Alex Selway on RAG and Voluntourism

What does charity mean to you?

Charity has always been an important part of how I structure my life and giving back to society has formed a big part of who I am. As nerdy as it is, this passion started as a young boy in the Scouts. This instilled in me a strong belief that people who need support should be able to receive it and people like me who have a bit of spare time on their hands should use that time productively.

Do you truly live each day by the motto ‘Eat Sleep Raise Repeat’?

I like to think so. RAG takes up a large portion of my life, so it’s probably true. Maybe a bit of academics somewhere in there?

Tell us a bit about RAG and why should people take part.

RAG stands for Raising and Giving and that’s exactly what we do. Throughout the year, we organise a variety of fundraising events and coordinate volunteering with LSE’s volunteer centre on campus. I am firmly of the belief that students are an immensely valuable resource and they should give back to the community in any way they can, whether it be locally, nationally or internationally.

What does RAG have coming up?

The biggest thing we have is RAG Week, our week dedicated to fundraising! Events include the much-anticipated Date Night in collaboration with the AU; Raising and Quizzing in partnership with LSE’s Quiz Club and our Row-a-thon. The week will culminate in a huge charity fair with our partner charities and other student societies. 

We have more activities on the horizon, including opportunities to sign up to our external challenges including our London to Paris Cycle and Three Peaks challenge. One of the most important and most fun events of Lent Term will undoubtedly be Jailbreak, where participants have 36 hours to get as far away from LSE as possible. It is consistently one of the highlights of the year. It’s something everyone talks about and wishes they had done.

You mentioned AU Date Night is coming up what can we expect from it this year? Last year saw some interesting challenges…

The challenges will be tamer perhaps, but just as fun. Ultimately everyone is there to have a fun time in a safe environment. Our sponsor this year is Bumble who are all about safe dating and we want to make sure that also translates into our events.

Will we see you up on stage?

Potentially…

So you’re single then?

I’m open for applications.

What are your plans for after university? How are you planning on transferring your BNOC status to the wider world?

Giving back to the community is still something I’m incredibly passionate about and one of the easiest ways to translate this into the real world is through government. 

A lot of people decide to go travelling and volunteering after university. Could you elaborate on the ethical problems behind this?

Gap years are great but voluntourism obviously presents a big problem. There are instances where organisations are entirely set up to exploit those most in need under the guise of volunteering. Fake orphanages are common and are designed to exploit both children and tourists.

However, it’s not just fake schemes. There are many temporary programmes that would satisfy the criteria. There are many ethical questions about the tourists themselves: some volunteer purely for the ‘experience’, taking selfies and unknowingly exploiting vulnerable members of the local society. Understanding what is voluntourism is something I’ve struggled with as it’s not always clear-cut. This isn’t to say don’t go travelling; I would 100% encourage seeing the world and giving to the world in a sustainable way. I would just advise people to make sure thats they’re volunteering for the right reasons and that they’re giving their time to a legitimate cause.

Finally, are you planning to run for GenSec?

I couldn’t possibly comment! 

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