An honour and a pleasure… but credit belongs elsewhere.

On wednesday I was accorded a great honour by Southampton University Students’ Union by being awarded an Excellence in Volunteering Award in the category of “commitment to volunteering” for the work I have done over the past four years as a student representative.

Walking down that aisle on wednesday amongst 200 fellow volunteers, many of whom I knew personally, and many more who I do not, was one of the most emotional experiences I have ever had and nearly brought me to tears. It was made all the more poignant by the fact that this is my last year at Southampton University and that the nominations for the awards came from individuals within the student body, though I still don’t know who nominated me… and I’m not sure I want to.

Some 31 EVAs and Highly Commended awards were presented at wednesday’s event, along with 15 Honourary Life Memberships, and this year there were over 150 groups and individuals nominated in the seven categories.

Anyone who knows me well or happens to follow me on Twitter will know that I did not really think I would be awarded in this way, especially given that I was awarded last year for innovation in student representation. Furthermore I did not consider myself deserving of a nomination this year, let alone the honour of an award. This is because the work I have put in to representing students over my four years at Southampton has only been what I would have expected of anyone who takes on the task. Indeed I have not been as effective over the last year as I should like to have been because of other academic (and indeed non-academic) committments.

So many of the awarded students and groups on wednesday made the point that volunteering at the University of Southampton and SUSU is easy to do, in no small measure because of how much fun it is to work alongside the other students. I would add to this that the support and encouragement of the sabbatical officers, administrative and academic staff is both an invaluable and irreplaceable resource that the students of Southampton University should be so very grateful for. I think every volunteer at southampton would agree.

As I said last year and in my impromptu (and mildly embarrassing) acceptance speech on wednesday night: The real people who should be receiving recognition – at least in academic representation – are the Course Representatives, the people “on the ground” who have to deal with students’ concerns, the intricacies of admin and the whims of academic staff head on every day. It was wonderful to see a course rep receive a highly commended award this year. because these students take time out of their studies to volunteer, perhaps only for one year, more often for three or four, for little or no thanks from among the students that they represent and regularly at the expense of their free time and energy.

To all the volunteers and groups who were not nominated for EVA’s, and indeed to all those who were, the students at Southampton owe you all an immense debt of gratitude. It is a shame that in many cases the students are unaware of what you do, and in some cases it is even more of a shame that it has to remain so (for example all those who work the NightLine service). I hope you all know how much your work is – and how much you are – appreciated.

Ben Brooks
06/05/2011 – just noticed it’s exactly a year since my last EVA post… to the day…

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