Introducing our first student volunteer! Find out how Mercy started from wanting to meet new people to being an In Schools Outreach Coordinator.
Mercy is a Part IV Civil and Environmental Engineering student at the University of Auckland. We caught up with her to talk about how she got involved with EWB!
Thank you for volunteering to do this interview! So, have you always been into volunteering? How did it start for you?
In college, I only volunteered within school and didn't really get to interact much with the wider community. It didn't really hit me until the end of college that I missed an opportunity when my good friend told me all about her adventures volunteering in our local community. She got to meet so many types of people - from young to old, and at all walks of life. So when I got to uni, I decided to branch out and try new things.
It's good that you realised the benefits of volunteering! So did you get to meet a diverse range of people at uni? How did it all lead you to volunteer with EWB?
Yes, I did! Towards the end of my first year of uni, I was a part of the dance crew in the Engineering Revue. I met a whole bunch of people from different specialisations and year levels. One of them was Alex and she told me about a club that she was a part of, and was increasingly getting involved in: Engineers Without Borders. In second year, I saw the stall at clubs expo and heard about upcoming events. I decided to go along to the Launch Night to find out more about the club and meet new people. I ended up signing up to the club on the night, and committed to volunteer for the school outreach programme!
Wow, the Launch Night made you sign up on the spot?! That's great! From all the teams in EWB, why did you choose the In Schools team? What was it about the In Schools Programme that made you want to volunteer with them?
I chose the In Schools programme because I felt that I could directly help the community. I really liked how EWB promotes Humanitarian Engineering, and more broadly, Engineering, to college students because I didn't really have that throughout college. To be honest, I only really realised what 'Engineering' was when I was 2 years into my Engineering degree. So I really wanted to be involved in helping college students understand what engineering is and how it's applied in everyday life. Things like the wastewater treatment plant in Mangere, and the bullet trains in Japan.
It must be cool to be the role model that you wish you once had. I see that you're now in your fourth year of engineering, how has your involvement with EWB evolved?
During my first year of volunteering, I saw the core values of EWB and I realised that these aligned with my own. On top of that, I really enjoyed connecting with students during these visits. So when an opportunity to join the exec team came up, I applied and was offered a role as an In Schools Outreach Coordinator. With this role, I help out fellow student volunteers with school visits and making sure it all goes according to plan.
As a student, you spend most of your time studying. Has your volunteering been helpful to your uni work?
Yeah, my soft skills have really improved since starting EWB - I have a lot more confidence now than before. On top of that, I've also gotten better at working in groups, especially working with different types of people - a valuable skill with all these group projects I have in my final year!
What a journey! In the three years you've been involved, what has been your highlight?
After four months of volunteering, I put my hand up to volunteer for a school visit in Wellington. I flew down a couple of days ahead of the schools visit to give me some time to explore the city. This visit was the biggest I had ever done - there were so many students that we held it in their school auditorium! Then, we split up into smaller groups for the activity. Going to Wellington with EWB was also a personal highlight because it was the first time I traveled without my family! Since EWB's a not-for-profit organisation, I didn't mind covering my own costs for this trip. I'll always remember this unique experience as it was the first time the Auckland In Schools team did an out-of-town school visit!
Thank you so much for your time Mercy! We hope you can all come across interesting people at uni - you never know, they might lead you to volunteering opportunities!
"EWB has been such a good opportunity to meet people that I usually wouldn't meet"
- Mercy Lin, 2020