Student volunteering – making a difference in the Leeds community

Second year University of Leeds Music student Rory Heron discovered the charity People in Action through the University Union’s Volunteering Fair in his first year and now works as a support worker.

Rory Heron (left) with Ruben Martini



Read how his interest in music and community work has led him to setting up a music project with People in Action and support from LUUMIC Leeds University Union Music Impact in the Community 


The charity- People in Action

I found out about People in Action and the support they provide for people with learning disabilities and autism at the University of Leeds volunteering fair. I decided to volunteer for this charity because I was eager to make a difference in the Leeds community during my time studying music at university, and I’ve always been interested in improving the quality of life of people with learning disabilities.

Volunteer to paid support worker

After engaging in voluntary work at various community groups, I was offered a paid role as a one-to-one support worker for an individual with a learning disability who was passionate about music and wanted to start a band. I assisted them in the process of communicating with some of his peers about starting a band, and once we found some people who were interested, we began meeting up and creating music together using the facilities at the university’s School of Music. The band were given opportunities to perform live at events that People in Action were organising, such as the Leeds Young Talent Show. The band received such a positive response from these performances, inspiring others to not let their learning disabilities get in the way of them pursuing their dreams.

Setting up a music project

It then occurred to me that I could set up my own community music project with People in Action that would allow young adults with learning disabilities to collaborate and make music together in a fun and relaxed environment. I realised that I could get volunteers from LUUMIC Leeds University Union Music Impact in the Community to help run the sessions, through my position on the committee. I discussed the details of the project with the People in Action office staff, university staff members and the LUUMIC committee about setting up the project. In September 2018, the project was officially up and running every other Sunday using the School of Music’s ensemble rooms. Since then, I have been recording some of the music created during the sessions and uploading them to YouTube as the Sunday Band Project


The project is a great experience for me to apply my musical skills in a community setting that provides the opportunity for people with learning disabilities to try out different instruments. It also allows people to explore their creativity, build their confidence and social skills, and create friendships between people that have a common interest in music. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many people who are passionate about music, and it is very rewarding to know that I have created a free opportunity for people to collaborate in a musical environment that some may have never had access to in the past. I find that music is a great way for me to relieve the stress of being a university student, and to see the ways in which music connects people and creates happiness has definitely been a highlight of my time at university. One year after finding out about People in Action, I returned to the volunteering fair as a representative of the charity to spread the word about some of the great work they do, and encourage other students to get involved.

Any advice?

I would encourage anyone considering volunteering or charity work to go for it. It has provided me with so many new skills and  I have made a positive impact in the community.  I have made connections with so many amazing people, and it has definitely broadened my understanding of people with learning disabilities and the incredible things they are capable of and I would love the Sunday Band Project to continue after I have finished university so please get in contact with me if this sounds like something you would be interested in getting involved with!


Read more University of Leeds students inspiring volunteering stories

Find volunteering roles and work experience to broaden your skills and make a difference on Leeds for Life.

You can also keep up with all the latest Leeds volunteering opportunities by following @LeedsVolunteer on Twitter and  Facebook

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Filed under Develop your employability, Work Experience

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