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The Oliver Hare Altruism Award is a relatively new award at UCL, set up by the charity Olly’s Future to recognise recognises initiative, empathy and altruism within the student community here.

anita sangha

We met up with Anita Sangha, the winner of the 2019 prize, shortly after our volunteering awards ceremony. Anita had been nominated by a member of staff at Students’ Union UCL, who highlighted the range of campaigning and charity activities she’d been involved with, and the support she’d shown for others. What particularly impressed the awards panel, though, was Anita’s ability to take a step back and look after herself when her own mental health began to worsen: “Anita knows you cannot pour from an empty cup and she is concentrating on refilling hers. For this reason, she is an excellent role model.”

Anita’s mother was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2018, halfway through her first year. This had a massive impact on Anita’s life, as she and her sisters took on caring responsibilities for their mum. The experience prompted Anita – along with her cousin – to run a half marathon to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity. “I really felt like I had to do something to help the wider fight against cancer.”

She also signed up to help the Students’ Union’s Zero Tolerance to Sexual Misconduct campaign.  “It is an issue that still needs to be addressed on campus, and I wanted to play my part. I was really inspired by the people I was working with.  I realised you could achieve a lot by working together, and I gained an insight into leadership and learned about the tools to bring about change.”

Anita now had the confidence to set up the UCL Cancer Charities Alliance Society, with the aim of informing and supporting carers and also advocating and fundraising for cancer research. “I set up the society because there wasn’t a space for this already at UCL. I got a lot of support from other students – so many people are affected by cancer. As a result, I got to meet so many other lovely people who cared about the same issue as me.”

Over the 18/19 Christmas break, Anita’s mother wasn’t very well, and Anita’s own mental health deteriorated. Her priority was to look after her mum – and to look after her own wellbeing too. “The pressure was getting too much. I had to hit the breaks, and take a step back. The other members of the society were really supportive.”

Reflecting on her last two years, Anita thinks it’s really important that students take advantage of the opportunities that UCL has to offer – but they do need to make sure they don’t get overloaded, and not to compare themselves to others. “It’s important to be realistic about what you can do.”

For Anita, altruism is about considering your impact: “you can’t live in a bubble, everything you do affects other people. You need to be mindful about how your actions affect others and act positively.”

Anita thinks the UCL Cancer Charities Alliance Society has a good future and she is looking forward to seeing how the new committee will develop it. For herself, she’s got her Politics, Sociology and East European Studies degree to finish. Beyond that is thinking about a career in the law, possibly in human rights law - she feels this is an area she’ll really be able to help other people.


Olly’s Future

Oliver Hare Altruism Award

Volunteering Service