Nikhil won the inaugural LSE Volunteer of the Year at the end of the last academic year for his outstanding work with MyBnk. He was nominated by them because, “he was an excellent team player, always willing to go the extra mile”. He also had some pretty impressive achievement, managing to get a free venue for an event that would normally have cost £3,500. We caught up with Nikil to see what his thoughts were on volunteering with MyBnk and winning the award. To see some of the other projects LSE students worked on last year check out our LSE Volunteers brochure.

Q. Please describe the organisation you volunteered with. What are their aims?

MyBnk is an award-winning charity providing young people with opportunities to build the knowledge, skills and confidence necessary to manage their money effectively and make enterprising choices throughout their lives. Since 2007, MyBnk has reached over 42,000 young people in schools, youth clubs, or young offenders’ institutes teaching and engaging with practical and relative money lessons, changing attitudes and outlooks, boosting confidence and knowledge.

Q. What was your volunteering role?

My role was to help develop an exciting and innovative new application MyBnk is launching for mobile phones in 2012 and which aims to go global. The challenge for the team was to ensure MyBnk will be able to maximise the potential impact at the time of the launch. We were taking part in a competition being run by Morgan Stanley called the Community Impact Challenge. We were also assigned a mentor from them.

Q. What did you achieve? What was your favourite part about volunteering?

Our first goal was to create awareness among the tech community on the real problems of financial illiteracy amongst the youth. We achieved this by organising the Random Hacks of Kindness (RHOK) for MyBnk. The  RHOK event brought together subject matter experts with volunteer designers and technologists to develop solutions through technology and collaboration, and the London chapter dealt exclusively with problems relating to financial illiteracy and financial exclusion. My role was to help secure sponsorship for the event and help set-up a social outreach strategy. The 2-day event was an outstanding success which resulted in MyBnk gaining global exposure and the creation of lean (small) teams working to produce tangible solutions; these solutions are now used by MyBnk to enhance educational impact and delivery.

I come from a software development background so personally it has been rewarding, both intellectually and emotionally. The smiles from the young people during the YAP (Youth Advisory Panel) testing session was priceless!. I was also fortunate to be part of a brilliant team of LSE students. Most of us were from different courses and would never have met if it wasn’t for this opportunity.

Q. How have you benefited from volunteering with MyBnk?

Volunteering at MyBnk has  helped me to  gain an understanding of the ramifications of financial illiteracy, especially at a time when the UK is suffering from a recession. UK personal debt is at a record £1.5 trillion, around £9,000 per person; and  yet 90% of the UK population have never received any form of money management lessons. MyBnk organised trips to the schools where financial education was delivered, so that we could experience first hand the change which is sought to be brought about by MyBnk. It was encouraging to see MyBnk capitalise on technology to deliver a better learning experience to young people. The volunteering experience also helped me to better my networking skills and get to know the tech community in London a lot better. It has also helped me improve my time management skills.

Q. How did you feel when you found out you had been nominated, and won, the LSE Volunteer of the Year award?

I felt overwhelmed !  I felt humbled!  I felt truly honoured to have been nominated and then to win the LSE Volunteer of the year award. I feel blessed to have been part of a great team of exceptionally talented students from the LSE and privileged to represent the team for this award. I would also like to acknowledge the great work done by the other nominees for the award;  I believe we all emerged victorious in the end, working for a cause of significant societal significance. I would like to thank the LSE Volunteer Center for highlighting and celebrating some of the great work done by charities across London.

Q. What would you say to other LSE students to encourage them to volunteer?

I would strongly recommend LSE students to volunteer with an open mind. Volunteering helps to meet interesting and intelligent people, all the while doing your part to help the less fortunate. The highlight of my volunteering experience was team working with the  brilliant team from LSE and helping an amazing organisation like MyBnk to achieve its goals. The LSE Volunteer Center has frequent networking sessions where you can meet with members from the Center and network with other volunteers. I urge and encourage the students to make use of the amazing extra-curricula opportunities the LSE provides outside the classroom, that makes the overall learning experience so worthwhile.