Lampojan Raveenthiranathan is a final year Engineering student and leads two of our Student-Led Volunteering projects; Engineers without Borders (an outreach project that inspires pupils to consider engineering as a potential career path) and Origami Volunteering Project (which teaches children in hospital wards how to make origami). Lampojan spoke with us about how he manages to balance leading two projects in his final year of study and what he’s got out of both volunteering and leading.
I initially joined Origami Society - as I liked doing origami at school - and I also thought it would be great to join the Origami Volunteering Project as I could do what I enjoyed, but also volunteer at the same time. Also, Origami Society's schedule clashed with my own, so joining Origami Volunteering Project was a good alternative for me. After that, the existing team asked if I was interested in becoming a Project Leader - I felt I was able to make the step up and I am now in the third year of running the project!
I started volunteering with Engineers without Borders in my third year, as I felt that volunteering in something related to engineering outside of my academic curriculum would be good for my CV. As soon as I joined, I really enjoyed it because I got to go to a school and teach engineering. You get to guide the students and watch them build something really cool and meaningful. It was great to see how well they work together as a team and the range of different ideas they have, and I found that really fulfilling. So going into my fourth year, I thought the time was right to become a leader of that project as well.
I really like both projects so it didn’t feel too difficult trying to manage the two; with Origami Volunteering Project, the commitment levels weren’t too high, as all the administration gets done at the beginning of the year and there were plenty of project leaders with whom to share the workload. When I became Project Leader for Engineers without Borders, I didn’t worry too much about whether I would have enough time, I just went with the gut feeling that I would be able to do so.
I’d say that leading the Origami Volunteering Project has improved not only my Origami skills (a given), but also my ability to teach others and I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved over the last few years. Leading Engineers without Borders, I discovered the difference between learning about teaching in schools, and actually having to teach in schools. I’ve also learnt how to deal with time constraints to make sure children have enough time to have an enjoyable and educational session.
Although it seems like you’re being dropped into the deep end, I’ve really gained the confidence to think on my feet and deal with unexpected issues.
In terms of the impact that both projects have made, we’ve had lots of positive feedback from the nurses at Moorfields Eye Hospital (one of the hospitals that Origami Volunteering Project volunteers at). There are kids who come back for appointments a year later and still remember us, and the kids ask us when we’re coming back, so I know they really look forward to the sessions! With Engineers without Borders, the sessions we hold are one-offs so we don’t necessarily get to see the long-term impact, but the feedback we get from students is great! After a recent session, we had one kid note on their feedback form: "this really changed my life", which was amazing.
If you are thinking of becoming a Project Leader, my advice is if you are confident enough in what you are currently doing, you will be able to make the step up. I think being a Project Leader is a really good opportunity because you get this oversight of a project you have to manage and you see things from a bigger-picture perspective. It also gives you the skills you need in leadership and communication. I really enjoy what we do and it’s been amazing to shape a project to be even better than the year before.
We hope Lampojan’s experience of running not only one, but two projects has got you feeling inspired to take the leap and lead on a volunteering project of your own. You can also browse our directory of currently running projects to see which projects you could manage next academic year.
And don’t worry if you’re worried about being thrown in the deep end - we make sure you’re all ready to set up your project and provide continuous support from start to finish. Get in touch if you have any questions!