Bianca Nobilo, studying an MSc in Comparative Politics (Conflict Studies), has recently been shortlisted for an NUS/Student Hubs volunteering award. This prestigious award is a continuation of the Matt Spencer Award that was previously run by Volunteering England. The winner is to be announced at a ceremony at the House of Commons by Nick Hurd MP, the Minister for Civil Society.

Bianca was nominated for her fantastic work educating young people about the importance of keeping a healthy heart. She has founded, and is the Executive Chairperson, of Student Heart Health, a small but ambitious charity working with many young people on this subject. Check out their Facebook page for further information as well.

We caught up with Bianca to find out more about the charity, what being nominated for this award means to her and why LSE students should get involved in volunteering.

Tell us about the charity, Student Heart Health (SHH).

SHH is an independent charity on a mission to improve the heart health of the next generation. We do this in 3 ways: 1) raising awareness through media campaigns advocating heart health at all ages– the way you live your life today literally imprints your lifelong heart health 2) fundraise to provide free heart screenings to students (ECGs and Echocardiograms) to detect hidden structural abnormalities 3) conduct research into the leading cardiovascular risk factors effecting students.

You started the charity in your first year of university; most students have other ideas of fun at 18! Why did you start it?

True! Although my idea of fun is less ‘going out’ and more watching BBC Parliament/the History Channel and drinking green tea! I don’t think I ever set out with the intention of founding a charity though. When I was 17-18 years old close family and friends of mine died suddenly of heart conditions. I learned that 12 otherwise fit and healthy young people under 25 years old die of undiagnosed heart conditions every week in the UK. My initial goal was to hold heart screenings for students at the University of Warwick, and then it dawned on me that it was a much bigger issue.

What is a typical day for you as charity Director?

There isn’t one! My favourite days are when I get the opportunity to raise awareness of heart health by speaking at senior schools and universities or at meetings with volunteers. As Chairman my responsibilities are managing the trustee board, ensuring we comply with charity law, writing grant applications and raising funds through events and grants. Today was a great day as we booked heart screenings for June and November 2013.

SHH advocates ‘4 steps 2 a Healthy <3’, what are the steps and do you live by the rules?

Step 1) Nutrition; Step 2) Activity; Step 3) Know Your Heart Risk, Step 4) Positive Lifestyle (you can find full descriptions on Student Health Heart).

I try to- I did get nervous before my own heart screening last year which falls under 3) but I had a kale protein smoothie this morning, that’s got to be a symbol of dedication to step 1)!


What does it mean to you to be nominated for the national Student Volunteering Award?

It’s incredible. Getting involved with the Volunteer Centre @ LSE Careers has been a phenomenal way to meet young people who are committed to volunteering and making an impact.  SHH has already been given a grant from LSE covers our website overheads and the Volunteer Centre has introduced me to some brilliant philanthropy platforms: Give What You’re Good At and Pimp My Cause.

The SVW award nomination was a total surprise, the best part is looking forward to meeting Anna Ray, Natasha Unwin, Nicola Byrom and Thomas Holt who are nominated, and hearing all about their causes and maybe there’s potential for working together? I think the ‘Third Sector’ will soon catch up with all the advantages of the digital age and become a more coherent network.

Why should LSE students volunteer?

Volunteering is putting action into a cause you care about. Action is an important balance to academic study, I think. Quantitative studies or theoretical works relevant to global poverty, conflict and economics give you the background to apply your knowledge to make a valuable contribution in the future. Volunteering with Charities and NGOs can help you see how research is translated ‘on the ground’. There’s a charity match to every subject:  economics (economic empowerment charities like Give Well), social sciences (UNICEF, Womankind), government, law (Amnesty international), languages and history (amazing education charities like the London based Debate Mate and Think Global ). SVW week has got to be the best time to start!

If you’ve been inspired by Bianca’s story and want to get involved in volunteering during your time at LSE, check out the Volunteer Centre @ LSE Careers. Student Volunteering Week 2013 runs from 9th – 16th February. We have lots of opportunities to get involved.