Interview: Newcastle Uni RAG Organisation

The Pendsey Trust were delighted to be chosen as one of Newcastle University’s RAG week charities in January 2014. The week was a great success, and raised over £6,000 for some great causes.

Elinor Thomas, a third year combined honours student, leads the RAG committee. We caught up with her to find out a bit more about what they got up to.

The Pendsey Trust (TPT): Tell us about Newcastle RAG. What exactly is RAG week, and what other sorts of events do you do during the year?

Elinor Thomas (ET): RAG stands for “Raising and Giving “and is a student-led committee which organises all fundraising within Newcastle University throughout the academic year.  Myself and Ellie Isaacs have managed a committee consisting of 30 fantastic students and have worked closely as a team to plan a host of charitable events, including our Fashion show in November and RAG Week which took place in January. RAG Week involved the participation of 150 students who offered their time to raise as much money as possible through street collections and events. The RAG Crew also helped the local community by taking part in allotment maintenance and helped with computer classes for the elderly. RAG Week is the highlight of the year, however we also organise international projects, Jailbreak and our annual naked calendar.

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TPT: How did you get involved in doing charity work? What do you like best about it?

ET:I first got involved with charity work when I worked in the shops and commercial department for a local hospice at home in Worcester. Since then, I have volunteered abroad in East Africa a couple of times and recently worked as a fundraising and marketing intern at an international development NGO in London. One of the things I like most about charity work is that the main objective is to help change lives and make your impact on the world rather than striving to generate a large financial profit.

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TPT: You raised a huge amount of money this year. What kind of events did you do and who came up with all the ideas?

ET: We held various daytime and evening events during the week. Our daytime events included a Man vs Food event which consisted of a variety of challenges including who could eat a large Dominos pizza the fastest and an extremely spicy burrito. We also hosted a vintage fashion fair and tea party and invited local beauty students to style hair and give manicures at very student friendly prices. Some of the week’s events, such as our Take Me Out event, had been extremely popular in previous years so we decided to organise them again. Other events which had not been organised before were discussed amongst our RAG committee during weekly meetings.

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TPT: What was your favourite thing about the week, and what kinds of challenges did you face?

One of my favourite things about the week was seeing how much all of our RAG Crew enjoyed the events. The feedback I received at the end of the week was fantastic and it proved how all the hard work pays off. Another highlight was the impromptu rendition of Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ dance which was carried out by a male Take Me Out panelist. It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen and definitely worth a watch on YouTube! One of the main challenges of the week was keeping the costs of our events down to an absolute minimum. We obviously wanted to raise as much money as possible and were lucky enough to have a venue in our Students’ Union which we could use free of charge. Another challenge was promoting our events to students who don’t take part in the week as a crew member. RAG at Newcastle is still relatively small and many students haven’t heard of it; however its growth in the last couple of years has shown how RAG’s awareness is increasing rapidly.

TPT: Why did you choose to work with The Pendsey Trust this year? What do you particularly admire about our work?

ET: I was lucky enough to travel to India when I was 17 and immediately fell in love with the culture. I also have personal connections to diabetes as my grandfather has the condition. When I first found out about The Pendsey Trust I thought it was an absolutely inspirational charity. The Pendsey Trust’s mission reflects my own interests in international development and how important I believe it is that all children should have access to an education.

TPT: Quite often university RAG weeks choose to work with large, well established charities. What do you feel are the advantages of working with small charities too?

ET: I was very keen to support a diverse range of charities during RAG Week and wanted them to be a variety of sizes. I also wanted local, national and international charities to be beneficiaries as I believe it is important to help a number of different causes. The advantages of working with small charities is that you not only provide vital funds but you also help to raise their awareness. The Pendsey Trust have been extremely helpful before, during and after RAG Week and we are extremely grateful for their support.

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TPT: Do you hope to continue doing fundraising events for charities in the future?

ET: I will definitely continue doing fundraising events for charities in the future or at least help charities in some shape or form. My experience in the charity sector has helped me a gain a strong understanding of how charities are run and I have become attached to charities which have causes close to my heart.

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Thanks very much to Elinor Thomas, the whole of the Newcastle University RAG Organisation and all the staff and students of Newcastle University for all the fund raising they achieved on behalf of The Pendsey Trust during RAG week 2014. We look forward to working with NUSU RAG againg in the future!

You can find out more about them on their website: http://www.nusu.co.uk/rag, follow them on Twitter, and like them on Facebook.

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