I had a lovely chat with Maria about her student-led project called DanceIt! and what it is like being a project leader.

Tell us little about yourself  

I'm Maria Gorovater, a third-year Geography student specialising in Human Geography.

Which project do you lead? Tell us a little about it.

So I am leading a project called DanceIt!, which is part of the Dance Society, and the project delivers dancing sessions to the elderly at the Holborn Community Association. We have been running the project through the Dance Society for a few years now, but we hadn't been able to deliver it because of the pandemic. I thought it would be an excellent idea to restart it this year, especially as the elderly have experienced so much social isolation during the pandemic.

Tell us about your Project Leader role.

So, a huge aspect of being a Project Leader is that I had to plan and organise the project and think about the project's aims and what impact we wanted to have on the community—also, thinking about how are we going to measure the impact, how to recruit volunteers, and how best to communicate with external organisations.

Why did you want to become a Project Leader?

I understand how lonely it can get for the elderly, especially through the pandemic, as they were not allowed to see each other. I thought this was unfair, and I felt like if there was just anything I could do to make them the tiniest bit happier, I should do it.

What difference do you feel you've made by leading your project?

I think we have helped fill an essential gap of providing an opportunity to get out of the house and do an activity with the same people from your community!

What impact has volunteering and leading a project had on you?

It makes me feel like anything is possible

When I am tired from university and dance rehearsals, it is so lovely to come into the project's dancing sessions and see how motivated the elderly are to want to keep dancing. It makes me feel like anything is possible.

This role has also given me so much responsibility, I have volunteers who rely on me, and I have the older people depending on me to do the dance sessions. It has made me develop my time management skills, emotional intelligence, and increased my responsibility.

How has your network developed while being a Project Leader?

I am liaising closely with Holborn Community Association, and I have gotten to know the Dance Society better. We are pretty close as a society anyway, but I have further strengthened the bonds with them as I regularly work with them on this project.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered? How did you overcome this challenge?

The biggest challenge was filling in the risk assessment, and it was the first time I was doing anything like that! There were loads of support from the Volunteering Service and the Dance Society President. I think how I overcame this challenge was to look at all the available resources, read the notes and think about every possible risk that could happen, no matter how unlikely it is.

Tell us something memorable that's happened to you while being a Project Leader?

Although we are cheering them on, in that first session, they were cheering us.

I think it was during the first session, I did not know what to expect, and I was worried about how the session was going to run, worried if the participants were going to find the dance too hard, and concerned for my volunteers as it was their first time running the session!

But, fifteen minutes in, the participants turned around to us, saying, 'guys enjoy it, we are enjoying it.’ I realised they enjoyed it, so I needed to stop worrying and enjoy it myself

 What is the best advice you would give to someone thinking about being a Project Leader?

The initial thing that comes to mind is to start early! Just because the setup and planning stages take quite a while. If you start later, you have way less time running the sessions, which is the most crucial bit.

Want to start your own Student-led Volunteering Project? Find out more and share your ideas with us here!