Chevening in the community

Student Volunteering Week (20 to 26 February) is a time to promote student volunteering, to share your ideas, and experiences and challenges with those around you.

Here in our new online mini-series, Chevening in the Community, we showcase some of the great work our Chevening Scholars get up to in their local communities in the UK during their spare time. Our scholars also provide an insight into the reasons why they enjoy volunteering, and why they think more people should take up the challenge of dedicating time towards helping others.

Monday, 20 February – Jacob Said

Jacob Said is currently studying MSc International Development at the University of Edinburgh and volunteers at Souper Saturday, a project entirely run by volunteers in Edinburgh. Every Saturday morning, the charity welcomes people, especially the homeless, for a warm cup of tea, a hot bowl of soup, some food, and a friendly chat. 

My experience at Souper Saturday is a weekly reminder of how privileged we are to be here as scholars. We have food, families, and a roof over our heads. We are studying in some of the world’s most prestigious universities, and are likely to have rewarding, meaningful careers after we get back to our countries.

The opportunity to spend some time and chat with those who didn’t have the same opportunities in life that we had helps me to be more grateful and complain less about the small nuisances of everyday life. It also teaches me the life lessons of humility, resilience, and solidarity. Regardless of the type of work that we do in the future, I believe we must use our influence in helping to shape a more equitable, inclusive world, where people – and especially the most vulnerable – are always at the centre.

Volunteering: you start doing it thinking you’re going to have an impact in the community, but in the end, it is the community who has an impact on you. Volunteering develops your personal and professional skills. It is also a unique opportunity to meet incredible new people with a similar mindset. Every Saturday morning I have the chance to observe and work together with one of the most inspiring leaders I’ve ever met: Mark, founder and organiser, a Scotsman who dedicates part of his life to this beautiful project and infects everyone with his endless energy and enthusiasm.

I’m thankful for being part of this initiative and would definitely encourage all other Chevening Scholars to get involved with volunteering in their local communities. It is a great way of putting your skills to good use, and you should never forget that there is always someone who could use a little help.

Tuesday, 21 February – Ngo Bibaa

Ngo volunteers with Youth Stop AIDS (YSA) in coordinating and leading HIV awareness and advocacy at Queen Mary University of London. Youth Stop AIDS (YSA) are a youth-led movement campaigning for a world without AIDS (previously called Student Stop AIDS Campaign). They are a network of young people across the UK speaking out, taking creative action, and engaging those in power to ensure that governments, global institutions, and corporations are committed to ending AIDS by 2030. 

After my training period at YSA, I had to recruit members and start a YSA society at Queen Mary. I am responsible for planning meetings, arranging workshops for society members, keeping members up to date with upcoming activities within the bigger Youth Stop AIDS network, and leading HIV campaign awareness on campus and in East London.

I lead advocacy actions within Queen Mary (writing to our local MPs about our concerns regarding HIV) and reporting all my activities at Queen Mary to the bigger Youth Stop AIDS network.

I enjoy volunteering with YSA because I believe in giving back my time and service to the community to contribute towards solving global health challenges. This is my own way of saying thank you to the UK Government and the people for giving me the opportunity to study in one of the UK’s top universities. Volunteering for YSA also renews my engagement in the fight against AIDS, and this requires a little bit of commitment from every person worldwide.

Nothing can be as satisfying as giving back to your community, and volunteering provides Chevening Scholars with that opportunity. Moreover, campaigning with Youth Stop AIDs gives every Chevener the opportunity to join an exciting network of young campaigners across the UK, meeting influential people like MPs and MEPs, and making your voice heard on this important issue.

Wednesday, 22 February – Ginny Tam

Ginny volunteers as a drama facilitator for the Young People’s Theatre group at Blue Elephant Theatre. The charity runs drama workshops and it is her role to ensure they run smoothly.

Young People’s Theatre emphasises drama for all. Young people in the neighbourhood are welcome to participate without paying a fee. I am happy to be a part of it as the project spreads the arts to the community rather than to just those that can afford it. In the drama workshops, young people are able to devise their own play and tell their stories in a creative way. It’s always fun to hear their stories. Also, it helps us to understand the local culture and the issues of the local people better through listening to their perspectives.

Getting involved in volunteering will help you to immerse yourself in the community and local culture more quickly. The experience helps you to understand how people deal with current social issues. Also, I tend to meet a lot of like-minded people and friends when I volunteer.

Thursday, 23 February – Abigail Caleb

Abigail is a volunteer crewmate for the Hackney Pirates. The Hackney Pirates is an enterprising charity working to develop the literacy, confidence, and perseverance of young people aged 9 to 12 in Hackney, London, who are falling slightly behind their peers in their literacy.

I work with children, called young pirates, after school on the ‘Ship of Adventures’ to improve their reading, spelling, and writing skills. Young pirates also take part in publishing projects where I support them in their creation, revision, or publication.

I love working with children and am a firm believer that education and literacy is the key to human development. In children it breeds self-esteem and gives them a chance at a better socio-economic and health status as adults.

Not to mention the benefit that your time and commitment will bring to someone or something else. Knowing that you were able to improve the day or life of someone or something is simply priceless.

Friday, 24 February – Sulipta Das

Sulipta currently volunteers with multiple charitable projects in various fields. For instance, she is involved in nature and wildlife conservation with Leeds University Union Conservation Volunteers, Peak District conservation volunteering, childcare with the Teddy Bear Hospital, and volunteering for food donation service across Leeds city with HOMED.

Her nature and wildlife conservation work involves wetland management – winter clearing of willow scrub in the reed beds, helping to conserve and maintain the natural environment in the local area; this can involve anything from chopping down invasive trees, planting native species, creating micro-habitats, planting bulbs, and hawthorn scrub clearing.

Other projects like Teddy Bear Hospital involves visiting primary schools to spend time and support health education workshops for children aged 4 to 8.

In HOMED, we are involved in organising weekly sandwich runs across the hostels, providing food for the homeless.

Volunteering is the most amazing and easy way to contribute to society and gives me a great sense of satisfaction as spreading happiness around and helping others makes me happy. Another bonus is that I get to meet exciting people from around the world and have made some great friends along the way.

Volunteering allows me to share a different perspective of the world which makes me thankful to everything and everybody as well as giving me the power to contribute to society without worrying about laws, caste, creed, religion. Not only do I enjoy it, but I have evolved because of it. It keeps me grounded.

Chevening Scholars are ambassadors of the Chevening community. Although we may excel academically, a little engagement in volunteering will polish the personality further to perfection.

The world needs a lot of things right now, and volunteering demonstrates love, care, and kindness, which is something that is free and is fun. You meet people, make friends, have fun, give a helping hand, and see the world differently. I feel everyone should try volunteering at least once as it’s therapeutic.

There are many opportunities around and in diverse fields like caring for the environment, health and safety, inequality, poverty, education, food security, hospices, and much more.

After all, if we hope to be leaders, we should lead by example. It is compassionate leaders that can make the most difference in the world.

Saturday, 25 February – Ruvarashe Nyaruwata

Ruvarashe is currently studying MSc Aeronautical Engineering at the University of South Wales. In her spare time however, she volunteers with the Lab in a Lorry project. Lab in a Lorry is a mobile laboratory which gives young people the chance to explore science by conducting experiments with the guidance of volunteers.

Image courtesy of the Institute of Physics (IOP) Flickr account ( 

I inspire and encourage young people to enjoy STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and maths) and gain a good perspective of exciting opportunities in STEM disciplines. In short, I am a STEM ambassador. At Lab in a Lorry, I explain the application of science subjects in the industry using day to day experiences, nothing fictional and nothing too formal. Believe it or not, you do not need to know what π (Pi) is to appreciate the people who made your favourite music track possible or to build a bridge using candy bars.

As a volunteer, I supervise young people trying out experiments themselves. The young people get to build the earth’s atmosphere, discover infrared and ultraviolet technology, create rainbows, or enjoy making music using wine glasses. At the same time, the empathetic attempt to help “Bob”, the Lab’s favourite patient, by performing surgery on the dummy using equipment provided.  I believe there is a bit of something for everyone.

Image courtesy of the Institute of Physics (IOP) Flickr account ( 

Inspiring young people gives me a sense of accomplishment. Young people are our future so this is an opportunity for me to secure the kind of future we want. It is a chance for me to make a difference to global society, break the stereotypical mindset associated with STEM subjects, and encourage young people to consider STEM careers. There is a need for brilliant young minds to sustain various developments in the world and the best way to make them aware of it is to share it with them. Volunteering is a chance for me explore my discipline and keep my skills vibrant.

I learn a lot from the experiences and from other volunteers. I enjoy the excitement of young people when STEM topics are simplified to activities they relate to daily. The young people are lively and energetic. They ask questions that often surprise me but, in the end, I get to laugh with them.

Image courtesy of the Institute of Physics (IOP) Flickr account ( 

Volunteering is healthy. Activities can be physically and intellectually challenging but they are refreshing. Besides, you also get to develop new skills and knowledge in your areas of interest.

Getting involved in activities will give you a chance to make the change that you want to see and at the same time acquire professional or leadership skills. Face a different challenge apart from your studies and you will be surprised at how many talents you have that you didn’t know.

Sunday, 26 February – Francis Roque

As a volunteer with 180 Degrees Consulting, Francis Roque provides free consultancy services to non-profit organisations.

We work on determining client objectives, identifying core issues, and proposing sustainable solutions that can help further the client organisation’s goals. Our client for the first term was Save a Child’s Heart UK, which provides cardiac treatment and care for children from developing countries.

I personally believe that non-profit organisations and SMEs (small to medium enterprises) stand to gain a lot from consultancy services in the same way that large corporations do. However, prices for consultancy services can be quite steep and therefore inaccessible. Consulting for 180 Degrees is a great way of applying my experience and expertise to help these amazing causes while also keeping myself sharp and ready to get back to work after my MSc.

Chevening Scholars have so much to offer. The skills and experiences that got us into the Chevening programme can greatly benefit others through volunteering. Consulting, in particular, is a great way of doing so because it contributes a systematic long-term solution that can empower non-profit organisations to help even more people.