An award for empathy and compassion set up in honour of a Worthing man who took his own life has chosen its latest recipient.
The University College London (UCL) Oliver Hare Altruism Award remembers late UCL history graduate Oliver Hare, who took his own life in 2017, six months after graduating with a first class degree and just two days before his 23rd birthday.
Launched by his friend Ayesha Begum, the award honours students who demonstrates great commitment to helping others in both the university community and the wider world. It recognises initiative, empathy and altruism in students who seek to bring about positive change through volunteering and philanthropic ventures.
This year's recipient was UCL undergraduate Anita Sangha after being nominated by a staff member of the Students’ Union who said that in all her ten years of working in the role, Anita stood out because of her selflessness in the face of personal hardships.
Anita’s mother was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2018, halfway through her first year, so she and her sisters had to care for their mum. The experience prompted Anita – along with her cousin – to run a half marathon to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity in an attempt, she said, to do something in the wider fight against cancer.
She went on to form the UCL Cancer Research Society, with the aim of informing and supporting carers and also advocating and fundraising for cancer research.
Anita, who is studying politics, sociology and East European studies, also signed up to help the Students’ Union’s Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment campaign.
She said: “It’s an issue that still needs to be addressed on campus, and I wanted to play my part. I realised you could achieve a lot by working together, and I gained an insight into leadership and learned about the tools to bring about change.”
Over the 2018/19 Christmas break, Anita’s mother became increasingly ill and Anita’s own mental health deteriorated. Her priority was to look after her mum – and to look after her own wellbeing, leading her to 'hit the brakes and take a step back'.
Oliver had packed an extraordinary number of achievements and experiences into his 22 years, including two summers working in Romanian orphanages and was working as a language teacher for the British Council in Shanghai when he died. More than 650 people attended his funeral in 2017 and tens of thousands of pounds have been raised in his honour. Read more about Oliver's remarkable life, and legacy, here: Thousands raised in memory of ‘exceptional human being’ after tragic suicide
Ann Feloy, Oliver’s mum and founder of Olly’s Future - the charity set up in Oliver's memory - said she was so happy her son was remembered in such a positive way and that she was sure Anita and Oliver would have got on well, particularly as Anita is thinking about a career in human rights law, something Oliver had also considered.
She said that Olly’s Future now funds suicide prevention training for UCL staff during lunchtimes, which are delivered in partnership with PAPYRUS. The charity has also set up annual MENtal Health Open Mic sessions in partnership with the Students Union. Young male students take the mic to speak about their mental health issues - whether that be through spoken word, rap or just speaking what's on their mind - often talking openly about feeling suicidal. In this open setting, young people feel happy to disclose what they've been through knowing that every single person who attends is there to listen to their story.
John Braime, UCL Volunteering Manager, said, “In my experience, UCL students are a very altruistic bunch. Large numbers of them volunteer on community projects across London, campaign to make the world a better place, and help others out in countless ways. Much of this is informal and often goes unnoticed – the beauty of the Oliver Hare Altruism Award is that it highlights this important feature of UCL student culture and celebrates it."
If you would like to speak to the Samaritans charity, the helpline number is 116 123.
For practical advice and support on youth suicide prevention, call Papyrus on 0800 068 41 41, text 07786 209 697 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.