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On 22 May 2019, we held our annual Volunteering Awards, an evening to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work of UCL volunteers throughout the academic year. Both students and organisations were in attendance, as well as special guests including the Deputy Mayor of Camden, Councillor Sabrina Francis, and Professor Anthony Smith, Vice- Provost (Education & Student Affairs). After a long and busy month of exams and deadlines for students, it was a great opportunity to relax and have an enjoyable evening among friends. The vibe was buzzing, the champagne (and Shloer!) was flowing, and there was a great sense of community spirit in the venue.

Professor Anthony Smith delivered a reflective speech on the achievements of UCL volunteers, of which they have already given over 63,000 cumulative hours of their time to volunteer at local community organisations and charities. There is no doubt that the volunteers’ time and impact was monumental – a montage video from the beneficiaries of various community organisations saying a big ‘Thank you!’ to the volunteers was definitely a heart-warming moment of the evening. Professor Anthony Smith also touched on how much of an impact student volunteers made not only in local organisations based in Camden, but also London-wide.

One of the more touching moments of the night was the announcement of the Oliver Hare Altruism Award from the Charity Olly’s Future, which was set up in memory of former-UCL student Oliver Hare. This award was created to recognise students who embody initiative, empathy and altruism. The winner of the award was Anita Sangha, as not only did she exemplify the values that Olly’s Future champion, in terms of selflessly caring for others, but she also demonstrated the importance of self-care before anything else. As succinctly put by her nominator, Diana Hawk, you “cannot pour from an empty cup without focusing on refilling your own”.

This year’s Awards also underwent some revamping with our first ever Individual Volunteer Awards - a way to specially thank a few volunteers who went above and beyond in their role as a volunteer. There were plenty of nominations and were particularly hard to judge. Ranging from ‘Most Committed Volunteer’ to a ‘Wildcard!’, these awards were an amazing opportunity to put spotlight on those who do great things under the radar - take a look at the wonderful winners of these awards. The UCL Advancement Office also joined us to present Alumni Volunteering Awards, which acknowledged those that have not lost their altruistic spirit even after UCL!

Double Exposure, the Student-Led Project winners of our Best Newcomer Award, were incredibly grateful to receive their award, with Project Leader Anjumon Ali expressing gratitude to the Volunteering Service for helping their project to get off the ground. Winning Student-Led Project of the Year was Impactive, with their project consisting of UCL student engineers coming together to tackle challenges that people with disabilities face, with an emphasis on collaboration to achieve their goals.

Our Organisation of the Year winner for the third year in a row was Spectrum, which is a testament to the amazing work the organisation has done for the local community and the close-knit relationship between the charity and UCL students. Khushboo Katri from Spectrum said that going up on stage as a group for their certificates was a really nice touch, as she was able to commemorate the moment with the fellow students she volunteered with!

As part of a closing speech, one of our new Student-Led Projects, On&Up: Women in Finance, spoke of the amazing work they achieved in inspiring young girls to pursue the career they want, regardless of societal expectations for women and how to break down those barriers. “There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your ideas in action”, which is truly an all-encompassing sentiment expressed by many of the volunteers who were able to cultivate their own project. If anything was taken away from the Awards, it was that volunteering not only made a positive difference to the beneficiaries and local community, but also the students themselves.

Written by Yasmin Gulay, UCL Volunteering Service Student Staff.

Take a look at the full list of this year’s winners!