Service is in our DNA at King’s. We were founded in 1829 to serve society, and our students, staff and alumni have been making the world a better place ever since. Giving back is an important part of what we do. Whether sharing our time, expertise, experience or connections, helping others through volunteering is one of the ways we can make a difference.

Whilst many volunteer throughout the year, there’s always a special buzz of energy around King’s Global Day of Service, held every 25 March to mark the founding of the university. And this year was no exception. Despite things looking a little different due to the pandemic, the commitment of King’s communities to making a positive difference proved stronger than ever.

During March 2021, 544 alumni, students and staff from 53 countries gave over 2,300 hours of their time through volunteering. That equates to roughly £20,700 in financial value (based on the UK Living Wage) – but the real impact of these acts of kindness is priceless, especially as this year, more than ever before, people reached out to look after one another. Here we take a look at the impact our community can have.

Helping community and the environment

Where restrictions allowed, alumni went out into their communities to help. Rida Bokhari (MSc International Marketing, 2017), King’s Alumni Ambassador for Pakistan, distributed food care packages across some of the most deprived areas of Islamabad. Jasmine Chiang (MSc International Marketing, 2015) along with alumni in Taiwan litter-picked along the Linshao and Toughman Mountain Trail, as did alumni and students in Shanghai’s Xujiahui Park and many other individuals across the world. And our Washington, DC alumni group took care of their environment by clearing the river at Kenilworth Park.

Making virtual connections

To connect and support each other safely, many alumni volunteered virtually, making the most of online platforms in innovative ways. A new King’s initiative called ‘Let’s Chat’ saw alumni from 35 countries take part in virtual calls to students to support and share experiences through isolating times. Seyran Khalil (MSc Organisational Psychiatry & Psychology, 2017) in Norway described it as ‘inspirational’ to chat to a postgraduate law student from the other side of the world about their home country and mutual interests, while Danqing (Tiffany) Yang (International Marketing, 2018) in Shanghai offered support to a student who was studying remotely from Hong Kong.

Looking out for each other

In the US, David Martinelli (Hispanic Studies with Mathematics, 1991), Rita Kakati-Shah (Mathematics & Management, 2001) and our New York alumni group ran a virtual Zoom event where, with the help of their children, they created thank you cards for those who have made a difference during the pandemic. Over in Mexico, our alumni ran a wellbeing workshop in person and online. Others joined telephone befriending services, such as those offered by Age UK, Samaritans and other charities to chat to the elderly and isolated, or tutored school students online.

Sharing expertise across the globe

Alumni also embraced the reach of digital with over 240 people from 46 countries sharing their expertise through virtual mentoring in March alone. Meeting on the King’s Connect platform, they advised on career opportunities, provided industry insights, reviewed CVs and LinkedIn profiles, helped with interview preparation and more.

Taking action

Back in London, King’s students and staff inspired a global audience to take action through volunteering, with virtual workshops on how to make life-saving crisp packet blankets for the homeless and how to campaign for fairer and greener energy.

Supporting the fight against COVID-19

Many joined the fight against COVID-19, turning their hand to making and supplying PPE and food and care packages to health workers, the vulnerable and local aid groups. In the UK, student and alumnus Dr Mohammed Abu-Asi (Medicine, 2005) delivered a webinar on how to set up a wellness initiative to provide support packages to key workers. Alumnus Robert Goddard (Dentistry, 1990) created a COVID awareness and remembrance campaign. Across the globe, others played a vital role in the vaccine rollout, supporting in health centres and surgeries or giving the vaccine themselves. Staff member Sabrina Poma worked at a clinic in London where many King’s medical students volunteered to give the vaccine. It was led by Dr Russell Hearn, Deputy Director of Community Education at GKT School of Medical Education at his own GP practice, so felt very much like a King’s affair. ‘You really feel part of something significant,’ she said, after her surgery had vaccinated their first 1,000 people. She also volunteers as a School Governor. ‘For me, this is about citizenship in action.’

It’s this sense of citizenship in action that sums up what Service means to many. This year saw more than twice the number of volunteers get involved, compared to 2019, by doing an incredible variety of things – big, small, local and virtual. We’re only able to celebrate a few of the ways our King’s communities have made a difference here.

As alumnus Desmond Tutu (Theology, 1965; MTh, 1966) said: ‘Do your little bit of good where you are. It’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.’

Thank you to everyone who takes the King’s ethos of serving society out into the world.

Find out more about volunteering for Global Day of Service.

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