Selfless student volunteers recognised at Square Mile Awards


Studying for a degree can be tough enough – but an army of students also make time for volunteering, supporting organisations and helping others, not just in Leicester but around the world.

And De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) had the chance to say a big thank you at the annual Square Mile Awards, held to celebrate the university’s amazing volunteers.

DMU-SM awards 2019-5637

Over the past 12 months more than 4,000 students have been involved in projects run by DMUlocal, the university’s public engagement team. They contributed an incredible 26,196 hours of volunteering and helped 52,000 people.

Fi Donovan, Deputy Head of Public Engagement at DMU, said: “We really cannot do the work we do without our volunteers. They are the reason we can achieve so much with our partners across Leicester and make such a difference. They really do care about the people and the city we live in.”

Awards were presented in five categories to the best volunteers in the areas of health, schools, refugee support, HMP Leicester projects, Square Mile India and community. There was also a special award for the year’s outstanding volunteer called Going the Extra Mile.


Outstanding volunteer, Square Mile India: Chris Perry

Chris Perry

Mature student Chris travelled to Ahmedabad to spend time working with young people at DMU’s partner charity Manav Sadhna. The Design Crafts student was nominated by lecturer Rajesh Gogna who said: “Chris went above and beyond his own expectations and demonstrated a real empathy whilst engaging with families and children from the slums.”

Chris said: “It was well worth doing, visiting India changed my perspective on so much, it made me realise how much we take for granted.”

Best volunteers on a health or wellbeing project: Chloe Smith and Alex Scarbro

Chloe Smith & Alex Scarbo

Pharmacy students Chloe and Alex were among the student volunteers who helped The Rik Basra Leukaemia Trust to recruit more than 200 people to the UK stem cell register.  The one-day event at DMU aimed to sign up potential new lifesavers to the Anthony Nolan’s list of people willing to donate stem cells to those with blood cancer.

Outstanding volunteer, HMP Leicester: Kathryn White

Kathryn White

Kathryn, a Psychology and Criminology student, helps inmates record bedtime stories for their children through the Storybook Dads initiative. She records CDs for relatives to play at home, and was nominated by prison librarian Louise Dowell.

She said: “It’s so rewarding, I love it. We record the dads reading the stories and then we send the CD off to have music and sound effects added. It really helps the inmates stay close to their children, it’s so emotional seeing the reaction and hearing the feedback.”

Best volunteer on the UN’s Join Together project: Habeeb Otukoya


Habeeb has supported DMU’s work with refugees and asylum seekers. He volunteered to work with refugees on a #DMUglobal trip to Berlin and in Leicester, worked with charity LE Solidarity to load a van full of aid to France. He also volunteered at a 24-hour vigil to create dignity packs for refugees in Leicester and living in camps in Calais.

Habeeb, who studies Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Science, said: “I’m really surprised to get this award. Volunteering for me is a way of giving back and making sure other people get the opportunities they need in life.”

Best schools volunteer: Zoe Buxton

Zoe Buxton

Zoe’s work as a literacy coach at Alderman Richard Hallam Primary has helped year six children to develop their reading skills. Her nomination read: “She has such a wonderful relationship with the children and has shown a lot of enthusiasm, flexibility and dedication.”

Psychology with Education Studies student Zoe said she had loved working with the children, developing their confidence. “I think they found it rewarding and loved getting the focused attention because it was a small group. They were such a lovely group of children and so keen. I want to go on to a PGCE and being able to work with these children has been great experience.”

Outstanding volunteer on a community project: Erin Napier

Erin Napier

Erin’s volunteer work in Beaumont Leys impressed her bosses so much they offered her permanent work. Erin has been volunteering at the E2 Centre at its BLING youth club and its homework club, where she works with young people from the area. “She has made a huge difference to individuals on our project. She is patient, reliable and a pleasure to have on our team,” said Bethany Wallace, of E2.

Erin said: “I started off helping with homework club but then ended up coming more and more to help with the different projects. I love it, and now I’ve been offered paid work there it’s brilliant. They are like my family.”

Going the Extra Mile Award: Paul Weedon

 Paul Weedon

Drama student Paul helped set up a drama club at Beaumont Leys School which has been transformative for the pupils. Teachers say the children taking part have gained in confidence and even improved their attention in other classes. Workloads meant the teachers had not been able to run after-school clubs or stage performances. Paul’s work – volunteering every Thursday and regularly coming in on other days to teach – saw the school put on its first drama performance in 10 years, a production of Oliver Twist.

Paul said: “I absolutely love it, the club has really taken off at Beaumont Leys and the children – for a lot of them it is the highlight of their week! The talent there is just amazing and I am so proud of them all. I get a sense of pride and achievement just watching them grow.”

Posted on Tuesday 14th May 2019

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