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Meet Joshua: Spirit of Sussex Awardee
By: Rebecca Hart
Last updated: Friday, 13 May 2022
Hi Joshua! Since graduating, what have you been up to?
I have been managing the African region at Global Giving UK – I have been a UK Programme Fellow throughout my Master's degree. One thing about me, is I am very opportunist. I need to be able to sit down and choose the opportunity that works for my career.
Every choice I've made, has been to further my career. From choosing the University of Sussex because it’s 1st in the world for Development Studies, to becoming a Chevening Scholar. However, now I’m learning to pace myself and remember to choose myself, this doesn’t mean I’ve failed, just taken a new opportunity.
Why did you get involved in the award?
For me, I realised I was having so many new experiences and wanted to truly reflect on everything I’d learnt. Honestly, I wasn’t looking for recognition, it was simply to document my journey. It was a chance for reflection and the platform acted as a digital vision board, within an hour, I said to myself ‘Oh I got Bronze’, then I looked at the other categories and realised this was an opportunity to show how I’ve made an impact through contributions. The award helped me connect better with people, it encouraged me to involve myself in activities to help me succeed whilst having a community to support me.
I feel there is a lot of power in storytelling, leaving positive digital footprints and a legacy that fellow students, people in the communities are able to research.
Throughout your Postgraduate degree, you have been actively involved in student voice and feedback. Tell us more?
It began when I applied for the IDS Student Rep role – I actually wasn’t successful, so instead, I applied for the PGR Course Rep position for MA Poverty and Development and was appointed. It was a great opportunity to have my voice heard. When you’re an international student, it can be hard to feel that sense of belonging, so this was a good opportunity to understand some of the frustrations and be a channel to help people. On the whole, you don’t have to be a rep to make a difference, as long as you have a deep-rooted need to make a difference, try something new and genuinely care for people then you’ll help those around you.
How did you initially hear about the award?
I heard about the Spirit of Sussex Award from a couple of different channels, I am part of a Chevening Scholar group and other students were saying ‘just try it’, then a few more students were reaching Bronze and sharing their experience, so I thought ‘let’s go for it!’. What I liked about the award was that it showed you other ways to make an impact, the self-nomination process makes you understand your own impact and reflect.
What does the award mean to you, what do you value about the award?
I found contentment when I received my SoSA Award. I remember I was at work, and I scheduled a Zoom meeting with Rebecca (Spirit of Sussex Award Manager) to receive my award outcome and offer me the opportunity to become an award champion, and I didn’t know what to expect, but that call made my day.
2020 had been a struggle throughout the academic year, my mental health was suffering and I was feeling the pressure as a Chevening Scholar to become an inspiration in Nigeria. I was trying to find myself, whilst still continuing my degree, and eventually, I accessed counselling resources to help me get back on track. The award helped me realise that yes, I came to school, but in a year, I developed and achieved so much – it reminded me that my actions matter! The award helps recognise your value, even during a pandemic and reminded me to document my journey, helping develop communities and was a real turning point in my student journey.
There is greater fulfilment, not just in myself, but by contributing positively to those around you. We exist for people, not just for grades, and the award encouraged me to reflect on this and achieve my own personal win!
You logged points across a variety of categories. What were some of the highlights of your engagement with the award?
I am a social entrepreneur and founder of Restructure Africa, an NGO that is committed to improving and developing lives across Africa, with a focus on sustainable development. I am really committed to community building and development and wanted to ensure that a child, in an underrepresented community gets access to basic needs, education and opportunities to develop so I started fundraising initiatives. It’s important we live for others, giving people an opportunity and for me, I want to ensure children can break out of the cycle of poverty. Even throughout my studies and deadlines, over the 6 years of growing Restructure Africa, I’ve never got lost in the opportunities and remembered why I started this initiative.
I was in the care sector, and being in that space, I felt I wanted to expand my empathy so, during the lockdown, I enrolled on courses around Mental Health and Covid-19 and Living with Dementia. Learning is just learning, but learning is more transformable when you can translate what you’ve learnt and apply the knowledge to your everyday life.
I attended the Careers and Employability Fair at Sussex and came across Volunteering Matters. I reached out to the organisation and was pointed toward the Journey Makers project. This was a Department for Transport funded project which commissioned Volunteering Matters to coordinate a nationwide volunteer support programme to assist travellers, provide guidance and help keep people safe at transport hubs. This was vital during Covid-19, and it felt so rewarding to be doing my part at Brighton Station giving out face masks, and hand-sanitiser and helping commuters be Covid-19 conscious.
Do you have any advice for students unsure how to get involved in extra-curricular and voluntary programmes?
Don’t just go to University, let the school pass through you! We think we need to get a certain goal or reach a big level immediately, but instead, need to build actual connections, and by helping people, you find yourself. You can be part of Sussex, by getting involved in charity events, and volunteering, and you’ll make friends for life! Even by hosting a potluck, or sharing a meal with a friend, you’ve got yourself a buddy and made your mark.
Finally, how will the award help you in the future?
The Spirit of Sussex is great, it’s a fantastic reminder that regardless of what you’re going through, try as much as possible to help others, as, through that, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Chatting with you both today has reminded me that it’s important to talk more about the award, it was actually one of my biggest wins included in my end-of-2021 reflection blog, as it was recognition for my achievements, like “Hey guys, while I was at Sussex, I did this and this, and allowed the school to pass through me!".
A huge thanks to Joshua for taking the time to chat to us. Find out more about the award scheme here.