April 6th, 2011
For almost 30 years, Nottingham students and the UK charity, Tools for Self Reliance, have helped some of the world’s poorest people work themselves out of poverty. But what’s in it for the volunteers?
Corinne Kirk, a Philosophy postgraduate, has been helping in the TFSR workshop for over a year now.
She said: “I got involved with TFSR because my degree subject (Philosophy) was interesting but almost totally abstract, I felt like I wasn’t really involved in the world, in fact it was the classic academic in an ivory tower problem. So, I decided to embrace my inner Rapunzel and escape the perils of the ivory tower by letting my hair down with some down to earth volunteer work!”
The University’s Student Volunteer Centre offered Corinne advice on the various opportunities open to her.
“I picked TFSR because it’s about as practical and anti-ivory tower as you can get without abandoning technology and going to live on a commune. Also, unlike some charities, with TFSR you know that everything you do and the time you give benefits people who really need it. The tools go to communities and people are trained to use them so they can make a living and lift themselves out of poverty.
“But finally, whenever you speak to anyone about the TFSR (which I did. I’m an academic, careful research is in my nature!) they start smiling. Seriously, they smile like they’re remembering a great time they had. I’m aware that I now do the same when people ask me about TFSR. I decided that any volunteering project which causes such an infectious joy had to be worth a try. This is probably my main reason for choosing TFSR, but I’m not sure it is a persuasive argument unless you experience the ‘smile factor’ personally.
“I turn up at 1.30 and then it’s suddenly 4.30 and I realise I’m grinning from ear to ear and I’ve spent hours in this little bubble of total peace and happiness; no deadline stress, no worries about what I’m going to write in my essay or how much reading I have to do. Somehow the rest of the world just drifts away somewhere and there is just you, the tools and the rest of the gang in this little oasis of totally productive peace. I guess TFSR doesn’t have this profound effect on everyone or we’d probably be a cult by now, but it definitely centres me and keeps me grounded for the week.”
“Being involved in TFSR is also great for your CV – it boosts your employability by providing concrete examples of how you have the qualities employers are looking for, such as teamwork, time-keeping, organisational skills, etc. And the vast range of experiences and interests of the students means each Wednesday session is like a micro lecture. And you get a guilt-free break from study!”
TFSR needs tools for woodworking, metal working, blacksmithing, building, shoe repairing and tailoring. To find out more about TFSR, visit www.tfsr.org/ and to find out about the University group, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (0115) 846 8750.
It will have a stall at the University’s May Fest 2011, on May 7 and 8 – visit http://tiny.cc/MF2011 for details. In the meantime, you can drop off tools at the SU office at each campus, and at reception at King’s Meadow Campus.
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