Author, poet and animator, Lemn Sissay OBE, delivered a “historic lecture” yesterday on behalf of South East London colleges – inspiring college staff and students across the country to get involved in volunteering.
As a great advocate for social mobility, Lemn spoke about his own experiences of growing in care and his inspiring journey to success. He discussed the value of community action – highlighting his own charity, which provides Christmas dinner for those discharged from care – and the many benefits that helping others can bring.
The virtual event was part of the College’s Good for Me, Good for FE campaign; a nationwide campaign to generate £ 1million of social value through volunteerism and fundraising.
Staff and students from the 120 colleges that signed up to the initiative were invited to attend the conference, each having the opportunity to ask questions of Lemn after his speech.
As a poet, playwright and host, Lemn has read on stage around the world and has directed several award-winning television documentaries. He has received numerous accolades for his writing and poetry, including an OBE earlier this year for his services to literature and charity. Lemn has also been Chancellor of the University of Manchester since 2015.
Speaking to attendees, Lemn spoke about the value of community action and the power to move something that has never been here before: “Raising money is not difficult. But there is value in people, in the work they do, and in the work that you do. This has immense value.
“You can be so cynical in life. But volunteering is the most cynical and open way to connect with the world. “
“Volunteering from a place that understands it can help. And the magic is – it helps others too. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
London South East Colleges President Stephen Howlett CBE, DL welcomed Lemn to the virtual stage, highlighting his charitable work and commitment to supporting others: “Lemn’s story is extremely moving and the work he does now to improve the lives of so many people is inspiring.
“With his passion for community action and wealth creation, Lemn was an ideal figure to give this historic talk to our college network Good for Me Good for FE and we are extremely grateful for his time today.
“College staff and students across the country are already doing a tremendous amount of good work in their local communities and we want this to be recognized and, in fact, galvanized.
“I have no doubt that Lemn has provided all of us with the extra motivation and inspiration we need to get out there and make a difference – which will be a huge boost to our important national initiative.”
During the question-and-answer session, Lemn posed a series of questions and provided fascinating and insightful answers. These included:
Who inspires you?
“I am really inspired by the volunteers and their stories. By the University of Manchester and the number of projects they are involved in. People write to me and I hear about someone who has done something magical. Hearing their stories is simply the best.
How do you stay positive?
“I don’t always do it. Sometimes I go down. But one of the ways that helped me stay positive was to stop drinking alcohol. For me, it was stopping something that wasn’t adding to my life, but actually took me away. I think I can stay positive because I know what matters. Volunteering has really helped.
How can you get involved in volunteering if you haven’t already?
“Google local volunteer. Or find another person already volunteering and join them. It’s all about word of mouth and community action. Learn about the opportunities. Start talking about it out loud. People love to talk about volunteering. There is a whole different world of volunteering, social enterprise and social action. It’s all around us.
If you were hosting a dinner party, which three people would you invite?
- Mohamed Ali
- Maya angelou
- Oprah winfrey
Today’s event was part of London South East Colleges’ ‘Landmark Lecture’ series, which saw some of the most prominent figures from the utilities, business and charitable sectors address the audience. staff and students.
Previous speakers have included:
Former Lloyds of London CEO Dame Inga Beale
FE Commissioner, Richard Atkins
Hugh Brasher of the London Marathon
Ofsted Professor Julius Weinberg Chair,
Fire Marshal Dany Cotton,
Business entrepreneur David Gold and many others.
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