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Naz Rassa is a fifth-year Medical student and also the Project Leader for the Student-Led Volunteering Project Healthy Planet UCL, a project that encourages young people to use their voice to advocate for a healthier environment to live in. They do this by giving workshops to Year 5 and 6 primary school students on the effects of pollution and health.

Naz says that while being Project Leader has been a massive commitment alongside her course, she has found it enormously rewarding. Her interest in the area comes from growing up and going to a school on a busy road in central London, and members of her family having respiratory conditions that were exacerbated by this. This gave her a huge appreciation of the importance of clean air to health, and also spurred her desire to go into a career in medicine.

She is also interested in it from a political aspect; recently, she says a child in a workshop she was giving said “every time I hear or read about climate change or the environment, I get really scared, and I don’t know what to do”. Naz thinks that this exemplifies the issue, that younger people who have contributed to carbon emissions the least are going to face the implications of climate change and pollution.

While she has had teaching and tutoring experience which have helped her with the project, she said that finding a balance with the subject matter has been the biggest challenge; trying to reflect the urgency, but not be so negative as to make the pupils despondent.

Naz wants to encourage young people to use their voices to fight for change.

She thinks the impact they’ve had on students has been strong; she remembers the end of one series of workshops, where a pupil said they’d gone home to tell their parents about the benefits of vegetarianism; while that doesn’t mean the child is never going to eat meet again, just talking about it can have a huge impact.

It is hugely rewarding when the students share what they have learnt at the end of each class. Having been Leader for the project since its inception two years ago, she is immensely proud of having seen the project go from not existing to having a huge impact on people’s lives. She is confident that the project will continue to grow beyond her time at UCL.

If Naz’s story has got you feeling inspired, you can check out Healthy Planet UCL’s page on our Directory, or check out our environment and conservation roles.

You can also take a look at Healthy Planet UCL in action!