Feb 14, 2018 · 5 min read

By running educational services with us, our volunteers fundraise for charities of their choice. Since OxFizz was founded in 2007, our volunteers have raised nearly £1m in charity donations.

We’re proud of the social impact our volunteers have — so from now until April we’ll be publishing blogs on their charities. We hope you find inspiration in what follows.

Julia Thomson Memorial Trust

The fourth of these posts comes from volunteer Catherine Bevin, who has raised over £2400 for the Julia Thomson Memorial Trust since getting involved with OxFizz in 2015.

How did you get involved with OxFizz?

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I got involved in OxFizz straight after graduating in 2015 — it was actually my first job! After a great year getting to see the amazing work OxFizz does (and being jealous of the volunteers being able to fundraise for their favourite charities), when I moved on to my next job I made sure to return regularly as a volunteer.

Tell me about the charity you donate to:

The Julia Thomson Memorial Trust was set up to extend the work of an existing Italian charity in a small town in Brazil called Canavieiras.

It runs a centre for students from the town’s favela, so they have a place to go once the school day is over. The students get extra support in their school subjects (like Maths and Portuguese), as well as extras like English lessons, judo, and capoeria (a traditional local dance/martial art).

The centre includes a sports pitch and a culture centre — so the entire community can use these facilities.

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How did you first get involved in the trust?

I went out to volunteer at the centre my gap year for a few months, and then again in a university summer holiday. It was an immense privilege to get to stay with a local family and to immerse myself in the community and I am so proud to be able to fund raise for the trust via OxFizz so I can support its work from afar.

The centre has hosted many volunteers from around the world — they teach English, run sports sessions, and overall act as a reminder to the students that there are opportunities outside their local town.

What is the impact of the trust’s work?

The local area is isolated and extremely poor. There are very few opportunities for young people; many get involved in gangs; teenage pregnancy and school drop outs are high.

So the after-school centre has a range of impacts: it keeps students “off the streets”, allows parents (particularly mothers) to work without worrying about childcare, and it also encourages students to stay in education and consider the opportunities out there.

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And who benefits from the trust’s services?

There is a clear benefit to students who come to the centre, who come from families with the most difficulties in the local area. Some might have absent parents, or parents with disabilities or mental health issues. Some may have these issues themselves. Often the food they get at the centre will be the main food they get all day.

The wider community benefit too. The sports pitch and cultural centre are available to the all sorts of groups from the town — which means local teenagers can play in football leagues, grannies can do yoga, and all sorts of events and gatherings can take place.

What motivates you personally to be involved?

I first went to volunteer because there is a family connection — Julia Thomson was my mother’s cousin. There was also a selfish reason as I wanted to learn Portuguese (which I soon did as no one locally spoke English!). But after my initial visit I fell in love with the community and the wonderful students I taught.

Unfortunately rent, a job, and general grown-up life means I can’t go back to visit as often as I’d like, but I know the huge difference I can have from afar — the money I raised through OxFizz last year could pay several months’ salary for a teacher at the centre, or provide after school snacks for 60 children for months.

What are the barriers to growing your impact?

An increase in funds would make a huge difference in the type and amount of extra activities the children can do, and in paying the salaries of the staff. It would also provide support for extra unexpected things, like for instance if a student has poor eyesight and needs help affording glasses.

Why should OxFizz volunteers consider donating to the trust?

I’m sure I’ve waxed lyrical enough already to show what a big difference even a small amount of money can make in Canavieriras. This type of charity is by nature much smaller in scope than some famous and well known organisations — it is fantastic to see the direct impact of funds you raise.

It’s very noticeable how the students that go to the centre are more likely to stay in school and less likely to start families when young teenagers, and these are crucial ways to improve life outcomes for whole families.

How else can OxFizz volunteers support you?

It’s certainly difficult to support the trust from a different continent, and that’s something I’m working out how to best manage.

If you’re interested in volunteering, there will always be a spot available — even for two weeks! The charity always welcomes volunteers and has increasingly hosted students on their year abroad from a modern language degree.

While there are of course issues around “volontourism”, volunteers do add something special to the mix, and have immense value in running special projects on matters such as dance or recycling. I really urge volunteers to look for the small organisations, not just this one, where you can make a big difference.

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If you want to find out more about the Julia Thomson Memorial Trust, you can visit their website here.

If you are interested in volunteering with the trust, or are interested in fundraising through OxFizz, please contact Lee on lee.robertson@oxfizz.org

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