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How Volunteering Can Help New City Residents Adjust to Life in London

Updated 16 Mar 2023

Southbank International School believes that developing strong citizenship through its International Baccalaureate curriculum and volunteer programmes leads to a sense of belonging and generates valuable connections in a new city. Read on to hear more about this excellent programme from Southbank.

Getting to know an area so that it really feels like ‘home’ is about so much more than simply learning street names and discovering where the best coffee shops are – it is about developing a sense of belonging in your local community. That said, this can feel like a daunting prospect, especially when you have a busy schedule.

The International Baccalaureate and its Creative, Action, Service (CAS) programmes

Developing relationships, both at school and within the wider community, is a fundamental part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. Southbank International School, an all-through IB school (ages 3 to 18), is home to many expat families.

Pupils take part in CAS (‘Creative, Action, Service’) programmes, which are designed to encourage them to branch out, make new discoveries, and learn through experience. We believe it is our responsibility to guide children in this way, teaching them how to live a balanced life while being connected to and giving back to their local community.

While participating in the CAS programmes, generating positivity through a sense of service, our students cultivate their social consciousness and build more deeply rooted connections to a place. This is particularly well received by our international students because by connecting them with the local community, we are helping to familiarise them with the area and provide a sense of belonging and purpose.

Community engagement

Children are impressively imaginative and creative. With guidance, they are ambitious when it comes to choosing how they can get involved and give back to their community. At Southbank International School, there is a real focus on how we can revive the immediate local area. By focusing particularly on this direct connection to the community, students experience an increased level of satisfaction and reward, as well as becoming generally good global citizens capable of creating meaningful change.

With three campus sites across London in Kensington, Hampstead and Westminster, Southbank International School pupils of all ages have access to a huge number of charities and community initiatives in the capital. They have volunteered in nearby soup kitchens and learnt how to cook healthy and transportable meals, delivering them to people in the local area. They have worked in community gardens, collected rubbish around Regent’s Park and organised clothes and coat drives. Students have also spent time at The Children’s Book Project, sorting and sending off books.

Opportunities for adults

There are also several volunteer organisations for adults that we signpost parents to. These provide our expat families who are new to the city with structured opportunities to gain new skills and experiences, as well as meet new people. The parents of Southbank International School’s pupils often take inspiration from our IB CAS programmes, choosing to participate in various schemes either through us or independently, recognising that they too may achieve potential benefits like their children.

What the experts say

Louise Carey, English Teacher and CAS Coordinator at Southbank International School, says, “From a wellbeing perspective, when young people are involved in community initiatives, they feel a greater sense of belonging to their town or city, and they can develop social cohesion with one another. This is incredibly valuable, particularly for those who have recently moved to a new city, and especially when it is combined with the opportunity to achieve a positive impact.

“Community initiatives, when planned carefully in advance and focused on specific learning outcomes, can facilitate an understanding of the cause and effect of current issues, and an ongoing desire to be informed and take action.

“The current cost of living crisis is a call to action for all of us who can help. By becoming involved in community initiatives – food banks, clothing drives, book drives, supplementing accommodation costs – young adults can deepen their sense of social responsibility, to feel there is something they should, can, and will do.”

The 2021 Kensington ISI report praised the school’s focus on CAS. It observed that “pupils develop a keen sense of appreciation for the non-material aspects of life. They explained, in discussions, that abstract values such as love, family, friendship and education are worth more than anything.” Furthermore, the report added, “Pupils display extremely high levels of personal and collective responsibility both in lessons and during their spare time. They have a strong sense of the importance of others and the need to play a responsible part in the local and wider community.”

How to get involved

Whether volunteering is something you can only commit time to now and then or something that becomes a central aspect of your life in London, there is a lot to gain by helping those around you. Not only is volunteering a great way to meet like-minded people and bond over shared passions and beliefs, but as seen with Southbank’s children, it provides a healthy boost to an individual’s self-confidence, self-esteem, and general life satisfaction. Doing good for others in your community offers a sense of pride and identity, helping to change your life while changing others’ lives too. has a dedicated volunteer page that is regularly updated with details on new roles that need filling at a variety of charities, as well as community projects that require additional support. From food preparation and distribution volunteers to kitchen assistants, ‘befrienders’ and dog walkers, there are so many projects all over London that are actively onboarding new team members.

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