Humans of UniCrew: Aliyah Ali

Humans of UniCrew: Aliyah Ali

Today we have for you another superhuman volunteer! Meet Aliyah, a real volunteer battler. We quiz her about how she gets her kicks from getting out in Dunedin communities and encouraging change through various volunteer projects.

Hi Aliyah, Why are you passionate about volunteering?

I always say that volunteering is a selfish passion of mine. It simply allows me to do what I love, while also helping others. What I think people don’t understand about volunteering is that you are not only helping other people, but you are helping yourself too. Volunteering provides you with an invigorating experience. I love the whole package — the first enthusiasm you have towards helping a cause, through the problem-solving journey, and seeing changes coming from your efforts. Helping create change makes me feel like I am part of something larger than myself. I have become invested in the lives of many of the amazing people I have met along the way. At a certain point I began to feel I wasn’t just volunteering, but living a way of life.

What are volunteering project are you excited about at the moment?

There are honestly so many projects, just check out the UniCrew Database (yes, that was some shameless advertising). However, in my role as a Community Relations Representative, I have had the opportunity to work on two of my own projects. This has been super exciting for me, right from the get go, as they have been my babies and have finally come to life. The first project is Sidey Lunch where every Thursday we hold a lunch for the Caversham community. The Sidey crew help prepare the lunch and set up, then join everyone to eat. Obviously, the soup is too delicious to pass up. A combination of meeting lovely people and yummy food makes this a perfect opportunity for us to unwind from student life.

Brain Gains is the second project, which is a homework club held at Corstorphine Community Hub. If I could use any word to describe this community it would be ‘whanau’. Everyone welcomes you with open arms and is incredibly supportive of each other. The kids are hilariously cheeky, so you definitely don’t have a dull moment with them, and teaching them certainly keeps you on your feet. These two communities are vastly different, but the one thing they both possess is strength and support. I couldn’t be a happier volunteer and I am excited to see how we can keep expanding on these projects, hopefully with more volunteers 😉

What volunteering opportunity would you love to explore in the future?

Well, I once was a Pippin in the GirlGuides. Having the opportunity to work with GirlGuides to connect previous GirlGuides within the university would be a great project. I would also like to explore more communities that have little projects and are in need of our fun UniCrew volunteers. Our communities are what make up Dunedin, so helping the locals to improve their neighbourhoods would be something I would love to further explore.

 Which 4 people, dead or alive would you invite to a dinner party?

Ahhh only 4! This is so difficult. I would first and foremost have to go with Kate Sheppard, only because I have written every social studies project on her since I was in year 3. Queen Elizabeth I because she was a fierce ruler and I am kinda obsessed after having watched so many documentaries on her. D.H Lawrence, because he was a controversial literary artist that decided to resist the norms and continued writing regardless of negative reaction to his work. The last one would probably have to be a toss up between Christopher Nolan because I have to know more about his obsession with flawed heroes, or Sigmund Freud. They are both individuals with very intricate understandings of the human mind. Hmmm… I can only imagine how interesting this dinner would turn out to be.

Want to join Aliyah in supporting our local communities? There are plenty of options on the UniCrew Volunteer Database to choose from!

GirlGuides: Much Sweeter Than Just Cookies

GirlGuides: Much Sweeter Than Just Cookies

When I think of GirlGuides, I think of Cookies. However, Amy Telfer Chiles chatted to UniCrew and enlightened me about some other pretty sweet stuff the organisation has going on. Empowering and supporting girls and young women from ages 5 to 17, GirlGuides is busy sating hunger for life for Guides and volunteers alike.

GirlGuides has close ties to the volunteer community because not only does the organisation run on the steam of its patrol leaders but encourages the next generation of enthusiastic volunteers, the GirlGuides themselves. Part of the Guide Promise which members make upon joining is to “take action for a better world”. Amy stresses the importance of the girls involved becoming confident and responsible members of their community. However, this does not come at the expense of their individuality, as the organisation helps them find their strengths by providing novel activities that encourage the girls to confront their comfort zones. Girl Guiding puts a focus on getting outside and in touch with the natural world. With increasing numbers of children spending countless hours in front of screens, Girl Guides provides social interaction, leadership opportunities and outdoor time sorely missing in some modern childhoods. Individuals come into their own through activities such as camping, community action projects and cultural awareness activities. The adventures they embark on are ripe with opportunities to develop and hone leadership skills. These leadership skills, Amy says, are transferrable into many life settings, helping the girls “immensely benefit their schools and communities”.

You are more than likely a little too old to join GirlGuides as a Guide, so what is the role of a volunteer in the organisation? Well, Amy hopes that increasing the numbers of Dunedin volunteers would allow more girls to participate. There are a variety of roles, from high commitment to one-offs. Some volunteers are Leaders, assigned a group to guide then support this patrol group through activities from geocaching to budgeting to water safety. Others make a cameo appearance to share particular experiences or knowledge with guides. Volunteers with special skills, especially novel outdoor abilities, are sought-after, as these can be enjoyable and educational to pass down to the girls. Amy herself thought that volunteering was going to just be girls “earning badges and having fun”. It wasn’t until she was assigned a group that she realised how much of a difference that guiding could have on everyone involved, and the crucial role she was playing in shaping girls into strong young women. Connecting to the world around them really prepared her group of girls to lead in the face of challenges posed to them. Having followed her patrol for a while now, at first Amy expected to move on from guiding as her charges will, but she now anticipates staying with the organisation. She was surprised to gain satisfaction and friends in equal measure with the girls in her troop. “Guiding does not just provide the girls transferable skills” says Amy “it also provides the leaders transferable skills and with lots of optional training opportunities to develop further.”

Interested students can get involved through sharing their skills and time with GirlGuides girls and leaders, this is flexible to fit with studies and other time commitments.  More information on volunteering with GirlGuides can be found on the GirlGuiding New Zealand website-


Why Should You Volunteer?

Why Should You Volunteer?

It might seem a little counterintuitive to ask what you get out of volunteering. Maybe you picture volunteers as only selfless soup-kitchen helpers and street-corner bucket-shakers. While these are necessary and noble roles, volunteering is often more nuanced than the giver and the receiver of help.

At UniCrew, we prefer to view volunteering as a two-way exchange between the volunteer and the organisation to which they donate their time. For us, a well matched role aligns with the motivations of the volunteer because it is when they are fulfilled and driven that volunteers do their best work. Volunteer jobs make up in character and fun what your classic fast-food chain or supermarket job might lack. Unlike most student jobs, volunteering positions are diverse in nature and connect students with a range of opportunities otherwise hard to come by at university. While these jobs might pay, making time for volunteering is an enriching investment for your social life, future career and the community at large.

Dunedin: A tight-knit town: 

New and seasoned scarfies alike know one of Otago’s major draw cards is its renowned student lifestyle and culture. Work hard, play hard is scarfie gospel. Otago University, New Zealand’s truest student town is close to the areas we all live, work and socialise. The upside of the student population all being packed into our cold tin-can houses like sardines is the warmth our tight knit community. Unlike, Auckland or Wellington, where your friends might live a 45 minute bus ride away, it’s pretty likely you and your mates all live within 20 minute walk of each other and uni too. The student-ville knot helps foster Otago’s hectic, colourful student culture. However, especially if you are new to Otago, you might find that you feel a little isolated even with all these opportunities in arms reach.

Students often uproot themselves from old support networks and feel adrift, especially if moving away from home for the the first time. Newcomers aren’t the only ones who become isolated. Senior students often get comfortable with a group of core friends and forget Otago University houses plenty of fresh weirdos for them to meet. Volunteering is a way to re-shape your connections with others around care and participation. You’ll burst the student bubble, make new friends with interesting people and find the truth in claims that volunteering improves your wellbeing. The confidence you will gain from relating to others from other walks of life will come in handy in social settings and future work opportunities alike.

Your university experience gears you up for many aspects of the adult world, with employment as a focus. However, often our university courses insist on assigning individual grades but the working world will not do the same. Volunteering helps enrich degrees in ways that often university work does not. Employers favour people who can communicate, show good teamwork skills and connect well with others, all skills commonly strengthened by volunteering roles.

Benefits to volunteering:

If you find group assignments a chore, you may find volunteering a more pleasant environment to develop skills for working in a team.  Future employers will also be impressed by you having something professional to add to a CV showing you can rise to the challenge of working in a team. UniCrew can help connect you with an appropriate job that will match the area you want to master. A good volunteering position can connect you with people at different stages of their career where you can prove your skills in a low pressure environment. You might find you have references coming out your ears! For those not so sure of your career path yet, volunteering can be a good opportunity to ‘try on’ a job before committing to it further.


If 2016 left you feeling disillusioned, make like Gandhi in 2017 and be the change you wish to see in the world.  It’s easy as a student to get a shock when you see tiny humans tottering through the Botans or are reminded in Pack n’ Save that not all humans over 25 are lecturers. Yep, the student bubble is safe and comfortable, but the adult world is diverse and staying cooped up in the student quarter will prevent you from interacting with a wide array of people. Community focus groups were a staple of the past. Now, global and individualism based communities are increasing the transience and selfishness of our culture.

Churches used to moderate people’s connection to their communities, organising cross-age connection and assistance to the needy. Now that secular views are on the rise, people are less likely to feel connected to their community. Our capitalist society encourages individualism and promotes putting work and study above relationships. However, firm psychological evidence shows that our health and wellbeing is strongly linked to the meaningful connections we make with others, and how firmly we feel attached to our community.  UniCrew facilitates connecting Students with communities in ways that allow them to use their skills, connect and gain all the benefits of mutually improved wellbeing.

Whether for you volunteering is about socialising, degree enrichment or connecting with the community or all three, it’s important to know what you want to get out of volunteering. This post only scratches the surface when it comes to reasons you may want to volunteer. There are positions for those who have lots of time to spare, and those who are busy, there are those for those who like to be centre of attention and those who want to keep to themselves, those who want to develop skills and those who want to support a specific cause. The most important thing is to work out what you want to get out of volunteering. If you’re not sure, coming in to talk to us may help. UniCrew runs drop in sessions where our trained team can help match you with an appropriate position, whatever your needs. Many people think that volunteering stops at shaking buckets, but that is only just the beginning.

If you’re game, come and talk to us, email or even Facebook us! We hope to see you around 🙂