During Lent Term we ran the first ever LSE Community Engagement Programme, where 49 fantastic student volunteers completed a consultancy piece for 7 different charities. Since completing the programme, volunteer Husein Alghaban (MSc in Political Sociology, 2021) has reflected on what community means to them and how the programme has changed their perception in this blog.
We all have a similar idea of community. While we may not know exactly how to define it, we tend to see our community as those around us. Our friends, peers, neighbours, and those that we share something with. Even when searching for a definition, the idea for community as something that is geographically tied persists. This common understanding was challenged and developed by the Community Engagement Programme.
As the inaugural year for this programme run by the LSE Volunteer Centre, I was unsure of what exactly I would be doing, yet I knew this was an opportunity to have a meaningful impact in my community. With the programme beginning, my team and I were tasked with supporting an international youth organisation that sought solutions for internet accessibility during the pandemic to help spread awareness of the SDGs. Whilst we eagerly engaged with the project brief, we were also wondering where the link was between the idea of community and our assigned project.
Weeks into the project, having managed to engage directly with members of different countries worldwide, we begun to perceive a different understanding of the word community. Despite not sharing the same geography or native language, we still felt a connection with people on the other side of the world. It was then we realised we had our own type of community. Our community was connected in ways that could bridge any geographical distance. Whether it was because we were all young people looking for ways to grow and have an impact, or because of our shared beliefs in a better world realised through the Sustainable Development Goals, this connection made us care about each other and brought us together, and this I understood to be the actual foundation of any community.
Whilst the programme was a short three-month commitment, it will have a lifelong impact. Not only was the project meaningful and will contribute to real-life solutions, but I have also developed my own understanding of volunteering in general and the meaning of community specifically.
In an ever-increasingly interconnected world, traditional ways of seeing the world are making way for modern reimaginations. My idea of community was reshaped through the Community Engagement Programme, and I was unquestionably engaged in a community brought together by not only modern forms of communication that allowed us to interact with each other, but by sharing principles and believing in ideas of hoping for and pursuing a brighter future for us all.