Matthew McPherson is not just the EUSA president, he also volunteers for the Police as a Special Constable and has talked to us about the role and why he feels volunteering is so important.
1. How did you get involved in volunteering?
I've always thought it's really important to volunteer - not just because it's good to help others, but because you get a huge amount out of it as well. I was 13 when I started playing in a voluntary Ceilidh band that put on concerts for charities for free to allow them to fundraise. We are called 'The Reel Thing'... Get it...? You can see I was funny even then. Ten years later, I'm still in it.
But around two years ago I was looking for a really fresh challenge, and heard about being a Special Constable, which is basically a voluntary Police Officer. I read about it online, and got in touch with friends of friends who also did it. After a 5 month application process, exams, interviews and health assessments, I was in.
2. What does your role entail?
As a Special Constable, I did my training part time over 10 weeks. I had a part time job as well, so it was really tough going, but I got through it (even though it meant my dissertation took a back seat...) I wear the same uniform and have the same powers as regular police officers, and work in a frontline police team whenever I like, so I usually go out at weekends whenever my team is on shift.
3. What made you decide to become a volunteer with the police?
I think I really felt I wanted to do something which immediately helped people at times of need, which was hands on, and which allowed me to get stuck into tough situations where I really needed to push myself. It has certainly done that. It's the kind of job that keeps you on your toes. I get excited before every shift.
4. What has been your favourite thing about volunteering for the police?
It may sound really strange - but the parts of the job I dreaded the most have actually been the most rewarding. One particular example was the first time I had to speak to a family whose close relative had just passed away. I had to liase with them until the undertakers arrived an hour or so later. We talked about the man's life, and while I can't remember the conversation exactly, I'll always remember that day because of the way I made them feel. I think I helped, if even just a little, at what must have been a really sad time within their lives. That certainly wasn't the most fun example, but I've had a few really good laughs as well.
5. What do you feel you've gained from volunteering?
I've taken so much from the Police which I use in my every day life and normal job as President. It has made me much more confident in dealing with conflict, and has really taught me that often talking and communicating is the best defence you've got.
Dealing with situations which are well out of my comfort zone - and succeeding - has been incredibly rewarding, and has helped me view challenge within my life as something I should really try to tackle, not just think I can't do.
6. What would you say to other students to encourage them to volunteer/why is it important?
If you turn up as a volunteer, and you don't leave the end of that hour or shift feeling happy, and that you've done something you really enjoyed, then to me, you weren't doing it properly! Volunteering is about doing something exciting and new - taking a step out of talking about change, and rolling up your sleeves to do it.
Whether it's planting trees, shopping with the elderly, or running a local Scout Troop - you may not feel you are changing the world, but I honestly believe you really are, because you're changing the world of the people you work with. Having that effect on people's lives is something which you should be proud to put on any CV, say in any interview, and which will come across in your life through skills, confidence, and attitude, with everyone you meet.