SOAS University of London

SOAS celebrates students who make a difference

11 June 2013

A ceremony was recently held in the Brunei Gallery to celebrate students who make a difference to communities through volunteering or social enterprise.

The annual SOAS Volunteering Awards were made, alongside presentation of certificates to UnLtd Award Winners and recognition of SOAS graduate entrepreneurs.

Guest speaker Kelvin Cheung, a SOAS alum and the founder & CEO of FoodCycle spoke of UnLtd supporting him in his first venture and the key role volunteers play to his organisation. SOAS has partnered with UnLtd to offer start up funding and support to more than 20 students, all of whom have innovative and exciting ideas to make a positive difference through their social enterprises.

Volunteers were also celebrated at the event and a number of awards were made, including SOAS Volunteer of the Year . Following a call for nominations, 6 excellent candidates were shortlisted, all of whom were awarded Oustanding Volunteer Awards by SOAS Director Professor Paul Webley. The 6 finalists were Anja Fahlenkamp, Jonathan Taitt, Filippo Gabriele La Verghetta, Maren Trondsen Johansen, Finja Schmidt and Mary Thackray.

Speaking about the value of volunteering Professor Webley said “Volunteering is valuable because it makes a difference. It’s fun, students get something out of it but the most important thing is it makes a difference to the lives of individuals and communities.”


A special Director’s Prize was also awarded to Anja Fahlenkamp. An active SU volunteer for 3 years, and “an inspirational volunteer to work with”, Anja excelled in her Anti-Racism Officer role, representing SOAS at national conferences and Westminster Select Committees and extending the role into interfaith work, culminating in 2 ground-breaking  Interfaith Music Festivals.


Describing their achievements as ‘jaw dropping’ the judges gave the final award, for best student-led volunteering project, to Femin Ijtihad. Founded by LLM student Natasha Latiff, Femin Ijtihad is a pro bono initiative for women’s rights, run by volunteers from SOAS and other universities. The group conduct legal research and offer training on women’s rights under Islamic and international law. They have successfully developed a litigation model of gender-equitable Shariah-based arguments for Afghan lawyers which has resulted in lawyers successfully obtaining divorce for 36 cases of domestic abuse and reduced sentences for 17 cases of adultery and rape.  

Speaking about all the winners on the night Kerry Hyde, Volunteering Manager at SOAS said “Students at SOAS do amazing things. They get involved, they volunteer, they start up new initiatives, they create impact. It’s a privilege to work with them”.