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Iman Selim is a final-year Neuroscience student, and also the Project Leader for Songs for Smiles, a Student-Led Volunteering Project that is a branch of the Musical Theatre Society, bringing live musicals and song to children in the paediatric wards at University College Hospital.

Iman initially joined the project as she got more involved with the Musical Theatre Society and their opportunities to perform outside of UCL shows, later becoming their volunteering and welfare officer. With future career plans in medicine and previous clinical experience, she loved the initiative behind Songs for Smiles and understood the potential impact something like this could have in a hospital setting, especially for children.

“It doesn’t have to be perfect, we’re just there to bring joy”

In December 2018, Songs for Smiles put on a Christmas performance for the children, and she says “the impact we had was way more than expected”, not just on the kids they were working with, but also on the volunteers who were “so touched by the response from the nurses and the children”. She said that one nurse came up to her and said “that child has never smiled in the two weeks he’s been here”, but he did when his little brother started dancing across the room. They only had a slot of two hours, but she says they wanted to stay there all day.

She’s particularly pleased by the response from the staff, as a big concern she had was that she didn’t want to be in the way of their work and become a burden, but they were fully embraced by the doctors and nurses, and the response from the parents was also hugely appreciative.

“When they left, our volunteers were so touched by the response from the nurses and the children…they didn’t want us to leave!”

Iman says she has gained a lot of skills from the experience of leading the project, including recognising how much responsibility she can take on, and when to ask for help, as this was a challenge for this year, not having a co-leader to work with like she had previously. Nevertheless, she is enormously proud of what she has achieved so far, and would like to put on another performance for the children later this year. She also arranged all the songs and harmonies herself, which she found challenging, but rewarding.

She would love to continue doing similar volunteer work in the next stage of her studies and bring a similar volunteering project to her new university. She also feels that volunteering with Songs for Smiles, and working closely with children has solidified in her the desire to go into paediatric care when she becomes a doctor.

If Iman’s story has inspired you, you can find out more about Songs for Smiles on our directory, or you can take a look at our other volunteering roles with children.