April 24, 2013, by Malvika Johal
The life and times of a Student Caller
By Christopher Hallett (Geography)
This term was my first campaign working as a student caller. I found talking to alumni provided a refreshing insight into life after university and I was particularly stimulated by the broad range of alumni I spoke to, both in age and discipline. Often we are matched to our own subjects and interests so that the conversation is more engaging for both parties. This also meant I could glean advice for careers as well as about how to make the most of my University experience. I am a Geography undergraduate looking to enter the Geographical Informations Systems industry and was able to talk to alumni in this field and discuss their route into the sector and what they would have done differently if they’d had their time again. This is of course very useful, and advice that is quite unique in its nature, as often undergraduates wouldn’t have this opportunity. During the call we also discussed the CASCADE fund, which I believe to be a very worthy cause to which I have donated to myself. I was actually fortunate enough to benefit personally from the CASCADE fund which is solely funded by the generous donations of the alumni we speak to. I took part in The 2012 Ghana Volunteers Scheme (http://ghanavolunteers.tumblr.com/), which enabled 56 enthusiastic students to engage in a variety of health, education and practical projects in a small town in northern Ghana was part funded by CASCADE, along with external sponsorship. The whole purpose of the CASCADE fund is that it helps students help others, which will also help the student. In Ghana I engaged in placements that provided an interesting combination of activities for me to contribute and learn from, involving a diverse range of people and locations. I first taught in a secondary school and then we moved on to help teach and later build at the Kpawumo Children’s Home and School. Here in particular, I felt our help was indispensable, the classes would not run without us and we were teaching essential reading and writing skills.
Alongside these activities I would take the afternoons and sometimes even days off, leaving fellow volunteers to continue work at the school, to complete work for a mapping organisation called MapsForAll (www.mapsforall.org). The role encompassed further developing the mapping provision of the city of Tamale and to raise the profile of the use of maps as tools. Maps are quite an abstract concept to local people living in developing countries such as Ghana, so it was crucial to increase local awareness of the use of mapping by expressing their value to daily life and organisation’s operations. The use by local health workers is an example where maps have been hugely beneficial to communities in the past; detailed information of desperate communities, built up areas, water wells and sanitation facilities are provided quickly and clearly.
This experience provided me with a new unique perspective on life; I learnt new skills, gained confidence in my work and this was even recognised by qualifications such as the V100 hours award from ‘vInspire’. Simultaneously I feel we made an everlasting impact to the people of Tamale, as well as spreading the good name of the university as ambassadors, and I was proud to and appreciative to be able to express this first hand to alumni on the phone.
Ultimately the inspiration of talking to the alumni and being able to identify their success, combined with the life experience and skills I gained on the Ghana Volunteers scheme, will contribute to my future progression; and I am very grateful for this.