Katee Hui, MSc, Envrionmental Policy and Regulation 2008, recently won one of the most prestigious volunteering awards in the UK; BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Unsung Hero for London. This was for her work founding and running the Hackney Laces, which was set up in 2011 as a place for girls and women to come and play football because there just weren’t enough opportunities for females to play. We spoke to Katee about the importance of her work and volunteering.

Q. Tell us a bit about the Hackney Laces and what inspired you to start this initiative?

Hackney laces is a community club for girls and women that provides opportunities in football and in life. In 2011, I was living in Hackney and when I’d be coming home from my own football training I’d be approached by girls that lived around me asking if there was anywhere for them to play. I enquired around – called the council, spoke to charities, youth clubs and everyone I spoke to said there either wasn’t demand for it or people had set up clubs in the past but they didn’t work out. I knew there were girls who wanted to play. So I started on the patch of grass near my house and I had 25 girls coming. After that I decided it was time to incorporate and become a proper club.

Q. Why is the Hackney Laces’ work important?

Hackney Laces work is so important is because it’s not only providing a safe and inclusive space to learn, it’s correcting historical discrimination against women in football. The FA, the official governing body for the sport banned women from playing for 50 years. Of course we are behind. However; attitudes need changing as much as there needs to be a provision for girls to learn in school and get involved at a young age. Instead we get an influx of women who are in their 40s and 50s who’ve been denied an opportunity to play at a young age and want to play. Hopefully in years to come football will be widely available for young girls nationwide!

Q. How did it feel when you found out you won BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Unsung Hero for London? 

It was an incredible honour. Receiving recognition is not something that motivates me but it was nice to have the acknowledgement that the last 8 years of my life has made a difference. It was a overwhelming night, meeting so many of my sporting heroes. Even now when I think back to it, it feels so surreal. Chatting to Alex Scott, Jessica Ennis and Gareth Southgate was not something I’d ever think I’d do, let alone in a single evening.

Q. How important has volunteering been to you in your life? Did you volunteer when you were at LSE?

Volunteering has always been a big part of my life. From when I was young, my mom always encouraged my sister and I to be active in our communities. When I was at LSE I volunteered at Connections in the
Field near Trafalgar Square. It’s an amazing space for people who are sleeping rough. I’d help with the breakfast shift.

Q. What would you say to LSE students who are considering volunteering?

Sometimes when you’re in a university setting, it can be really insular and focused solely on curriculum. For me volunteering broadened my view on issues in London and helped me feel more connected to the community beyond LSE’s campus.

Q. How can people get involved with the Hackney Laces?

However they would like! We always welcome new volunteers. You don’t need to be good or even like football, we say enthusiasm is all you need. Whether it’s helping some of our players prep for interviews or with GCSE revision there’s a wide range of things to get stuck into.

If Katee has inspired you to volunteer, check out one of our other 200+ ongoing opportunities or book a one-to-one with David Coles, the Volunteer Centre Manager if you have more questions. If you are short on time, then take a look at the one-off opportunities organised by the LSE Volunteer Centre. And why not follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram to stay up-to-date with our events and opportunities and read our blog for more volunteering tips and stories.