Creating social change with ParliaMentors

Afsana_blog_imageAfsana Salik, 3rd Year International Relations student

ParliaMentors is a political leadership programme I’ve been on this year while studying at Queen Mary. I’m in a team of 5 Queen Mary students, all of us from different cultural and religious backgrounds. we’re supported to run our own social action project and we also get mentored by an MP. It has been an amazing experience for me.

It’s such a wonderful initiative that gives students from various cultures and faiths the chance to participate and make a change in society. The great thing about it is that it gives opportunities to students like me the experience of parliamentary life through mentoring by MPs. I’ve been mentored by Labour MP Stephen Timms for the last year. He is a very active and committed MP and so passionate about what he does. ParliaMentors also trains us to make social change in our communities. I’ve loved the training that I’ve been given throughout the programme. Each of these training sessions is based around skills like teamwork, leadership and public speaking, and they have been so useful and beneficial. And the training didn’t just support my participation in the programme – it also helped me in other areas, helping me to look at my community from a different angle.

My group and I have decided to deliver a social action project on mental health. We started by doing broad research into mental health in our local borough of Tower Hamlets, and after some thought, we have decided to focus on our campus. We are bringing together the students’ union, counselling service and students to bring changes in our counselling system, in order to make it more accessible. We believe our work will benefit the future students of our university and hopefully others in Tower Hamlets who also uses similar services.

Queen Mary with Stephen TimmsApart from the social action project, the ParliaMentors programme gave me opportunities to meet many other people and organisations from different sectors. We were invited to participate in different APPGs (All-Party Parliamentory Groups). I went to one on Faith and Society, some of us were on TV discussing our views on BBC’s Big Questions and others had our say about youth policy at the APPG Youth Affairs. By attending these events and meetings we got the opportunity to network with many powerful and influential people in UK society. After ParliaMentors I’m looking forward to being an alumni of the programme and continuing to build my political contacts. In the future I would like to work for the civil service and more specifically in foreign affairs, so the exposure I’ve had to MPs and alumni from the programme who are civil servants themselves will be invaluable in getting ahead with my career goals.

Overall, this programme has been an amazing experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s keen to make a difference in their community. The ParliaMentors application process is open for 2017/18, so if you’re keen to work with others of different backgrounds and aspire to be a political or community leader, or just have an interest in making a positive impact on society, I would recommend that you take part. It’s just a short application form away!

Apply for the programme at http://www.3ff.org.uk/parliamentors/ before the closing date – Friday 24th March.

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