Your volunteering stories

Across the globe

Celebrate the alumni making a difference around the world.

Volunteers' week is a time to celebrate the contribution of volunteers everywhere, and on this page, we shine a spotlight on some of our global volunteers.

From Taiwan to Argentina, Australia to Pakistan, read their stories below, and find out what being a volunteer means to them.

 

Natalia Dawson (Spanish 2018) at Operation Mobilisation (OM)

The difference I make...

For two years, I’ve volunteered as a deck-hand and translator on OM ship the Logos Hope. The ship sails around the world giving knowledge, help and hope to all those it can reach.

I got involved because...

I have always had a passion for international development and humanitarian aid.

And I love it because...

It is hands down the most rewarding thing that you can do. We don’t live in a world that expects you to give without getting something back – going against the pattern of this world and giving without expectation can truly change lives. There is hope where humanity come together from all corners of the earth to help those around them just out of love!

More

Jack Flanagan (Accounting 1969) at Sydney College of Divinity; CPA Australia – Third Age Network; St Lucy's School for Children with Intellectual Disabilities; and Catholic Healthcare

The difference I make...

At SCD I am on the audit committee, at CPA TAN I generate and run courses for accountants at or near retirement, at St Lucy's I was a board director, and at Catholic healthcare I was the chair of trustees.

I got involved because...

I had a desire to give back after having a successful career and helping to raise four lively children.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Go for it. It will open up new worlds of fascination and enjoyment that you did not even know existed.

More

Stephanie Green (French Language and Literature 1999) at VSO, Ghana

The difference I make...

I went to Ghana and worked with poor women working in the Shea butter supply chain.

I got involved because...

I wanted to use my skills to really impact people. I used my french to help sell Shea butter products in West African countries.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

You can gain many billet points on your CV, and the personal and professional development experience gained is valuable. It’s amazing to be able to impact peoples’ lives positively.

More

Breno Lobato (Business 2017) at Instituto Identidades do Brasil

The difference I make...

I was a mentor in a mentoring circle with black women in Brazil who were affected by COVID-19 crisis. The main topics of these sessions were related to entrepreneurship, self-knowledge, SWOT analysis, SMART objectives, storytelling and making pitches. I actions helped these women to find hope in the middle of this crisis and encouraged them to pursue their dreams and projects.

I got involved because...

Brazil, as with many other countries, has been facing a tremendously difficult time due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, there are those who are affected more than others, and I thought that during the most difficult time, that was the best moment to act and help those in need somehow.

I've been privileged academically throughout my life, so I decided few months ago to join an initiative to help black women who were affected economically by the crisis, and give them the tools and hope to overcome this moment.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Volunteering is a great opportunity to learn about people, to become a better person and to give back to your community. I wouldn't think twice to participate in volunteering activities throughout your academic or professional life, firstly because there are those in need, and secondly because you'll develop empathy.

More

Ben Akers (Mechatronics 2005) at Porto FC

The difference I make...

I am the U11 Team Manager and an FA Level 1 Licensed Coach.

I got involved because...

I wanted to help kids stay active, to enable them to build team working skills and develop their confidence.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

If you want to do it, do it, but it needs to be done with passion not as a tick the box exercise. Do it because you want to not because it might look good.

More

Chonratsamee Ngathaweesuk (International Journalism 2006) at Thai Red Cross

The difference I make...

I was a Miss Thai Red Cross in the year 2000. After that I have been serving Thai Red Cross as ambassador to promote Thai Red Cross missions such as blood donation, disaster helping, fundraising and I usually serve as MC for any particular event that Thai Red cross hosted.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Do it!

More

Mahmoud Seliman (MBA 2020) at Ministry of Petroleum, Egypt

The difference I make...

For the last year, I’ve volunteered to help equip the junior engineers with the soft skills such as leadership and communication skills as well as give them idea about the energy business.

I got involved because...

I wanted to help the junior engineers to perform well and transfer my experiences to them.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

It is an interesting experience where you can help others. It is a great feeling that you add value to others

More

Orsino Hu (Corporate Communications and Public Relations 2015) at Taipei City Fire Department, Taiwan

The difference I make...

I volunteer as an Emergency Medical Technician.

I got involved because...

I wanted to help people and save lives.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Find work which you're passionate about and feel satisfied after finishing it.

More

Philip Crenigan (English 1977) at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Cancer Hospital, Sydney, Australia

The difference I make...

I play grand piano in the foyer.

I got involved because...

I participated in a pop up messiah several years ago and met with some of the team who were looking for musical volunteers.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

It is a wonderfully positive thing to do and is good for your own purpose and soul because it’s about others, not you. In my case the feedback I have had from patients, doctors, nurses and staff has been amazing. Music is a powerful medium.

More

John Charlton (Physics 1971) at St Johns Academy, West Indies

The difference I make...

For two years I’ve taught physics and run the department.

I got involved because...

I want to help West Indian children have some of the educational benefit that I have had.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

There is nothing more rewarding than service.

More

Cuthbert Mhilu (Control Engineering 1989) at University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

The difference I make...

I have volunteered to continue providing supervision to two PhD Engineering students while in retirement.

I got involved because...

Since 2019 all public Universities in Tanzania stopped engaging academic staff above the age of 65 years. This way I wanted to ensure that my two postgraduate students continue getting quality supervision. It has been an interesting experience where you can be able to help students under such circumstance, whilst also assist junior staff acquire supervision skills.

More

Matias Nicolini (Civil Engineering 2012) at Modulo Sanitario, Argentina

The difference I make...

I'm volunteer and co-founder of Modulo Sanitario. We work hard each day to improve the quality of life of families that live in sanitary emergency in Argentina.

Worldwide, one in three people do not have a toilet. Modulo Sanitario makes it possible for people to access a space to carry out hygiene tasks to prevent diseases. Ensuring access to sanitation and hygiene to families who live in vulnerable neighbourhoods is of most importance.

I got involved because...

The original idea was born from the knowledge of my profession, Civil Engineering, and my experience of volunteering in neighbourhoods. Every Sunday, when I returned home, I would take a long hot shower and I was dissatisfied to think that the family I had met and got to know on those days could not do the same. I understood that it is very easy to be clean and healthy when you have all the comforts, but this is utterly different when your bathroom is 10 meters away from your house and it is a very cold or rainy day. Moved by that reality and with the desire to change it, we decided to put our professional skills towards helping others and we organized ourselves to help a specific family. After the success of that first experience we decided to bring the solution to more families by starting the Program.

The challenge that we face every day is reaching more and more people to minimize the gap in access to proper sanitation.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

When you offer your time and resources without expecting anything in return, you always get more than you give.

Being part of the transformation of a world that still has basic unsolved problems is the best way to live passionately.

At Modulo Sanitario, we have the mission to help young professionals in their development so that they become actors of social and inclusive change in Argentina and Latin America. We promote human development in line with both the needs of present and future generations, we address vulnerable peoples’ conditions by putting them at the centre of development, and encourage youth to build a sustainable future for the people and the planet.

More

Evangelia Papoutsaki (Communication Studies 1991) at Bibi Thanjur Foundation, Pakistan

The difference I make...

I serve as a member of the Board of Trustees and provide advice to the Founder and communication team on the Foundation's communication strategy and online presence.

I got involved because...

I was inspired by its vision of quality education to every child, with continuous mentorship, counselling, and support to beneficiary students who live in the remote mountainous communities of northern Pakistan and also by the commitment of its founder, a young scholar from this region who wanted to contribute to his community as a way of commemorating his late mother's wish to educate her children despite all odds.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Choose a cause that resonates with your beliefs and values system. Education and access to knowledge is very important, a value that was instilled by my mother.

More

Howard Roberts (Biotechnology 1990) at Fareshare, Australia

The difference I make...

I spend one evening a fortnight in the kitchens at Fareshare, performing various food prep, packaging and cleaning roles.

I got involved because...

Food waste is a major problem in Australia, both economically and environmentally. At the same time, many people struggle to put food on the table, for a host of reasons. Fareshare rescues food from supermarkets, restaurants etc, that would otherwise go to landfill, and cooks it into nutritious meals that are then distributed to those in need.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Don't hesitate to do something to help others.

More

Dani Boiston (Geography 1997) at Protect Our Winters

The difference I make...

I am a member of the Board of Trustees and represent POW France at European working groups.

I got involved because...

I am passionate about the mountain environment and impact of climate change, I wanted to join a likeminded community of sports enthusiasts who together can do more.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

It gives a great sense of purpose, connects you with people driven by the same values, and can make a real difference to a cause you care about.

More

Geoff Chambers (Biochemistry and Genetics 1970; PhD 1974) at the Ornithological Society of New Zealand

The difference I make...

I monitor nesting success in a local population of banded dotterels.

I got involved because...

I am a professional biologist who has time available and lives close by these vulnerable birds.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Do it today – it will change your life and make a big difference for the welfare of others.

More

Ron Elsdon (Chemical Engineering 1972) at Federal Correctional Institution, Canada

The difference I make...

I provided career and self-employment classes.

I got involved because...

Match of my career counselling experience with a need at the institution.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

It is rewarding, fulfilling, and appreciated.

More

Laurence Mansfield (Metallurgy 1969) at Raise Gambia, The Gambia

The difference I make...

I founded RG and am Secretary and Treasurer. We support the teaching of science in The Gambia.

I got involved because...

Originally the project was funded by the Institute of Physics, and I was asked to volunteer to set up a scheme in The Gambia.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

You will see and hear things that you could never have imagined!

More

Bill Poole (Tribology 1975) at the Institute of Physics and STEM, Ethiopia

The difference I make...

Since 2008 I’ve helped with physics teacher training in Ethiopia (IOP), and School Industry Days at STEM.

I got involved because...

During a visit to Ethiopia in 2008, a discussion with a physics teacher raised the issue of a lack of practical demonstrations in the classrooms. This led to an idea to provide a set of equipment and training in using it, both to teachers and the Ministry of Education physics teacher trainers. The project was supported by the Institute of Physics from 2008 to 2017 under the Physics for Africa programme and has continued independently since in a voluntary capacity. Safeguarding DBS has been maintained throughout the project and this has involved STEM ambassador voluntary presentations to schools in Derby.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Volunteering is a great opportunity to do something different. I had never been involved with teaching but the IOP and STEM activities gave me the opportunity to share my experience with others. At the same time I benefitted from learning how to do new things and learn from a different culture.

More

Vasant Jinwala (Textiles 1962) at Shishu Bharati School, USA

The difference I make...

I am the treasurer and a teacher at Shishu Bharati School, a school of language & Culture of India, where my three daughters went.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Come and teach language or culture if you live in Boston, USA!

More

Dominique Nielsen (Biological Sciences 2018) at Funsani, Zambia

The difference I make...

I manage and create the engagement and communications content as well as the Funsani website.

I got involved because...

Of the work it does to support orphaned and vulnerable children in Zambia, and its emphasis on access to education for children who would otherwise be unlikely to study.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

It's an extremely rewarding organisation to volunteer for, with opportunities to visit homes in Zambia and work directly with the youngsters there as well as local schools and the wider community.

More

Dr Sharique Ahmed Khan (Law 2012) at Royal Grammar School, Kolkata, India

The difference I make...

I built the school from the foundation and have managed to enrol over 1000 students, most of whom are first generation in their families to achieve literacy.

Presently I am responsible for creating and managing a network of sponsorship and funding for the school. I also oversee development and implementation of strategies for education awareness to encourage girls’ education.

I got involved because...

When i returned home from Leeds, I realised that the contrast between the privileged and the needy was quite startling.

I stay in an overcrowded area mostly occupied by those belonging to the lower income group. I wanted to do my bit to empower the highly underprivileged people around me. I felt that education was the most powerful tool to prepare a new generation to become self sufficient and capable. I therefore started a good modern school to create a positive difference in the lives of innumerable people.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

The satisfaction of impacting someone’s life is beyond any material reward. We all must do our bit in improving the lives of people around us. Let us commit to spread a smile and create a difference in our own small ways.

More

Maurice Varney (English Language and Literature 1958; Education 1959) at Sans San Services, Hong Kong

The difference I make...

I trained social workers to make and use puppets to enable people on the autistic spectrum to talk. I also trained Vietnamese immigrants to teach their children.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Do it while you can. You will do good and feel good.

More

Jacky de Rode (Literature, Performing Arts & Linguistics 2014) at ProVeg and Taste Before You Waste, Utrecht, Netherlands

The difference I make...

At ProVeg I help with communications, and at TBYW I help by cooking.

I got involved because...

I wanted to help create a more equitable division of food, improve our global food system, improve the ethics of our food system, promote plant-based eating for the planet, animals and people.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Do it. Pick something you care about and do it – especially something that's outside of your field of study, or even completely unrelated to it. There's a lot to learn and discover.

More

Jonathan Sydenham (Russian Studies 1977) at DGI, a national sports organisation in Denmark

The difference I make...

I have served on national committees and regional boards. At my club I coach kids from nine to fifteen years old.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Don’t hesitate. And if you move to another country, or if you just move to another area, find some way of volunteering straight away. It’s your fast track to new friends and feeling at home.

More

Gertrude Asumadu (Economics 2016) at UNICEF, Anchorise, CAMAAY, Christian Aid, Community Development and Sustainability Organisation Kenya

The difference I make...

I work as a writer, editor, grants writer and researcher, project manager and fundraising advisor.

I got involved because...

It helped me in pursuing my career in international development.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Go for it because you do not know what it will lead to and also you can gain a lot of skills and help boost your career prospects.

More

Bill Austin (Civil Engineering 1973) at Prison Network and CBM, Australia and Kenya

The difference I make...

I am Chair of the Board at Prison Network and Board Director at CBM Kenya. I help to improve the governance of both organisations and ensure in this age of stricter regulations that we meet all the regulatory needs so as to enable the other volunteers to function properly, effectively and safely.

I got involved because...

I was head hunted into Prison Network. Over 80% of the women in Victoria's Prisons in Australia have been abused as children which leads them to take drugs to bury the memory and then start crime to feed the drugs which leads to prison. We build relationships with the women in prison which we continue when they are released and help them to assimilate back into society.

After 9 years with CBM Australia and several years on the International Board I was asked by CBM International to join the CBM Kenya Board to help them with their governance. CBM is the largest organisation helping people with disabilities in the poorer regions of the world.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

It is extremely rewarding to use your skills to help others who are in need and unable to have sufficient funds to pay staff with these skills.

More

Reel Nimir (Public Health 2017) at the Sudanese Environment Conservation Society, Sudan

The difference I make...

I am involved in awareness raising, capacity building, campaigning, lobbying and advocacy in environment, sanitation and climate change.

I got involved because...

My father was a volunteer in different organizations including the Sudanese Environment Conservation Society, and since we were kids he used to take us to participate in volunteering activities. Also, I volunteered to gain experience in the area of environment to help with my undergraduate studies in Public and Environment Health.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

I highly encourage people to volunteer in any area of interest: volunteering is a way to show responsibility and to share caring for each other and for our planet.

More

Santanu Acharya (MSc Health Research 2012) at Rotary International, India

The difference I make...

Rotary International has now made a number of Global Grants Programme to facilitate collaborative action in lowering of maternal encountered deaths by running training missions in tribal states in India where the maternal death rate is highest.

Our vision is to improve maternity care through training. At the same time, attention is given to the mothers themselves who need to know more about their own pregnancy and treatment, particularly in the thousands of remote villages where proper medical care is distant.

In India, there exists a network of public health workers ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activists) who go to each of these villages to teach mothers the knowledge and awareness they will need for successful childbirth.

I got involved because...

It is something close to my heart since I studied medicine in a low resourced country and I am a specialist in obstetrics so I’m best placed to offer my services in this field.

Our next plan is to visit another needy part of India with a high maternal mortality rate – the state of Meghalaya (population 3.5 million). We will be basing our training team at Shillong, a major city of some 150,000 people, but surrounded by many remote rural villages.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

It is one of the most fulfilling experience and the best satisfaction that one can ever get is by volunteering in a charity. When you realise that even small steps can make a huge difference to someone else's life, you will surely help out.

More

Alicia Rodriguez Juncá (MSc Biodiversity and Conservation 2018) at Innoceana, Canary Islands

The difference I make...

Innoceana works towards the preservation and protection of the marine ecosystem through research, education and by supporting management policies. More specifically, I collaborated on their project Innomapas, on the study and conservation of the Seagrass in the Canary Islands, taking data on biodiversity and density of the seagrass patches.

This ecosystem is invaluable as an oxygen producer, a climate change fighter, a biodiversity enhancer, a fishing source and a tourism attraction. Its conservation is indispensable for the balance of the ocean.

I also participated in the expeditions that they organize to teach people of different backgrounds marine conservation methods. Clean-ups were also a common activity – Innoceana is committed to keeping its home clean. Innoceana works through collaboration with other organizations such as universities and believes all sectors of society must be involved in the solution.

I got involved because...

Innoceana's purpose is in line with my own and the team is full of initiative, innovation and passion. Innoceana took me by the hand and helped me discover the wonders of the ocean.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Take advantage of the learning opportunities and give your best, go the extra mile. Volunteering will help you to live powerful experiences.

More

Andrew Nash (Civil Engineering 1982) at Bridges to Prosperity, USA

The difference I make...

I am the representative for Balfour Beatty. We fund and send a team to Rwanda to build a footbridge each year.

I got involved because...

B2P is committed to overcoming rural isolation - providing bridges in countries like Rwanda leads to connection and lifts communities out of subsistence farming. Importantly it saves lives that are often lost to swollen rivers in the wet season; connects children to schools; mothers to hospitals and workers to markets. I had the privilege of joining the team in 2018 and seeing the difference that the charity makes to the local communities.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

You are likely to get more out of it than you put in. We have found that our volunteers that we send to Rwanda come back with renewed enthusiasm for their work; it lifts their horizons; changes their perspective; and increases their confidence – often resulting in promotion.

More