Nudhara Yusuf is a second-year Politics, Philosophy and Economics student, and Project Leader for two of our student-led volunteering projects - Model United Nations and the Debate Society. She spoke to us about why she started the projects, and what difference it’s made to her and the beneficiaries.

“I started leading the Model United Nations outreach programme in first year; that was my first experience with the Volunteering Service. We go to schools and do workshops with regards to diplomacy and public speaking skills, and we go to schools that don’t usually have access to this sort of extra-curricular activity, as Model United Nations tends to be a sort of “elite” activity for schools that can afford the resources to come together. With the Debate Society, I brought this to the Volunteering Service as I felt Model UN had worked so well; we worked with schools to try and increase access to learning about debating skills.

Model United Nations tries to simulate the United Nations and how it works; you often split into different committees, such as the Economics and Finance Council, or the Security Council, and it normally congregates as conferences between different Model UN chapters, where you take on different issues from the perspective of different countries. It gives you debating and public speaking skills, but it also helps you develop a general awareness of other countries and their positions and policies.

It’s just so rewarding when students come back to me and say “this helped me”.

For me, outreach has always been a big part of my life. Back home in India, I did a lot of outreach there as well in terms of public speaking workshops in schools as well as providing these skills for teachers, so I definitely wanted to continue that kind of outreach here. I believe that you start changing everything by changing what is around you. I was at the society AGM for Model UN, and they said the Outreach Officer position was available, and I leapt at the opportunity.

With volunteering, I think it’s a collective action issue; loads of people want to make a difference, but they don’t know how to get started, so you just need somebody to get the ball rolling. In both cases, we had loads of people interested, they just needed someone to start it. You can get bogged down in things as a student, so it was also good to have our supervisor, Cyreeta, to give us motivation!

It’s really rewarding, especially towards the end of the workshops we’ve been to; the students often come up to us and say “we learned so much!”, which is great. With Model UN, they’ve been to conferences, and they come back and are delighted and say it was such a cool experience. That is something that is definitely worth the time and energy. We go in teaching them Model UN, but they often also ask us how we got where we were, so it becomes a sort of mentoring opportunity. For me, this has been a big part of what UCL has been for me. Volunteering with Model UN has been something I want to do every year; I now am the Secretary-General of the London International Model UN High School - a big outreach conference - which grew out of my outreach ambitions.

Some people think volunteering is just about a nice feeling, and of course it is, but it does also open up avenues for you, in terms of skills and opportunities.”

If Nudhara's experience has shown you how easy and rewarding it is to get started with a student-led project, why not fill out our project webform to start your own?