We had an exciting chat with Clementine Bachelart, a second year undergraduate in Philosophy, Politics and Economics with Social Data Science, about her volunteering. She was a part of the UCLef quartet that brought smiles to faces with their lovely tunes and Training Link.

Tell us a little about your volunteering

Between January and June last year, I took on the role of an English Tutor over Zoom as part of the Adult Literacy Project at Training Link. I would have to prep for the lessons and hosted an hour-long session once or twice every week.

This year, I joined a Student-Led Project, UCLef. We created a quartet to go to charities and play for the people there. I play the viola and we put up concerts both online and in-person. We rehearse every week for around 3-4 hours and had our first in-person concert at a retirement home last December. I felt overjoyed when the elderly folk asked us to come back!

How did you find out about the role?

I used the Volunteering Directory to find both roles. I was interested in volunteering and found out about the Adult Literacy Project and UCLef while browsing.

Why did you want to become a volunteer?

Since the beginning of High School, I've played an active part in different volunteering opportunities that came up. I used to tutor children in a youth organisation and found that it was so enriching to help. Volunteering with them taught me how to adapt to situations and understand people better. I wanted to carry this on at university and thought the Adult Literacy Project was a nice transition into volunteering in London.

During music classes back at High School, we would sometimes go to retirement homes, nurseries or hospitals and play for them. So seeing an opportunity to continue that spirit with UCLef was great!

What difference do you feel you’ve made by volunteering?

I tutored a Sri Lankan woman in English and while there was no drastic improvement in her language, she visibly became a lot more confident over time and more importantly, was grateful to have someone who listened. This gave me an immense sense of self-satisfaction. Having one-to-one sessions helped her as well since she did find it hard to concentrate.

UCLef was a unique way of bringing something different to people. Seeing how much the audience enjoyed our music, made us feel so happy. Some of them even knew music and played instruments so our concert took them back in time.

What impact has volunteering had on you?

Volunteering tends to bring small changes that may not seem noticeable at first but helps you grow as a person. In terms of soft skills, I learnt quite a lot.When teaching, you must be agile and adapt to situations quickly. It is also important to understand the perspective of the other person. A teaching role really trains you to be attentive and empathise with others.

Volunteering tends to bring small changes that may not seem noticeable at first but helps you grow as a person. In terms of soft skills, I learnt quite a lot.

I really enjoyed playing in a quartet and it was nice to play in an ensemble again after a long time. We did not have a teacher, so we taught each other which was a new experience! As you can imagine, it involved a lot of listening.

What’s the best thing about volunteering? 

Realising that you’re doing something for other people and seeing how it benefits them. Volunteering gives a lot of joy since you are taking out time to see what you can bring to someone else’s day. This could be something as small as a smile or a thank you, but you leave them feeling so much better.

And the most challenging? How did you overcome the challenges? 

Since my mentee had a problem concentrating at times and a tendency to forget what we learnt, it was a bit challenging at times. I would often have to repeat topics that obviously seemed easy to me. After a while, I really started doubting whether I was doing this role justice. I had a chat with the person in charge of the programme and he reassured me that I was doing exactly what was needed. He said the best thing was to be patient and keep repeating topics to her since our goal was to help her as much as possible.

Playing in an ensemble again after a hiatus of some time was also a challenge at first. I also had a back injury, so I had to be strong enough to look past the pain and keep playing. One of our violinists had to temporarily leave so we had to rearrange the pieces. There were definitely a lot of challenges but they seemed to disappear when we were out there playing for people.

Tell us about something memorable that’s happened to you whilst volunteering

I still remember the first session with UCLef - some of the pieces were difficult, and we didn’t sound good at all. But it was so nice to finally play together with others again! As we were practising at someone’s flat it was a nice, playful, and relaxed environment.

The concert was brilliant too! People were very happy, they were cheering us on and atmosphere was so lovely and energising.

Would you recommend volunteering? If so, why? 

Definitely. It brings you joy to help other people and brings them joy too - a win-win situation if you ask me!

What you receive by volunteering is a break from studies, a chance to sharpen your skills, and a sense of fulfilment. If you cut down the time you spend on Instagram and give that hour to other people, you would see a big difference being made. There are even online opportunities you can engage in now.

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