Creating a big positive impact through smaller good deeds
Microvolunteering at the University of Waikato
In 2019, Chantelle Cobby started up a club at the University of Waikato called the Waikato Microvolunteering Collective, to introduce the idea of micro-volunteering to her fellow students. Although Chantelle has recently graduated from the university, the club continues to thrive and Chantelle is especially proud of everything that it has achieved so far. Kindly taking some time to answer a few questions for us, Chantelle fills us in on what microvolunteering is all about and how students and the wider community can get involved.
Firstly, what exactly is microvolunteering?
Microvolunteering is all about breaking down barriers to traditional volunteering, by creating small, easy and accessible opportunities that enable anyone, regardless of age, background or ability, to contribute and make a meaningful difference to their community (and to nurture their wellbeing, and connect with others, in doing so).
It’s based on the belief that a huge impact can collectively be created when groups of people come together to do a little good.
Tell us about your inspiration behind introducing microvolunteering to students at the University of Waikato?
I've grown up volunteering, and have always been really passionate about it. But, when I moved to Hamilton and started studying, I found that having to commit to regular hours, off campus, in order to volunteer, was just too difficult. Although we have lots of amazing organisations, clubs and other opportunities on campus, I realised that easy and accessible yet meaningful volunteer opportunities, that are appropriate for students, were a little hard to come by. Thus, Waikato Microvolunteering Collective was born out of a personal desire to fill this gap - it was something that I was passionate about and wanted to see happen, so I figured others may appreciate getting involved too. The Student Volunteer Army in Christchurch, and the nationwide Sending Love initiative were massive sources of inspiration in designing WMC - and I tried to combine some of the best bits of both of those, to create something fresh here!
How has the Waikato Microvolunteering Collective contributed to the community so far?
We’ve held 21 events, which have enabled 351 microvolunteers (of all ages and backgrounds) to give up 409 hours of their time, in support of 10 community causes.
To give a few examples, we’ve hand-made hundreds of cards and postcards, filled these with messages of love and then delivered them to lonely residents in local rest-homes. We’ve also made lots of letter placards, which have been passed onto ‘Love Letters’ and delivered to children in Starship so that they can brighten their walls. On Pink Shirt Day, our Vice-President, Dean Watson, collected over 400 signatures on a pink shirt and we displayed 200 uplifting messages around campus as a sign of standing against bullying. Our collection appeals have also been a highlight - last year we collected over 700 items of stationery and gifted them to low decile primary schools. This year, in response to the Australian bushfires, we supported knitters, crocheters and sewers to hand-make over 200 items for rescued animals.
Microvolunteering (and any volunteering) is also known to be amazing for your wellbeing so I like to hope that, in creating the club, we’ve helped our microvolunteers to take some time for themselves, engage in some nourishing activities and make themselves feel good! I also hope we’ve enabled students to connect with like-minded others, and maybe even built bridges between us and the wider community (and potentially broken down some stereotypes in doing so).
In your journey with introducing and running the club, were there any struggles or limitations that you faced? If so, how did you overcome these?
The main struggle was dealing with the uncertainties and fears in my own mind in the early days, and finding the courage to just get started and give the idea a go! The ideas I had, and the possibilities associated with them, were just so compelling that despite my questions about whether this would work out or not and whether students would want to get involved, I knew I just had to give it a go.
As a young woman starting up a club, what advice would you give to other young women with similar aspirations?
Firstly, to just do it! It’s easy to get caught up in the ideas and planning (and if you’re like me, overthink it) but sometimes you’ve just gotta take the leap, dive right in and then learn, grow and experiment as you go along. So, have confidence in your abilities and ideas! Also, find some people who will lift you up, empower you, hold you accountable, and just offer good vibes along the journey! WMC wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for this network of incredible people, and the collective efforts from all involved. I’m so grateful to Dean - our Vice President, in particular, who has been part of the journey since day one, and played a huge role in who we are and what we’ve done.
Finally, I absolutely love this ‘one thing every day’ concept - which is all about doing just one thing, even if it’s tiny, every single day, that gets you closer to your goals. All the little steps add up pretty quickly, so it’s a good way to make progress towards your aspirations.
To learn more about the Waikato Microvolunteering Collective and/or to become a microvolunteer, visit the below links: