We sat down with Yalin Chen, a 2nd year BSc Economics student and one of the 2022-23 Volunteering Officers, to chat about her volunteering experience with Starfish Greathearts as part of the February 2023 Social Hackathon.

Would you be able to introduce yourself?

My name is Yalin and I’m one of the volunteering officers this year. I started volunteering last year, in my first year of university. I made a lot of friends whilst volunteering, so I really like volunteering and that’s why I wanted to keep doing it.

I really like solving problems and working in a team, which is why I participated in the Social Hackathon. I worked with Starfish Greathearts Foundation.

What was your experience at the Social Hackathon like?

Before the Social Hackathon, Starfish Greathearts sent us a pack of briefing information about what to expect on the day. There was an agenda as well, so we could know what tasks we would be doing at which times, and we could know what to expect before going.

On the day, we had a short introduction first. Nicky, the Head of Volunteering, introduced us to the organiser from Starfish Greathearts and the organiser went through what the charity is about.

The charity works to help orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa with their education and healthcare. It’s really nice because the charity can work with partners in the local community and also partners in the UK and internationally to help aid those people in need, which is a very good cause.

What type of work did you do on the day?

We had different tasks on the day. The main goal was to research to new partners for the charity because they want to expand more and get new partners to help their work in South Africa. You could pick which task you wanted to focus on, like looking at the charity’s LinkedIn, or looking at how they can promote and advertise.

My group was allocated the task of researching the different successful NGO-corporate partnerships. They were something that I didn’t know existed before. That was eye-opening for me because I did a lot of research into the different charities that work with corporate partners to get more resources. I think a few successful partnerships that I researched were the Sainsbury’s and Comic Relief and also Mowvember. I had never thought about those partnerships, even though I feel like I see them everywhere.

I learnt a lot of things throughout the day. It was lovely to work with my teammates as well. There were 3–4 people in groups. It’s very nice, because you kind of bond with each other whilst you’re doing that research and task. We didn’t really know each other before the Hackathon, but it was very friendly so we got to know each other whilst working together.

How was the experience of taking part in the Hackathon online?

It was really good, because everyone actually turned on the cameras so that we could all see each other. It was really nice to put names to faces and feel more connected.

Was it your previous experience with the Social Hackathon that make you want to take part again?

I really enjoyed the Social Hackathon last reading week, and definitely wanted to do it again if I was available. It’s only one day, and we’re also contributing to a good cause which was really nice to do. It helped me to learn a lot of things.

I especially think I improved a lot in my research skills because you had to take a look around the internet for information, summarise it, and then present it to the charity at the end.

We all took turns at the end of the day to present our findings. I think everyone had a go at presenting, which was very nice.

What did you enjoy the most about the Social Hackathon?

I feel like I met a lot of different people that I didn’t know before, because there were a lot of people in my group that I would have never met if there wasn’t a Social Hackathon that brought us together. We were all able to get each other’s contact details, which was nice. It was kind of networking!

It was very nice, and you get to learn what other people are studying and are up to. It’s not just purely work – you also build relationships as well.

Were there any challenges that you encountered on the day?

At the start, it was a bit awkward because you don’t know everyone. But I feel like it’s really nice that everyone had their camera on and that kind of makes it less awkward – it’s not just me talking to a black screen. Everyone is so friendly and so willing to engage and participate. That’s why I think it’s really good.

Everyone is so friendly and so willing to engage and participate.

Another challenging thing was maybe the task. When we were dividing up tasks, we split into different groups, and there was a little bit of confusion there. But everything was sorted at the end!

Got a chance to speak with Starfish Greathearts about your work?

Yes, there was one of the directors in the call and she gave us feedback after our presentation at the end. It was nice because she actually listened to you and reflected on what you said and thought about what could be improved from that side.

Would you recommend the Social Hackathon to others?

Definitely – yes! It’s a really fun thing to do and something interesting to do apart from studying or reading during reading week. So definitely try it!

Thank you to Yalin for sharing her experience at the Social Hackathon! If you are interested in Starfish Greathearts, you can learn more about them here.

You can also learn more about the Social Hackathons here, and keep an eye out for future Hackathons through our newsletter and social media.