchised and multinational shops. Local shops also usually respond more quickly to the needs of local residents; they generate more jobs and they are proportionally more generous in their support for local charities, carnivals, schools and community events. So supporting local businesses means a financial return for our community. What’s more, shopping at ethical and Fairtrade stores shows support for the social movement, which aims to help producers in developing countries in creating better trading conditions and promoting sustainability. Therefore, on Tuesday (29th October) between 12.00pm-2pm, we are holding an Ethical Fayre in 3sixty, where the likes of Frock and Roll, the Oxfam bookshop, Oxfam Music, RISC and Lush will be attending, to show you why you should shop locally.

After BBC News recently reported on predictions, “that the UK's other major energy suppliers will raise prices after SSE announced an 8.2% increase in domestic bills.” it is more important than ever to be sustainable. Usually turning on the heating isn’t even discussed in a student house until it has been snowing for at least a week. However, this can cause terrible mould which could ultimately have a detrimental effect on your deposit. Heating does not have to be expensive, so on Thursday (31st October) we will be providing you with top tips on how to keep warm without having expensive bills, as well as other useful bits of information on how to make your house more green!

So as we all know, the clocks have now turned back and we have all had a much needed extra hour in bed! This does also mean however, we will be travelling home at 5.00pm in the pitch black. It’s therefore important to make sure that cyclists need to be seen, to avoid any unwanted collisions on campus and in the community. So what better way to kick start the week than with the 'bike man' coming on to campus to fix bikes for FREE! Come and find us outside Palmer between 11.00am-3.00pm to have any problems with your bikes to be fixed, pick up some reduced priced lights and D-locks and to also get your bike security checked, so if your bike ever gets stolen on campus you can find it again!

I hope to talk to as many of you as possible and I really hope you enjoy the week.

Help me put our UNI into the commUNIty.

Katy Ashford
Community and Development Officer

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

My Insight to Volunteering at Reading

Katy Ashford - Community & Development Officer
Statistics recently released by the Institute for Volunteering Research reveal that... ‘87% of employers think that volunteering can have a generally positive effect on career progression for people aged 16-25’

I think we can all agree that this is a statistic hard to ignore. I think it’s also safe to assume that we all come to University to increase our chances of getting employed, but the question is, what is going to make you stand out from the crowd? What’s going to give you that competitive edge?

Of course, your degree is central and it would be foolish to think that being a volunteer is going to guarantee you a job. But being seen as a volunteer tells potential employers about your character, your motivation, initiative, creativity and reliability. Volunteering will also provide you with a wealth of experiences to draw on in interviews - which hopefully illustrates why you're the best person for the job.

Let’s take two hypothetical English Language students (I chose this subject purely on the basis that I studied it) apply for the same graduate scheme at a large company. Both students have 2:1s, their applications show they have done some research into the company and they both sell themselves impeccably. The big difference is, one of the students demonstrates a much wider 'university experience': President of a sports club, Course Rep and Community Volunteer. It's a no brainer, it's obvious who gets the job! But I think the reason why I rave on so much about volunteering is the self satisfaction you can gain from it. Granted it might not be the ‘coolest’ activity you may ever participate in – when I was digging weeds in the snow at a local primary school after a somewhat latish night, there were several moments when I did contemplate my reasoning as to why I thought it would be a good idea. But seeing the final result, and knowing I helped create a memorial for parents that
some of the children had recently lost, I realised it was probably the ‘nicest’ activity I could ever be part of. I got the same feeling when I served food to a homeless man or just had a cup of tea and a chat with a local elderly resident.

RUSU offers so many different opportunities for you to get involved with - from picking vegetables in the Secret Garden to being a team leader in the Romanian challenge. Even if you think you might not be able to spare much time, there are loads of one-off opportunities to get involved in and it all starts with our Big Volunteering Weekend on the 12th and 13th October.

Come along and meet us at the very first Volunteering Fayre TODAY, 11.00am to 3.00pm or for more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch by emailing

I really hope to see you soon.

Best wishes,
Katy Ashford
RUSU Community and Development Officer