At the Volunteer Centre @ LSE Careers we are always on the look out for inspiring stories from LSE students and alumni. When we heard that Daniel Becton was going to be volunteering in every single American state (and Washington DC!) over the course of one year we had to find out more. Here are his thoughts explaining his actions and motivations behind them. We hope you’re as inspired as we are.
After graduating from the University of North Carolina (BA Philosophy and Music 2008) I joined the Gender Institute at LSE where I earned an MSc. Gender degree. As with many of the international students who find themselves on Houghton Street, I was amazed at the breadth of diverse perspectives from my peers, and generally found the conversations after class to be the most invigorating elements of my education.
We tended to fall into the trap, however, of talking a lot about the world’s problems without really doing much about them. Whilst complaining one day about how academics always complain, I came across City Year, a one-year full-time volunteering scheme that mobilises diverse teams of young people as tutors and mentors in inner-city schools. I served a year with the programme in San Jose, California, and then joined the team in the UK when City Year London launched in 2010.
Over the past two years I helped City Year London grow to more than 100 full-time volunteers, recruiting young leaders to commit a year to helping others and empowering themselves. Among those were five LSE alumni, ranging from former masters students to recent graduates to one person taking a gap year after two years studying law.
Through the cultivation of my passion for volunteering, I found myself happier and feeling I was making a real impact on the problems I had studied at the LSE. Rather than becoming inundated with the weight of what was, I began to get excited about what could be.
And so I developed an independent project that would celebrate organisations across the U.S. that are dedicated to effecting change through human efforts – giving their time, energy and skills in an effort to better society. During my two years working in London I created Project Ubuntu, a journey to one community in every state and Washington, D.C., that will spend a week with 51 different charities or communities of faith that are devoted to volunteering.
With a dedicated team supporting, I launched Project Ubuntu by raising $16,500 from more than 200 individual donors, generating 51 organisational partnerships and designing endless logistics for my year-long journey around the United States. And on 26 August, the trip got underway.
In each community, I am supporting organisations in a variety of ways – delivering workshops on leadership, identity and professional development; helping promote their work by consulting with departments or arranging benefit events; and supplying an extra pair of hands in areas where I can be useful.
I also spend time with the people of each partner organisation to learn their stories, and I write about my experience by exploring the paradox, “How do we build ‘us’ without building ‘them?’” Additionally, I generate a steady stream of photos and videos to a growing international audience via social media.
The ultimate goal of Project Ubuntu is to inspire increased kindness and community engagement by demonstrating that volunteering is fun, feasible and meaningful. I’m mobilizing the intellectual tools I developed at LSE by deconstructing and reconstructing identities, challenging groups to define themselves as hospitable, loving, and aware of the humanity that connects all people around the world.
If you’ve been inspired by Daniel’s story and want to get involved in volunteering during your time at LSE check out the Volunteer Centre @ LSE Careers for ways in which you can contribute to the local community. We have opportunities that range from just a few hours to several weeks.