More than just a chance to socialise, student societies and charitable initiatives can change lives – both our own and those of others
When I started university, I viewed student societies as one of the best ways to get involved in anything and everything I could possibly put my name to during the freshers’ fayre. I went through the process of enthusiastically signing up to every society (well, almost every), and then I went on to getting annoyed at the constant spam my inbox received for the rest of the year – despite my repeated attempts to “remove from mailing list.” To this day, I still have no idea what it is the Asian society did, but I know I got their emails – directly into my junk folder.
Despite whittling down the societies which I was active in to a grand total of three, it has to be said that upon reflection, society life has much more to offer an individual beyond just a good time at university.
As any good Muslim fresher obviously does, I joined the Islamic Society (ISoc) despite initial misgivings about all those wonderful things you hear about ISoc’s being “dating societies” and of course a personal favourite of mine: “hotbeds of extremism” (the only extreme behaviour in my ISoc were random kabbadi – a South Asian team sport – and volleyball tournaments in the prayer rooms when the mood struck). It turned out to be the best decision ever, despite all the connotations and getting the “ISoc girl” label inextricably attached.
See, as I attended the initial freshers’ ISoc events of tea parties and halal Muslim fun of staying out till the late hour of 10pm on a school night, I got accosted by what can only be referred to as a bunch of “crazy hijabis”. These girls were happy, hyper and oh so colourful with their big floral headscarves, zealously harping on about something called “Charity Week”. Little did I know that I was looking at the future version of myself.
But more importantly, these girls were introducing me to a world which would finally lead me to making a career defining decision, something I’d avoided up until that point. See my personality, so often described as flighty and indecisive by my ever-loving family, really didn’t help me in the making-life-altering-decisions side of things. What to order in a restaurant or what movie to watch was, and still is, an agonising process of uhm-ing and ah-ing, never mind any of the simple decisions in life such as what to study or what career path to follow.
But I digress. Charity Week, an innovative fundraising initiative for orphans and needy children, means so much more to me than being a week of fun – though there’s no denying that it most definitely is that (rolling down a hill in an inflatable hamster ball would be off my bucket list, if I actually had a list).
What is so attractive about Charity Week is that the concept is so simple, yet the results so effective. Everyone across the entire country works together to raise money during one week, pools that money and then transforms it into projects such as the building of 15 schools in flood damaged Pakistan, the treatment of 3000 severely malnourished children in East Africa and supplying 20 orphan homes in Kosovo with clean running water whilst simultaneously training older orphans to be plumbers themselves.
The whole process became a fascination (read: obsession), from the fundraising on the ground to organising the week on a national scale to the liaising with a DEC charity (Islamic Relief) on project proposals and reading firsthand the needs that there are among some of the world’s poorest 1.4 billion people.
The more I’ve gotten involved with Charity Week, the more I’ve learnt about how there is an entire world outside of the Western bubble of relative prosperity that I live in, and an entire sophisticated industry that works to aid that world, complete with logistical nightmares, bureaucratic annoyances and political minefields. Here, I found my career making decision moment. Despite the challenges, development is a world which has the concept of helping people in need at its heart – what better career could you have? Admittedly it has no correlation with my undergraduate studies, but that’s why we have humanities degrees and postgraduate studies – or so I keep telling my father.
My one day long burst of enthusiasm for society life has impacted my life in more ways than I ever thought was possible. Being involved and active in society life can take you to places you had never given thought to. It cultivates friendships and skills, and mostly it keeps you from going bonkers when academia (especially for us humanities students) drives you insane.
Involvement in Charity Week has not only given me direction in life (a minor miracle in itself), it has pulled me out of my comfort zones, cultivated new skills such as html coding (who knew it was so simple to learn?!) and taught me how to understand the Scottish accent (the English up there is a wee bit strange). The one thing it hasn’t managed to do is improve my numerical skills – or lack thereof. Though I think at this point in life, I’ll happily admit that I’m a lost cause and I’d like to point out we have calculators for a reason.
Find out more about Charity Week and get involved here.
Photo Credit: Charity Week London
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