In today’s blog, we caught up with four amazing students – Tahla Ikhlaq, Shaun Allen-Dooley, Roxanne Amihere and Su Moraes who are Parliamentors for BCU. We asked them about their group project and why other students should get involved with this opportunity.
Tell us what course you are studying & a bit about yourself?
Talha Ikhlaq - I am currently studying LLB Law (Honours) in my final year and hope to one day become a solicitor and be in the position to help members of the public with the knowledge I have gained. I am passionate about social policy, peace and justice and enjoy reading books on History, Politics and Philosophy. I also do quite a bit of charity work as I believe that working towards the betterment of society and the good of humankind is a noble and rewarding endeavour.
Shaun Allen-Dooley - I am studying MA Education part-time and teaching in a local primary school.
Roxanne Amihere – I am studying the Legal Practice course and masters in Law. I'm an outgoing, friendly person passionate about empowering girls.
Su Moraes - I’m an artist, Christian and first-generation immigrant. I am interested in art, music, culture, social justice, film, psychology, philosophy, sociology, spirituality, well-being, food, the list is long. I am currently in my final year for BA (hons) Fine Art course.
Tell us a bit more about the organisation and the group project you are currently involved with as Parliamentors?
The UN award-winning ParliaMentor’s programme is run by the Faith and Belief Forum and involves teams of university students collaborating to create social action projects whilst also being given mentoring by MP’s.
Our ParliaMentor’s team is called ‘Students Against Poverty’ and we have embarked upon creating a ‘Free Training Network’ in Birmingham to enable those homeless or struggling with poverty to get free work training or qualifications in order to get back to stable lives.
We have successfully partnered with the RMF group to offer people free training to get CSCS cards and they may also be offered progression opportunities. Our team is also fundraising money for Birmingham Central Food Bank and have created a Society on campus to get more students involved.
You have told us that you had to change your project due to the newest round of restrictions, what effect did this have on your group?
We had many preliminary ideas and plans for what we could do (too many to mention) - the most significant of which we missed out on was running food drives for the homeless as we had planned advertising/delivering it and began contacting organisations in preparation for doing them in February. This inevitably led to a slump in morale and progress, however we made a big effort to persevere and collaborate to create innovative solutions and covid-safe alternatives to this.
We made use of our online resources and began networking! We created our very own society and created an information/fundraising campaign and signposting effort to get people volunteering. We contacted the Students Union and got help with funding and advertising, we contacted many charities and organisations and eventually got the RFM Group to agree to provide free work training which was the spark that lit the fire, that we hope will light the city’s unfortunate with fortune.
Thus the ‘Free Training Network’ was born (albeit by accident and good luck but hey maybe we planned it that way) and our humble team has been toiling long and hard to see its success ever since. It was a brilliant mixture of misfortune, luck and determinism.
Why did you decide to get involved and what do you enjoy the most as a ParliaMentor?
Talha - I am what you call a ‘registered workaholic’, it’s both blessing and curse – it basically means I seize every opportunity that is available to me and actively seek out new opportunities of interest. Being passionate about politics, policy and current affairs and also of charity work, when I heard of the programme I was immediately drawn in as it encompasses both and gives students a sense of freedom to do what we want in an attempt to make a difference whilst also being supported by the great programme team with occasional motivational cameos from our MP mentors – it’s a match made in workaholic heaven.
What do I enjoy the most? Seeing the benefits that people will receive from our projects success, there’s nothing quite like it, its pure adrenaline and joy, it makes you work even harder.
Shaun - Like many people, when the pandemic hit and the country went into lockdown last March I wanted to help in some way. Parliamentors is a great way of getting involved in helping others and a way to meet inspiring like-minded students. I’ve learned so much from working in a small team and am proud of what four students – who have never met in person – can achieve over a short space of time. I know my fellow team mates see this as just the beginning though and we wish to continue working together in a similar way as we move on from the Parliamentors programme.
Roxanne - I decided to join Parliamentors because it aligns with my purpose to help our generation voice out their concerns to make a better place for all of us i.e. equality regardless of your gender, social class and race. I enjoyed meeting students from different backgrounds culture and faiths, something I wouldn't have achieved on my own.
Su - I came across the applications for Parliamentors unexpectedly but as I read the description, I saw great potential in what I could learn and do. I had been passionate about creating change previous to applying and I saw Parliamentors as a way to make change happen. If I’m also learning skills in the process by being mentored and being hands-on then, you can’t really ask for a better programme to be involved with. What I enjoy the most as a ParliaMentor is that I get to work with and under wonderful people. They enrich the experience by the many different backgrounds they have, and how much in common we still have. Another thing is that we get to learn to identify our strengths and gaps of knowledge or network in order to make the project work, and we learn to act on it.
If you had to give one piece of advice to BCU student who was interested in being a Parliamentor, what would you say?
Talha - First of all before you even decide to apply I’d say to contemplate your reasons for participating – is it to put a juicy bit of ‘UN award-winning experience’ on that flaky CV of yours? If so, don’t bother applying, this programme is for the fighters, the dreamers, the visionaries, those passionate about working to help people and willing to slog through the blood and the dirt to do so. If your convictions are moral in nature then awesome! – make sure to get some voluntary or charity experience to be able to demonstrate your skills and passion, be ready to work hard and collaborate with your respective team and you should hopefully make a real difference in your project whilst gaining some new friendships along the way.
Shaun - Go for it! Be bold and follow your passion for social justice.
Roxanne - Go for it! With Parliamentors you will learn so much and get to engage with so many people, in your own way you can make your voice heard. What do you lose? It's a win-win ????.
Su -You get out of it what you put in. It is a very self-driven project with help all along the way. You must go in with the right reasons, with purpose to help and learn, not just gain another line on your CV – that comes as consequence. Enjoy the journey!
Find out more about the Parliamentors here.