While studying for her MSc in Human Rights, Tazeen Dhanani has managed to volunteer for a range of organisations and she was one of our a Student Volunteering Ambassadors. The numbers of hours that Tazeen put in is impressive, but her dedication to volunteering is even more so. We were therefore delighted to award Tazeen the LSE Volunteer of the Year award at the LSE Volunteers event on 27 April. We caught up with her to see how she felt about the award and what she would say to other LSE students who are looking to volunteer.

What are/were your volunteering roles?

  • I’m a Refugee Support Volunteer at The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN), a social enterprise supporting refugees in realising their ambition of starting a business. Here I serve on a small working group developing outreach campaigns to attract more female refugee applicants to participate in TERN’s business model.
  • At Swadhinata Trust, a London-based secular Bengali heritage group that works to promote Bengali history and heritage amongst young people, I work on creating human rights-related resources for activists.
  • As an Internal Communications Volunteer at Amnesty International UK, I source, shape, and create content for internal communications channels.
  • My current role with UN Women’s Empower Women includes serving as a 2016-17 Champions for Change Mentor to two outstanding Global Champions working on advocacy and social media activities to promote women’s economic empowerment.
  • During the academic terms, I served as the Speakers Officer with LSESU’s Human Rights Society, where I planned, coordinated, and implemented human rights-related events with the Executive Committee, and liaised with internal and external speakers for Society events and conferences. I also served as a Careers Officer with the LSESU United Nations Society, where I worked with my team to plan and organise career panels, socials, and workshops. I chaired a panel on interning at the United Nations, and helped implement the Society’s inaugural Mentorship Programme.
  • Finally, I serve as a lead editor for LSE’s Human Rights Blog, where I work with my team to commission, acquire, review, edit, and publish blog posts from students and external authors on human rights topics.

What achievement have you been most proud of through your volunteering?

Being selected as a 2015-16 Global Champion, and 2016-17 Champions for Change Mentor, with UN Women’s Empower Women. I have always been passionate about women’s rights and gender equality, and when I was selected as one of 75 Global Champions in my 2015-16 cohort, I knew I would be able to nurture this passion and connect with other like-minded advocates throughout the world. The global platform provides a forum for sharing ideas and resources, providing support, enhancing skills, and generally encouraging and advancing women’s economic empowerment. Now that I’m a Mentor to two amazing Global Champions, I’m able to pay it forward and provide guidance as they implement projects to empower their own communities. It’s truly a rewarding experience that makes me so happy and proud to be part of this global community.

How have you benefitted from volunteering?

In more ways than I can list here! I started volunteering when I was a young teenager, and for an awkward girl who was extremely introverted and shy, I was able to find my voice by learning how to work with, and empower, others. I gained skills that I’ve used in my academic and professional life – eg. communications, relationship-building, event planning, project management, teamwork, community outreach, and empathy – and I’m confident that these skills are what have helped me find success in both. I’ve built a network of amazing friends and colleagues who I can turn to for professional and personal guidance. I’ve also had doors open for me that may not have been opened if I didn’t have my diverse voluntary experiences. I’ve grown into the woman that I have always hoped to become, and volunteering has played a huge role in helping me get there.

How did you feel when you found out you won the LSE Volunteer of the Year award?

I was so honoured and felt so proud to have won this award. The other nominees are truly outstanding, and to be in the same league as them is a privilege. The award reinforces and strengthens my desire to provide value to others and make an impact in the world.

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

There is truly no better way to improve your life and the lives of others than by volunteering. Find something you care about – something that lights up your heart and soul, something that resonates with you – and go for it. It doesn’t need to take up a lot of time or energy. As LSE students, we have to prioritise our time and resources wisely, and this is precisely why I encourage everyone to volunteer: it will energise you and provide extra motivation to get through your studies. But more than that, you’ll gain new skills, be more prepared for your future careers, and – most importantly – help others and make an impact in the world.

Want to follow Tazeen’s example?

Tazeen is, besides extremely inspiring, the living example that volunteering next to your studies is do-able. If you still need some more inspiration you can read about the other LSE Volunteers nominees. Convinced? Why not search for volunteering opportunities on LSE CareerHub, book an appointment with us, or send an email to volunteer@lse.ac.uk with any questions.

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