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 Volunteering Awards 2020     

Our Volunteering Awards is the annual celebration of our vast and fantastic volunteering community at UCL. Although we couldn’t go ahead with our physical event, we still wanted to do a little something to showcase what our superb volunteers have been up to this year.

We’ve had over 1800 students dedicate 55,000 hours of their time to help make the world a better place - now that’s a lot of positive change being made! This includes volunteering with a Student-Led Project, Social Hackathon, One-Off event or regular volunteering with an organisation. 

Thank you for making this year a great one for volunteering and we can’t wait to see how you’ll impress us all over again next year! 

Scroll down to view some more amazing volunteering content…

Looking back on the year                                                                                                                              

Deborah Gill, Pro Vice-Provost for Student Experience and Director of the UCL Medical School (and self-proclaimed fan of the Volunteering Service!), has given a recap of all the brilliant things our UCL students have been up to. Both touching and informative, Deborah perfectly encapsulates what the year has been like for our volunteering community. 

A few words of thanks…

We know that our volunteers are absolute superstars, but don’t just take our word for it - here’s what a few of our charities and community organisations have to say about our volunteers! They’re just a handful of our partners who are immensely grateful to UCL volunteers for dedicating their time to help them.

We have had a more-than-successful partnership with the staff and students at UCL. It started with volunteering and developed into Student Led Projects which have been so innovative, manageable and informative. What I valued was the students who delivered the workshops were flexible, patient and supportive; they did not care about numbers and worked with everyone who attended.  This is a brilliant partnership which I and One Housing will continue for a long time.

- Linda Kelly, One Housing


There’s no denying that our volunteers are amazing, but here’s just a special few who’ve gone above and beyond in their role, so let’s give them some well-deserved recognition! Scroll down to see who won our Awards this year. 

Eliska Vinkelrova is the winner of our Most Committed Volunteer Award. 

Eliska has been volunteering with Grand Junction St Mary Magdelene’s and impressed the team for a multitude of reasons. During Eliska’s short time with the team, she showed exceptional commitment to the project and carried out a huge range of tasks with great proficiency. She was always punctual, extremely reliable, an excellent communicator, and worked collaboratively with other volunteers of all ages and backgrounds.  She showed extraordinary professionalism when welcoming event visitors, has a very friendly and warm nature, was able to quickly find solutions to problems when equipment failed and was an extremely valued volunteer. 

Eliska has not been deterred by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, having resumed volunteering remotely from her home in the Czech Republic. She looks forward to helping Grand Junction when she returns to the UK.

“Eliska is a positive force within the organisation and a true ambassador for our growing project.”

“Eliska has become a key member of the volunteering team at Grand Junction, owing to her  extraordinary professionalism when greeting event visitors, her friendly and warm nature making her welcoming and approachable to children attending our family clubs, and her skilful and accurate collation and interpretation of our oral history project interviews. Eliska is a true ambassador for our new and growing project, and we thank her for her ongoing enthusiasm, hard work and dedication.”

- Eliska’s nominator

Yirogos is also the winner of our Most Committed Volunteer Award.

As Chairperson of Spectrum RUMS this year, a befriending charity for young people with disabilities, Yiorgos was responsible for running the charity in its entirety to ensure that everything was working perfectly. He oversaw others’ roles within the charity, making sure that parents were happy with the help that Spectrum provided and events would go ahead as planned, including their residential trip. Leading a charity branch is no easy feat, even more so as a busy Medical student - with the success of Spectrum RUMS no doubt being a testament to Yiogos’ determination and involvement in the charity.

“Yiorgos is the embodiment of every feature you could possibly want in a volunteer.”

He has been working with Spectrum for 5 years straight, and he holds a patience, kindness and optimism greater than anyone else. Yiorgos went out of his way to ensure that every child who receives the charity’s services is having as much fun as the can, and just carries a strong environment of optimism and fun wherever he goes, no matter how heavy his role may be. As a first year volunteer, I have never felt so confident in a role following his help. Yiorgos was the glue ensuring that Spectrum stayed together.

Yiorgos’ nominator - Spectrum volunteer

Aemilia Baker is winner of our Best Volunteer Moment Award!

Aemilia joined PPL PWR last summer, just before diving into the last stage of the Royal Academy of Engineering DIY renewable energy workshop series (targeting 13-16 year-old students from disadvantaged backgrounds). The turning point, or “best volunteer moment” happened during the second workshop - it was such a huge leap from the previous workshop. She presented her part with a new assertiveness, gaining the attention students and being able to deliver a clear and impactful message. During this workshop, thanks to this spike in self-confidence, she was able to create a bond with the students, motivate and help them during the hands-on exercises. It truly was a beautiful moment and this personal growth has been an asset during the project.

Aemilia is a real pleasure to work with: she is pro-active and positive, always ready to help.

“Aemilia has brought us the best volunteer moment of the Royal Academy of Engineering DIY renewable energy workshop series. We had the pleasure to see how she grew in self-confidence, notably during the second workshop she attended, and how she became an important member in the team.”

- Aemilia’s nominator

Gabriel Ng Shen Han is the winner of our Biggest Impact Award!


Co-founder and project leader of the #Data for Good project, Gabriel laid the intellectual groundwork for this project. His technical expertise in data science as well as conceptualising the foundations of this interdisciplinary volunteering project was invaluable. He communicated his technical knowledge simply to distil data science to its fundamentals. Gabriel also contributed significantly in refining the vision for #Data for Good and brainstorming new ideas to secure resources, support and volunteers.

The greatest testimony to Gabriel’s impact is the deep personal impact that he has left on each of his fellow volunteers. Due to his excellent work ethic, Gabriel earned the respect of his fellow teammates, as evidenced by the many volunteers that asked if Gabriel would be staying on the next year. The new project leaders of #Data for Good and the core leadership team were also deeply reassured that he will continue to serve as a strategic advisor to the project team next year.

I have been thoroughly impressed by his ability to get work done so efficiently, inspirational leadership, and willingness to always go above and beyond his role.

 Under Gabriel’s leadership, #Data for Good has successfully engaged 2 charities, completed 3 data science projects with a team of 25 student volunteers in a short span of 6 months. In particular, Gabriel’s strategic foresight, excellent work ethic and crisis management capabilities have enabled #Data for Good to go from strength to strength.

- Gabriel’s nominator

Conor Courtney is the winner of our Wildcard! Award.

Conor has volunteered across multiple organisations during his time at UCL, despite a busy schedule as a postgrad Law student, and has been a strong advocate for pro bono work within the legal sphere.

Conor has helped inspire the next generation of law students through his volunteering with Brightside, and continues to support them even now and has recently helped Brightside to prepare tips for next year’s cohort of volunteers.

“Most postgraduate students, especially law students, can be come fixated on their careers and their studies, and finding the time to volunteer can often be an afterthought.”

I have nominated Conor because he is passionate and enthusiastic about volunteering. He has engaged fully with his volunteering opportunities, and has gone beyond the basic requirements of his volunteering work. Volunteering is clearly an important subject for him; he was recently announced as a finalist for the National Accident Helpline, Future Legal Mind Awards 2020 and when asked what he thought could improve on his legal education, he discussed his hope to have a pro bono or volunteering element included as mandatory in a legal education.

- Conor’s nominator

Our Student-Led Project of the Year Award goes to #Data for Good!

This year, #Data for Good engaged two charities (The Mix and Future Skills Training) and spearheaded 3 volunteering projects to extract key findings from the data to improve the way the charities operated, who benefitted greatly from their work. The first was for the charity The Mix, and analysed digital user journeys on their website to see how the experience could be improved. They helped the charity better understand their website users much better. 

Their second and third projects were held in collaboration with Future Skills Training (FST) - the first project was undertaking data analysis for social impact, making FST’s data more accessible to a non-technical audience to understand their beneficiaries better and provide more tailored group programs. #Data for Good’s other project with FST aimed to conduct analysis on unstructured data from their mentoring programme. This enabled the charity to analyse the trend in sentiment of each mentor’s comments after every mentoring session to improve their programme.

If you want to find out more about #Data for Good, check out their story here.

In the past 6 months, #Data for Good has exceeded expectations by delivering 3 data science projects across a span of 10 weeks for 2 charities in London.

#Data for Good is a project that seeks to leverage data science to scale impact in the social sector.  We would like to thank our partners, The Mix and Future Skills Training for working alongside us; our 25 volunteers for sharing our vision and working tirelessly on our projects; our 3 alumni mentors for taking time out of their busy schedules to offer invaluable guidance, MSc Business Analytics Programme Director David Alderton for his advice in project development, and last but certainly not least, Cynthia and Nick from the UCL Volunteering Service for making all of this possible.

Crystal and Gabriel - Project Leaders of #Data for Good

Our Best Newcomer Project goes to Kickstart!

Kickstart was created through UCL Taekwondo looking to branch out into volunteering.  Kickstart held Taekwondo sessions to a group of underprivileged children attending a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) in Wood Green. They were able to get young people to view Taekwondo through a different perspective - rather than seeing it as a violent sport, Kickstart showed the students there’s more to it, including discipline and dedication. Kickstart also held fundraisers at UCL to go towards getting kits and equipment for the students to have the best experience possible. Here’s Project Leader Odile’s story if you want to find out more about the project.

There were many rewarding moments during our sessions, where we felt how we were making a difference in these children’s lives.

UCL Taekwondo is an amazing team, passionate for their sport – a sport teaching so much more than how to kick people. We never had our own volunteering project and this year we changed that. With our partner organisations lined up over the summer, we started delivering weekly Taekwondo sessions in the PRU early in term one. Thanks to the amazing work of our volunteers, we maintained these throughout the year. Even though working with these kids was difficult, we had the whole group engaged, develop, and can’t wait to have our students pass their very first Taekwondo grading next year.

- Odile Lehnen, Project Leader for Kickstart

Spectrum RUMS is the winner of our Organisation of the Year Award!

Spectrum RUMS is a befriending service offered to children with disabilities in Camden. Spectrum supports and mentors the children on a regular basis and accompanies them on residential trips. Spectrum RUMS is run by UCL Medical students, allowing for a tight-knit community where the students work and collaborate together.

Spectrum RUMS encourages the students to use their creativity and have their ideas heard, especially when it comes to fundraising ideas that they take part in regularly. They also allow their volunteers to take up leadership positions on their committee, allowing them to develop their management responsibilities.

I volunteered with Spectrum throughout the entirety of medical school and found it an extremely rewarding experience.

I remember being an uncertain fresher barely able to take care of myself but Spectrum mentored us into who we are today. Over the years it’s been an amazing experience to see so many of the volunteers change and mature and build true friendships and relationships with their paired children. More importantly, every year in our big trip, I’ve seen the children grow immensely as well. They are more confident and are empowered to make their voice heard. The volunteers become tuned and can pick up cues incredibly well and the weekend trip every year everyone has an incredible time.

- Spectrum RUMS Volunteers

The Oliver Hare Altruism Award has been established by the organisation Olly’s Futurein loving memory of Oliver Hare (16.2.1994 - 14.2.2017) who gained a first class honours degree in History at UCL in 2016. As well as excelling in academia, Oliver always sought to help his friends and anyone in need and acted as an inspiration to all those who knew him. In acknowledging the selfless efforts by a student at UCL every year, Olly’s Future and UCL hope to honour Oliver’s memory and encourage further caring endeavours and voluntary work in his spirit.

The Oliver Hare Altruism Award is presented each year to a UCL student who has demonstrated great commitment to helping others in both the university community and the wider world. It recognises initiative, empathy and altruism to bring about positive change through volunteering and philanthropic ventures.

This year’s recipient of the Altruism Award is Aliza Ayaz!

During this pandemic, Aliza has been reaching individuals and communities in so many ways from addressing child hunger, to medical research and PPE manufacturing to meals for our heroes, re-employment efforts, and so on through collaborations or on her own. 

Aliza won this award as she would selflessly help others, champion for change and inspire other people to get involved in altruistic activities (including the judging panel!). 

It’s really powerful to give in such an immediate way to someone you know is doing the work, day after day. There’s no corporate overhead. It’s literally student heroism and goals on a new level.

Aliza has been delivering dinners from local restaurants and her kitchen with her Aunty (who used to cook for a living) right to hospital units and many others. Her contactless delivery of meals by just donating to her fundraiser has gotten a lot of attention and she’s delivered close to 5000 meals (as part of the one million means initiative which I must proudly say is all over the news… In this hard time, she has still not failed to look after others in her direct and indirect community.

- Aliza’s nominator