I spoke to the lovely Patricia Gimeno Le Paih, a second-year Biological Sciences undergraduate student, who is co-leading the Student-Led Project Zero Food Waste.

Which project do you lead? Tell us a little about it.

I lead the Zero Food Waste project, which tries to tackle the food waste around campus and make people more aware of the issue. This project started in 2018, but we could not run it because of the pandemic last year. But now we restarted the project, and we have been doing it since term 1. We collect food that is about to go out of date from the Student's Union cafes, and we deliver that to homeless shelters.

Tell us about your Project Leader role.

There are three Project Leaders for the Zero Food Waste project. We basically lead the administrative side of the project, so emailing the cafes and the shelters, growing, and maintaining the partnerships, and making sure that the shift for the volunteers runs smoothly as well.

Why did you want to become a Project Leader?

I actually found this project on the Student’s Union website, and I thought it was super cool, and the idea of helping the community- I was just like, yes! I had to apply!

I also think it is a fantastic addition to your CV, and it is a way to prove to future employers that you have leadership skills and that you can deal with all sorts of different kinds of scenarios. That is why I wanted to become a Project Leader.

What difference do you feel you've made by leading your project? 

Well, I feel I have managed to contact way more shelters this year, so our project is actually a lot bigger than it used to be. Also, we are getting more food from the cafes, which means there will be less food waste, and we are getting more volunteers signed up- we have over 200!

So, from that point of view, we have made the project bigger while still maintaining its original idea.

What impact has volunteering and leading a project had on you? 

It has helped me understand more about the Student-Led Project Service, I just didn't know about it, and I just think it is so cool you can just help whoever you want.

It has also helped me realise that so many people are interested in food waste and how people would go an extra mile to help reduce food waste.

I have gained really good skills, such as administrative skills and leadership skills, and I have also gotten to know so many people on campus!

It has also helped me realise that so many people are interested in food waste and how people would go an extra mile to help reduce food waste.

How has your network developed while being a Project Leader?

I now have contact with the food suppliers within UCL, as well as with the Volunteering Service. As I mentioned, I know so many students from this project!

I am also in contact with the Marylebone women's shelter and St Mungo's homeless shelter in Endsleigh Gardens, right next to campus.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered? How did you overcome this challenge?

The biggest challenge for me was setting up partnerships with the shelters and the cafes at the Student’s Union. Sometimes people are hard to contact initially, but once everything was set, it ran really smoothly. There was also a lot around food safety stuff that you have to go through, like signing contracts and making sure all the volunteers are trained in food safety.

Tell us something memorable that's happened to you while being a Project Leader? 

When I went to the first shifts, it was so nice to actually visit the homeless shelters and talk to people, and they thanked us for all the work we were doing for them.

What is the best advice you would give to someone thinking about being a Project Leader? 

First, make sure you have the time for it because it is time-consuming! But if you want to start your own project and, for instance, it doesn't run, you can always try again next year, and you learn so much from that failure. You also get so much support from the Volunteering Service, and if you surround yourself with people, they can help you along the way.

Want to start your own Student-led Volunteering Project? Find out more and share your ideas with us here!