Deborah Leem is a Digital Humanities PhD Candidate at UCL. Back in June, she took part in the UCL Charity Consultancy Challenge.

Tell us a little about your volunteering

As part of the UCL Charity Consultancy Challenge 2022, I worked with a charity called Starfish Greathearts in a multi-disciplinary team of 8 other student volunteers for a week.

Day 1 consisted of a workshop covering consultancy skills, agile methodology and initial briefing from our partner charity. Our team spent the next 3 days brainstorming, project planning, researching and preparing analysis in order to communicate our results by day 5.

We presented our final report to Starfish Greathearts on the final day and in the afternoon all the participating teams gathered together in a lecture theatre to deliver a 10-minute pitch on what we had achieved with our partner charities.

How did you find out about the role?

As part of UCL Doctoral Skills Development Programme and UCL Student’s Union Volunteering Service, I attended two consultancy workshops in 2021. I discovered the UCL Charity Consultancy Challenge 2022 after expressing my interest in further opportunities working with partner charities. I was keen to continue developing consultancy skills whilst volunteering and signed up promptly.

What difference do you feel you’ve made by volunteering?

I feel a strong connection with Starfish Greathearts through my volunteering at UCL. I am confident that every help given will make a significant difference to them. Our research output for the charity will be beneficial in terms of their strategic planning for both short-term and long-term deliverables. Further, the £1000 prize our team won will make a real difference.

What impact has volunteering had on you?

This volunteering experience has made a huge impact on me in a completely unexpected way. The week ended leaving me incredibly inspired by many of my fellow UCL students. I learned powerful lessons from those I worked and conversed with. All student volunteers were diverse in terms of age, gender, knowledge, and perspectives. I was inspired by their enthusiasm, brilliance, compassion, determination as well as professionalism regardless their background. United in cause, together, we strived to accomplish our goals for many great charities!

What’s the best thing about volunteering?

The best thing about volunteering for me is bringing people together. The UCL Charity Consultancy Challenge 2022 united UCL students from diverse background to work as a team towards achieving a common goal of solving problems for partner charities. After a week of volunteering, I had an increased sense of belonging as well as feeling inspired by others.

And the most challenging? How did you overcome the challenges?

The most challenging aspect for me was the concerns I had with how to deal with potential conflicts in the team with other student volunteers in such a short space of time. I approached with an open-mind and positive attitude. Everyone in our team worked in a positive and professional manner whilst having fun. We all played a part to build amazing team camaraderie.

Tell us about something memorable that’s happened to you whilst volunteering

Seeing every one of us working flat-out on our final day to finish our report and presentation was fantastic. I was initially concerned as we still had a lot left to do in the morning. As I have been working on my own as a PhD student for the past few years, I underestimated the power of teamwork. It was truly wonderful to work together as a team towards a common goal of getting the job done in time! What’s even more incredible was that our team won the challenge.

Would you recommend volunteering?

Regarding the UCL Consultancy Challenge, it is a great opportunity to gain insight into being a consultant whilst making a big difference to small charities!

Also, volunteering can help you learn more about your strengths and behavioural traits under different roles. For example, I quickly learned that I loved working in a diverse team. Moreover, I learned that I enjoy both building and developing other teammates’ ideas as well as contributing my own.

What’s more, you get to meet other wonderful people who are passionate about volunteering. It is extremely rewarding and amazing fun at the same time!

Inspired by Deborah’s story? Find your perfect volunteering role on our Opportunities Finder.