Changing Perceptions: The impact of Student volunteer innovation in rural communities

October 4, 2017

By Gon Asla

Students’ journey through university is likely to vary as personal circumstances, motivations and experiences are bound to differ immensely from one person to another. However, there are a few features that do present in most student experience: enthusiasm, passion, drive and ambition. Our students have chosen to dedicate a handful of years in our institution in order to widen their knowledge and expertise on a specific subject. They will dedicate thousands of hours towards this goal! They are dedicated. They also possess something that most academic do not: a fresh perspective. Students not only come with less pre-conceived notions about the ideas that they are about to learn, they also come from very diverse backgrounds and often belong to different generations all together. They see the world, and its problems, in new and revolutionary ways.

Passion, enthusiasm, drive, ambition, dedication, and fresh perspective. This are some of the most important ingredients in innovation.

Student innovation can have a drastic positive impact in rural communities. In order to illustrate this notion. Changing Perceptions has partnered with First Aid Africa and FAA Napier to showcase the ways in which this fascinating charity has proven students incredible value on the third sector.

First Aid Africa is an Edinburgh based charity funded by Heriott-Watt students around 6 years ago. While on a trip to east Africa they came to witness the impact that the scarcity of pre-hospital care can have on rural communities. So, they set themselves towards finding a solution. Today, First Aid Africa is a multi-national charitable organisations with more than 100k£ annual turnover and overwhelming support from partners including the Scottish government. They reach more than 4000 people a year with their international first aid teaching expeditions and currently run multiple social enterprises and student engagement projects.

Yet, the biggest strength First Aid Africa has is their volunteer community. In the UK, this community is formed by students organised in university societies across Scotland. And abroad, volunteers are organised around communities where the charity has its country offices. It is their volunteers who organised, recruit, plan and lead their international expeditions. Students lead a big part of their intrapreneurial efforts, and are even in control of the charities Annual General Meeting.

“Changing Perceptions: Student innovation in rural communities” will bring Sam Abrahams, CEO of First Aid Africa to speak about his journey from student to social entrepreneur.

We will also have Fidelma Began, a final year Edinburgh University undergraduate student and senior volunteer who leads the charities projects in Malawi and is currently the director of their newly stablished social enterprise in the country.

And lastly, Emma Shields, final year adult nursing student at Edinburgh Napier University, will speak about her experiences as international volunteer this last summer, where she taught first aid in rural areas of Tanzania.

  • 16:15 Registration, pictures, music and Opening Statement
  • 16:45 Sam Abrahams: Student Social Entrepreneurship: From student society to muli-national charity
  • 17:20 Fidelma Began: Student Intrapreneurship
  • 17:50 Emma Shields: International volunteering.
  • 18:15 Gon Asla: Closing statement

Edinburgh Napier University Students interested in the event should sign up using myFuture, here.

Anyone else can register using Eventbrite, here.

Changing Perceptions is an initiative of the Bright Red Triangle that seeks to motivate staff and students, to find and develop a passion for social responsibility. They facilitate a platform where staff, students and partnering organisation can shape, share and develop ideas that have a positive impact on society, the economy and communities. Their student volunteers are passionate individuals who organise workshops, masterclasses, conferences and form partnerships. Changing Perceptions has held numerous events with varied themes such as: bringing sustainable development to Himalayan communities, fighting against transphobia and violence against transgender people, and finding innovative approaches to homeless. This year they will hold events to promote healthy interfaith discourse, eradicate social exclusion of the elderly , and from the 25th of November until the 10th of December they will be holding the UN 16 days of activism against gender based violence.

The Bright Red Triangle provides training, mentorship and support for any student and recent graduate wishing to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. This mindset isn’t exclusively meant for people wanting to build their own companies, it is a skillset that allows students to overcome challenges by thinking creatively. This is a greatly sought-after quality on prospect employees! The BRT has supported students in a variety of enterprises, from opening their own businesses to organising greatly popular music festivals and TEDx conferences.

If you want to know more, like our Changing Perceptions Facebook page here or follow our Changing Perceptions programme on Twitter via our handle @ShareAChange.

Bright Red Triangle