Solent celebrates a decade of volunteering with Saints Foundation
Solent University, Southampton is celebrating ten years of volunteer outreach at Saints Foundation, the charity of Southampton FC, connecting students with the city’s diverse communities through sport while giving undergraduates work-ready skills.
Since 2014, students on the University’s Sports Coaching degree have participated in a range of volunteering projects with both young people and older adults, positively impacting the community and supporting student learning.
More than 150 students have participated in volunteering at Saints Foundation so far, with the partnership set to continue as their work together hits this significant milestone.
Committing to a minimum of six hours each as part of their course but often going on to do more, students have volunteered more than 1,000 hours in the last ten years, demonstrating Solent’s commitment to its civic duty.
Dr Kola Adeosun, Senior Lecturer Sport Education and Development, says:
“Volunteering has a dual impact on both the volunteer and the beneficiary, and the long-term outcomes are many and varied. We’ve seen first-hand how this experience is meaningful for both our students and the community members they interact with, and their experiences with Saints Foundation have become a doorway to employment, which is just one of the many benefits of volunteering for university students.”
Making an impressive impact during their placements, over 25 students across the last ten years have gone on to secure employment with Saints Foundation after their volunteering ended, having cultivated impactful connections with the charity’s staff and community.
Each year, students participate in a range of different volunteering projects run by the charity, including Senior Saints, a group for adults aged 60+ aimed at keeping them fit and healthy; SaintsAbility, an inclusive football initiative designed to break down barriers in the sport and community; and Saints By Your Side, a peer support programme supporting men to take care of their mental wellbeing.
Andrea Dick, a second-year undergraduate who has been a Premier League Kicks volunteer – a programme for 8–18-year-olds – says, “My experience working with the Saints Foundation has been incredibly beneficial for me as well as rewarding, giving me the opportunity to work with individuals within a positive environment.
“I am studying Sports Coaching and it has provided me with experience of working with individuals in a sporting environment, where football is offered as an opportunity to have fun, develop new skills and socialise with new people. Working within the community has helped me build interpersonal skills such as collaboration, empathy and communication.”
Volunteering is a core commitment of Solent’s Civic Charter and encourages staff, students and alumni to take part in activities that drive mutual benefit to everyone involved. Ahead of Student Volunteering Week (12-18 February), students visited the iconic St Mary’s Stadium to mark ten years of collaboration, with Ian Butcher, Workforce and Training Coordinator at Saints Foundation, saying:
“It was great to welcome students to the St Mary’s Stadium as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of partnership working with Solent University, providing voluntary placements to students from the Sports Coaching course.
“Students are placed across a variety of Saints Foundation sessions to gain a better understanding of coaching, development, and gain first-hand experience in engaging with participants from the local community. The impact of this volunteering over the years has been a great success, with our employment pathway giving several alumni the opportunity to secure roles at the club or Foundation and many of these were directly due to showcasing their talents within their voluntary placement when studying.”
Sam Fulling, Chief Operating Officer at Saints Foundation, added: “We’re very grateful to Solent University for introducing so many student volunteers into Saints Foundation over the past 10 years.
“Many of these volunteers have gone on to make huge contributions to our community through long and impactful careers at our charity. It’s been a great pathway for developing talent – a real win-win situation. We look forward to receiving more volunteers in the future.”