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   The Awards

Our Annual Volunteering Awards Ceremony is the rightful celebration of the vast and fantastic volunteering community we are proud to be a part of at UCL. It’s always a happy highlight of the Volunteering Service’s jam-packed yearly calendar, but more than ever, 2021’s ceremony seemed extra special. It offered us the perfect opportunity to reflect on an incredible year of volunteering in an incredibly different, and difficult, time. It was a well-timed and extremely well-deserved chance to say a great big thank you to the individuals who have dedicated time and effort to making a difference in a time when the world has needed it most!

A year like no other! 

This year, we proved that a global pandemic, a new ‘normal’, a few too many lockdowns and an awful lot of Zooming couldn’t stop us from making the world a better and brighter place with our volunteering efforts! And they came in an array of forms: from helping out one of our very own in-house Student-Led Projects; to participating in one of many Social Hackathons we ran throughout the year; to signing up to a short, but always sweet, One-Off event; or committing to more regular volunteering with one of our wonderful, and dearly valued, charity partner organisations.  And if we successfully showed that nothing can stop us changing the world around us, there is certainly nothing that could stop us celebrating the achievements we made this year with another virtual version of the Volunteering Awards!

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So here’s to 2021 in volunteering; here’s to the ways in which we’ve made a difference, big or small; and here’s to our volunteer superstars!

Here’s your definitive guide to how the 2021 Annual Volunteering Awards Ceremony went down…

A delightfully positive start to proceedings!

While the individual awards to come might recognise individual efforts, the ceremony above all, provided the chance to applaud the entire body of volunteers and to appreciate what volunteering has meant to us all! As such, the ceremony began with a warm welcome from our ceremony hosts, Ilyas, Activities Officer and Syed, Societies Officer, before Vice Provost for Education and Student Experience, Deborah Gill, dialled in remotely to provide us with some insight into volunteering at UCL in 2021. She reminded us of the ever-important and prominent role that volunteering plays in the UCL community; an integral part of the UCL student experience, and rightfully so!

Volunteering for life!

We were also privileged to receive reflections from two UCL alumni, Evdoxia and Natasha, who gave us their video messages slightly later in the ceremony.  They both reminded us of how the spirit of volunteering continues after graduation.  Instilled during years at UCL, you could say that volunteering really is for life, not just for university.  And that’s exactly the mark we hope we can leave in each and every one of our volunteers. University is merely the beginning of a lifelong commitment to helping others who need it most.  We’re bursting with pride that they continue a legacy of dedication, time and expertise to volunteering, and above all, that they have chosen to continue doing it with us, despite having moved on into a huge global community! To the entire body of alumni volunteers… thank you!

A poignant message of hope!

Our final reflections came from Ann Feloy, founder of charity, Olly’s Future, who also presented our Oliver Hare Altruism Award.  She gave a poignant tribute to her wonderful son, and former UCL student, Oliver Hare, who forever leaves a legacy of giving among our student body; but also a message of profound hope for a future of kindness and humanitarianism at the heart of all we do.

Keep reading until the end of the article to find out who won this special award for 2021! 

  

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Ilyas and Syed returned to stage to move on to the individual awards in recognition of the superstar volunteers, organisations and projects that you nominated!

First up… Volunteer of the Year; the award for students who have done exceptional things while volunteering, who have gone the extra mile, or who have quite simply been all-round amazing, unfaltering in their commitment and determination to be a change-maker.  Clearly, this year, we were either a little too indecisive… or the UCL community is simply not short of amazing volunteers and outstanding efforts abound, as we had not one, but three winners.  We’ll go with the latter…and who says we should be limited to one winner anyway?

On the shortlist were: Amy Cotter, Andrew Daou, Matthew Hazell, Victoria Igary and Yujia Gu.

First Winner: Andrew Daou

Andrew Daou was our first winner for Volunteer of the Year. 

Andrew has been volunteering with one of our Student-Led Projects, Project Impactive, as Operations Director.  As part of his role, he is responsible for training engineer volunteers; advising and supporting the engineer teams; connecting, and liaising, with academic staff, professional mentors, and external clients to ensure the smooth running of projects. But Andrew went above and way beyond the demands of his fundamental role within the project, demonstrating an exceptional level of commitment and support, which impressed the project leader, his nominator.  Taking on and helping develop an entirely new digital solution to benefit the project, setting up meetings with diverse professionals within his personal network to help bolster the project’s status, Andrew has made a profound difference to Project Impactive this year.

“Without Andrew, our engineers would not have felt so supported this year and the projects would not have been such a success.”

“Andrew showed exceptional commitment to his volunteering role at Project Impactive. Andrew was self-motivated and took full ownership of his role. When we decided to take on a completely new kind of project, a digital solution developed by a hackathon team, Andrew took this on and went out of his way to support the team.  He also supported the Project Leaders to develop Project Impactive. He went well beyond the scope of his role and showed dedication to Project Impactive.”

- Andrew’s nominator

Second Winner: Amy Cotter

Amy Cotter was our well-deserved second Volunteer of the Year

Through her work with our partner organisation, Mind with Heart, Amy has been designing and running a research project into the wellbeing of beginning-teachers.  Her chairing of meetings, her enthusiasm and proactive attitude and the insight and incisiveness comments that she has afforded the charity, all delivered along with a cheerful and inspirational attitude, have been invaluable, and ultimately game-changing, to its progress and development.  Her efforts and their impact upon Mind with Heart certainly didn’t go unnoticed by her nominator.

Indeed, in nominating her, her supervisor was highly complementary in explaining the extent of Amy’s profound impact on the charity:

“Amy’s enthusiasm and incisive comments generated momentum for the project and her willingness to write up notes and, pro-actively, to produce appropriate documents followed up her cheerful presence with high-quality output. Her ability to see the best in other volunteers helped create a cohesive and inspired group of three volunteers.

Moreover…

the impact of her contribution is that neither the survey nor the subsequent focus group would have taken place without her activity. The insights gained from these have changed the charity’s strategy on how to address beginning-teacher wellbeing.”

- Amy’s nominator and supervisor

Third Winner: Yujia Gu

Our third, and final, winner of Volunteer of the Year was Yujia Gu

Yujia has been volunteering as Lead Trainer of ‘ProjectOI Digital Training’ at partner organisation, Oterman’s Institute.  The training programme has been supporting the learning needs of disadvantaged and less-advantaged learners and upskilling them in 8 countries during the pandemic.  Without her dedicated work, hundreds of learners would have had no access to upskilling and learning during this pandemic period. But she has left a lasting impression that has gone far beyond this: a source of inspiration, and a leader by example, she has had a global impact on both Oterman’s, and the lives of so many learners!

It’s not surprising, therefore, that her nominator, and managing director of the firm, was full of words of praise in his statement of support for Yujia:

Yujia has been the lynchpin of Otermans Institute’s volunteer trainers from the end of 2020

Her selfless attitude, willingness to learn, and empathise with others has resulted in her directly supporting close to 300 learners from underdeveloped and developing countries at a time when the pandemic forced them out of school and any form of formal education. Her work not only directly aided them at this time of crisis but also inspired them through her attitude; a far greater long term impact.

She has not only been a very valuable asset to the team, but also an inspiration for the entire organisation.”

- Yujia’s nominator - Managing Director of Oterman’s Institute

Of course, a lot of the volunteering that takes place at UCL wouldn’t be possible in the first place without the hard work and dedication of some truly wonderful partner organisations, who offer our students an abundance of ever-changing and constantly increasing opportunities.  They also provide our volunteers with extensive support systems, and the chance to develop skills and have fun in undeniably unique and diverse ways.  So, now was the turn of such organisations to receive their well-deserved recognition as we presented the Organisation of the Year award; our small way of saying a huge thank you for everything they do.

Our champion partner organisation for 2021 is St Mungo’s, a leading UK homelessness charity supporting over 3150 people every night.

Nominator UCL student, Daisy Haynes, gave us plenty of reason to see why St Mungo’s offers students a thoroughly enjoyable, meaningful, and incredibly well-supported environment in which to make a huge difference both to the charity itself, and to the lives of their beneficiaries: those experiencing homelessness across the South West.  It’s a community in which Daisy has felt not only able, but encouraged to explore passions and express creativity, and a place that took the time to consider her own ambitions and the ways in which she wished to gain from her volunteering experience.

In her nomination, Daisy was oh-so complimentary:

I can’t thank the Events, Community and Regional team, and St Mungo’s, for making volunteering such a lovely, beneficial and all-round wonderful experience. The team have been so kind and patient in sharing their time and wisdom. I’ve always felt supported, appreciated and valued. I’m truly grateful to have had this insight into your unbelievably hard and important roles. I have come away gaining and learning more than I ever anticipated or dreamt, and I can’t wait to return and develop further.

I have been welcomed with such warm and friendly arms in to the Events, Community and Regional team. It is a true privilege.

- St Mungo’s nominator, Daisy Haynes

We are also extremely lucky to count on a broad swathe of opportunities thanks to our very own Student-Led Projects, which foster some exceptional student leaders in developing their very own ideas and turning them into volunteering projects wherever they identify a community need not yet addressed.  What’s more, such projects create new opportunities for which our students are able to take full ownership on the one hand, as well as provide a whole other source of volunteer roles for students to get stuck into volunteering, on the other.  It’s truly a win-win situation! And we really do have some of the most innovative thinkers among us! You simply need to check out our exciting list of Student-Led Projects for confirmation!

First award in this category was for Best Newcomer, awarded to projects that have been running less than two years.

Our winners this year were #Data for Good, presented by Karen Barnard.

#Data for Good is a project through which UCL students provide free data analysis services to not-for-profits, with the aim that these services go on to benefit the organisation.  This year, they have provided UCL Students with a passion for Data Analytics, the opportunity to work on live projects, enhance their technical skills, and develop meaningful relationships with likeminded peers.  And for their beneficiaries?  In a year when the non-profit NGO sector is facing numerous challenges on the financial spectrum, they managed to deliver timely and relevant evidence-driven advice, aiding upcoming projects and grants.

As Karen highlighted during her tribute to the winners:

“The Project Leaders are this project’s frontline to the beneficiaries and volunteers; they coordinated UCL volunteers to provide community organisations with data-driven analysis in order to optimise performance within their organisations during the pandemic, which the organisations benefited greatly from.

The second award in the Student-Led Project category is for Project of the Year, an award recognising projects that have truly made a demonstrable difference to the community in which they work.

This year’s winners were UCL Next Top Doctor, which works to improve Year 10 and 12 pupils’ understanding of healthcare careers, what life as a medical student is like, what life as a doctor is like, and what the medical school application process involves.  Through delivering an interesting and informative outreach scheme, the project nurtures enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, healthcare careers, as well as a wide range of skills within both pupils and volunteers.

Carol Paige emphasised not only the impressive work of the outreach project, but also how they’ve really taken this year in their stride to succeed in times of adversity:

“This year they adapted to online delivery, revamped all their materials, and introduced a new fifth session with a neurosurgeon to give students real insight into medical careers. Running the scheme remotely was a substantial challenge, but…

their volunteers delivered almost 30 hours of interactive teaching to six classes of pupils, and were delighted with the positive feedback they received from all stakeholders.”

Our final award has become a well-established highlight of the Awards Ceremony.  This year was the fourth year that it has been presented - time has truly flown since we first started recognising these outstanding individuals!

The Altruism Award was created by a charity very dear to the heart of the UCL community, Olly’s Future, which was set-up in memory of former UCL student and history graduate Oliver Hare.  The charity aims to continue Olly’s legacy of kindness and compassion, a memory which inspired all who knew him, and still inspires us to this day to endeavour to help those around us through caring acts, voluntary work and philanthropic ventures in his name.  In a similar vein, and in recognising the efforts of individual students who have either got involved in formal volunteering roles, or who have offered informal support for others in the community, the Award honours the continuing initiative, empathy and altruism of an incredible UCL body of students, those who seek to positively impact the world around them.  It epitomises the kind of volunteers that we are proud to represent and encourages further positive change-makers to aspire to make a difference. 

What’s been clear this year, more than ever, is that, amid all the damage, drama and devastation, there are still little pockets of joy that can be found in the people that are still willing to put the interests of others above their own.  Be it the UCL community, or the wider world community, we need to celebrate precisely that with an award such as this!

So we’ve dedicated 2021 as THE year to celebrate acts of altruism.  Not only are they more needed than ever before, but we also know that there are more exceptional examples of altruism than ever before, because we’ve really stepped up to the call for kindness in the world and the undeniable need for hope on the horizon.  It’s people like our Altruism Award winners who are putting that hope out there into the world, and bringing brighter smiles and faith in humanity to those who need it most.

2021 Winner: Shiv Patel

Shiv was nominated by his friend, football team mate, fellow Committee member and Union Club president, Ilyas Benmouna.

A short while before Shiv started his term as president for football club, Red Star FC, had lost fellow team mate, Matt, to suicide. As any good leader does, Shiv channelled the devastation of a team into ensuring strong and adequate support for all club members both under his term and in the future. Shiv has worked tirelessly throughout the year to communicate with the friends and family of Matt, to organise a memorial game/event in his honour, to destigmatise speaking about male mental health, and to raise money for other charities that supports mental health

Ilyas finished his tribute to Shiv with these uplifting words; words at which Shiv himself, and the rest of our volunteering community, can, and should, rejoice:

“I could speak about how much of a great guy Shiv is all day, and how selfless and caring he is. Shiv has set an example to the whole UCL community of being the perfect leader and perfect role model, and I and many others would love for Shiv to be acknowledged for all his efforts.”

And with that, our ceremony was over, almost in a flash! But our volunteering efforts are never over, and nor are the continuing success stories that come with them! The spotlight returned to hosts, Ilyas and Syed for a final word, in which Syed described this ceremony as a mere “drop in the ocean” to celebrate all the wonderful things that our superstars are doing. He couldn’t be more accurate.  Commitment, time, dedication and absolute positivity never goes unnoticed, and it’s a bittersweet shame that we can’t bring every single volunteer onto our (virtual!) stage to say a personal thanks.

But take it from this round-up that we’re saying THANK YOU to you all!  For not giving up in the face of adversity, and turning overwhelmingly negative change in the world into positive change in the hearts of those that we have helped.

So we leave you with this message: as we look forward to happier times, a more ‘normal’ world and the delight at seeing the increasing return of our in-person volunteering programme, hold close and treasure that UCL spirit of compassion and determination showcased by our superstar winners, our alumni volunteers, and our partner organisations who foster it, and keep being change-makers for our volunteer community, and most importantly, our world.  Because we’ll never stop celebrating it!

Until next year, as the curtains close, and the live streaming screens turn black, we say one final, but also one massive… THANK YOU!

Written by Rebecca Stewart, Admin Assistant


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