2016 Press Releases

Students launch world’s first online volunteering portal

7 Dec 2016
Celebrating the launch of studentvolunteer.ie are Front row l-r: Breffni Gorman (Special Olympics Ireland), Dan Kiernan (UCD), Ciara Gaffney (Trinity College Dublin), Jenessa Scott (IT Tallaght), Lilly O’Mahony (Habitat for Humanity). Middle row l-r: Roisin O’Donovan (DIT), Darragh Moran (Maynooth University), Andrea Habenicht (UL), Suzanne Connolly (Barnardos). Back row l-r: Conor Doyle (TeenLine Ireland), Ann-Marie Bright (IT Tralee), Shane Gaughan (NUI Galway), Vito Moloney (DCU), Callum Petford (UCC).

UCC and nine other third level colleges have developed studentvolunteer.ie – a world-first, online resource which matches students’ interests with volunteering opportunities.  

Every year in Ireland thousands of students from the universities and institutes of technology carry out over 100,000 hours of volunteering.  The portal is the first of its kind globally and aims to enhance students’ awareness of their role and responsibility in solving challenges such as homelessness, social exclusion and our aging population.

“The voluntary work that I have completed over the past year with the UCC Cancer Society has taught me a number of things which I believe will be helpful in the future. Being able to work well with people, both in a team and in a client relationship, will be very useful in my career as I work with other people to make a positive change in communities and within families.” Aine McGrath, BA Early Childhood Studies UCC

Potential users include up to 100,847 (HEA 2015) students across all higher education institutions and up to 8,000 registered Civil Society Organisations. For charities such as Barnardos, TeenLine and Special Olympics Ireland and Habitat for Humanity, student volunteering is a vital component of their ongoing work:

Clare Cullen, Programme Support Officer, Habitat for Humanity Ireland

“Habitat for Humanity Ireland is delighted to be involved with the launch of Studentvolunteer.ie! It is a great platform on which to introduce our work to third level students, as well as a brilliant way to encourage volunteerism and active citizenship in general."

Shortlisted for the 2016 THINKTECH awards, studentvolunteer.ie has been developed under the umbrella of the Campus Engage Network based at the Irish Universities Association. There are currently 10 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) invested in the portal: UCC, NUI Galway, IT Tralee, UL, MU, Trinity, IT Tallaght, DCU, UCD and DIT. The online system is open to ALL Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), private colleges, VECs, etc.

Students at UCC can browse and apply for volunteering opportunities nationally or internationally; manage their profile and volunteering activity online; track volunteering hours; gain recognition and apply for volunteering awards.

The civic role and responsibility of colleges and their graduates is becoming a central issue in the global education discussion, with increasing pressure on institutions to demonstrate how higher education is adding value to society.

“By effectively using technology to make volunteering easier, Campus Engage is helping universities and institutes of technology to scale up this socially impactful enterprise.” Kate Morris, National Coordinator, Campus Engage, Irish Universities Association.

The value of volunteering is recognised by the United Nations who have designated December 5th as International Volunteer Day (IVD).  

Volunteering has numerous benefits for students and for society. Ireland’s new National Skills Strategy 2025 focuses on graduate attributes such as high-level cognitive, leadership, entrepreneurial, analytical and interpersonal skills. Volunteering is an excellent outlet for students to test, refine and put these skills into action. These skills are very much valued by employers:

“Through volunteering opportunities you meet and work with new people, expanding your network, something which is also extremely important when you move into a commercial role. As part of my current role I manage a team which interviews 3,300 graduates each year. Generally, it is graduates who portray extra-curricular experience on their CVs who impress and tend to be short-listed, this is also a common theme among employers.”Pádraig Haughney, UCC Alumni and now Regional Manager FDM Group

Evidence shows that getting out and volunteering can improve individual mental health and well-being. Volunteering is also an excellent pathway for international students in Ireland to integrate into their communities and make new friends.  Higher education institutions across the country are battling student retention. Getting involved in extracurricular activity on and off campus is proven to keep students in college. International volunteering cultivates core graduate attributes such as cultural awareness, languages and increased understanding of global social responsibility.

"At UCC we are very lucky to have very talented students and with talent comes responsibility.  We are proud of UCC students’ by the way they discharge this responsibility – through volunteering and giving back to society.  Students are naturally generous with their time in reaching out because they realise that they too get so much back from this volunteering.  Our campus and learning is so much the richer from engagement of our students and faculty with our communities- we learn together to solve some of the world’s biggest problems." Professor John O'Halloran, Vice President Teaching and Learning, UCC

Higher education institutions are now acknowledging students’ volunteering achievements on their academic transcripts or diploma supplements. Participating colleges are beginning to use studentvolunteer.ie to track their students’ volunteer hours so they can recognise their efforts at the end of the college year in Awards ceremonies such as the UCC Works Award.

The UCC Works Award, which appears on the student Diploma Supplement, is a personal skills development programme and demonstrates that students have engaged in, and developed professional skills through extra-curricular activities and work experience, all of which will help them to stand out from the crowd when applying for graduate roles and internships.  This University Skills Award can be received by participating in an approved activity in any of four pathways, one of which is volunteering.


Media: For more Information contact  Eleanor Donoghue, Employability Support Team/ Careers Information Manager, UCC, e.donoghue@ucc.ie, 021- 49003202  or Ruth Mc Donnell, Head of Media and PR, Office of Marketing and Communications, UCC mob 086-0468950


Additional information on www.studentvolunteer.ie

Campus Engage: Based at the Irish Universities Association, Campus Engage members, including universities and Dublin Institute of Technology, work at a national level to support all colleges to implement local and national policy on civic and community engagement, to address grand societal challenges. Engagement is considered the third pillar of higher education, alongside teaching and research. www.campusengage.ie

Dec 5th UN International Volunteer Day: The International Volunteer Day (IVD), on December 5th, was designated by the United Nations in 1985 as an international observance day to celebrate the power and potential of volunteerism.  United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to coordinate IVD. IVD is viewed as a unique chance for volunteers and organisations to celebrate their efforts, to share their values, and to promote their work amongst their communities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and United Nations agencies, government authorities, and the private sector. IVD 2016’s theme #GlobalApplause – give volunteers a hand, recognizes volunteers worldwide and all they do in making peace and sustainable development a reality.

The logo for studentvolunteer.ie was designed by DIT student Conor Grogan following a nationwide competition.

THINKTECH awards:  Finalists compete for access to an award fund of up to €750,000 in grants as well as support and mentoring to further develop their social innovation. THINKTECH initiative is run by Social Innovation Fund Ireland and funded by Google and Department of Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government.

UCC Student Case Studies in full:

The work that Habitat for Humanity has done in Zambia truly is outstanding. In the village of Ndola where we stayed and worked there was 200 families in need of houses and since 2006 Habitat for Humanity have been working constantly and continuously to ensure that this is done. Our houses came in as numbers 109 and 110. The whole village is transformed and it really was amazing to see this. The difference a home can make to a family’s life is really something else. We departed Dublin Airport with a mission and a goal to build a whole house from scratch. And that is what we did.

As part of Habitat for Humanity’s ethos, there is this thing called ‘sweat equity’ which involves future home owners and their families working for what their getting. This meant that the homeowner had to be onsite at all times while the house was being build. To me, this made it all the more rewarding. We got to work alongside him every day, talk to him and get to know him. We weren’t just building a house for people we had never met- we were building for someone we became friends with. He helped us and we helped him.  Sarah Cooke, UCC Student


“I personally have a great passion for working with young people, families and people in need. I hope to one day acquire a master in social work. The voluntary work that I have completed over the past year with the UCC Cancer Society has taught me a number of things which I believe will be helpful in the future. Being able to work well with people, both in a team and in a client relationship, will be very useful in my career as I work with other people to make a positive change in communities and within families. Along these lines, being so involved in college societies has greatly improved my interpersonal skills. Lastly, I learned a great deal from the committee members of the UCC Cancer Society as I observed them organizing and planning events and campaigns. I believe that this will help me in my current involvement in societies as well as in my future career.”

Áine McGrath, BA Early Childhood Studies UCC


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