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Meet City’s Wonder Woman: Maria Jacobsen Zafar, RAG President!

Have you ever seen a smiling redhead walking on the main hallway with big buckets, kindly asking for your spare change? No? Then, have you ever seen a friendly collegiette at Saddlers during one of the Karaoke or FIFA tournaments nights? Need more clues?

She is Norwegian and wants to become a journalist. Who is she? Maria Jacobsen Zafar, of course! President of Raising And Giving (RAG), Rima’s biggest supporter, involved in almost all the SU activities. If you haven’t met her yet (and you should ASAP), let me introduce you to this week’s City Celebrity!

Maria, why did you decide to become president of RAG? I know a lot of universities are doing RAG, but as far as I’m aware this is a relatively new project at City. I had not heard about it until Rima Amin, VP Activities, told me about the opportunity to apply to become the RAG Officer, and inspired me do so. I have always been interested in voluntary work and helping those less fortunate, so I decided to apply to get leadership experience in the field, and also to encourage other students to get involved in charitable activities.

How do you think we could encourage more students to get involved in RAG? Fundraising is not just about standing outside tube stations with buckets. I think it’s important to involve both the fundraisers and other students in interactive activities, so they will have fun and feel part of a community at the same time as they are doing something good for others. 

Tell me more about the initiatives you took during this year. Some of the major RAG projects this year have been raising money for The Royal National Institution of Blind People, supporting students doing Movember, raising over £1,000 for the victims of the Typhoon in the Philippines, helping raise awareness for World Aids Day, taking part in Culture Week, and having a stall at City’s Winter Wonderland in December to raise money for the Rainbow Trust, who supports the families of terminally ill children.

Our biggest project this year has been RAG WEEK, which was last week, where we raised money for Hand in Hand for Syria, a charity that provides humanitarian and medical aid to those in need, regardless of their politics or religion. We did this through various daytime and evening activities, such as FIFA tournaments and Tea & Baklava party in Saddlers, hand printing, karaoke and a football match.

Which was the biggest challenge? And the biggest satisfaction? There have been quite a few challenges along the way. As RAG is relatively new at City, I’ve had to learn fast and I didn’t really have anyone to “teach” me how to be the RAG Officer. However, I’ve been trying to see this as a positive thing. I work closely with Rima and together we have been able to shape RAG the way we wanted it to be. Regarding the biggest satisfaction, when fundraising, you have to get used to being rejected. A lot of people will just ignore you, and I don’t expect everyone to donate money or clothes, but when they do, and tell you you’re doing a great job, it makes it worth it. Also the feeling of doing something good for others, which can potentially change someone’s life, is really satisfactory.

You are also involved in the SU activities a lot. How do you manage to do all these things? RAG is supported by the SU, so that’s mainly how I have been involved. The different things I’m doing take up a lot of time combined, and there have been times when I’ve been really stressed and asked myself how I’ll be able to handle everything. However, in general I’m pretty good when it comes to time management (which I think journalists have to be!), and I like having a lot to do. 

Any final thought for all the students who, like you, would like to be more involved but are afraid not to find enough time for uni, work and social activities? Firstly, I do encourage students to focus on doing their best when it comes to uni work, and don’t leave assignments to the last minute. Don’t say yes to do more than you know you’ll be able to handle. However, being part of societies is also an important part of university life – it will get you so many great experiences and friendships. To sum it up: Work hard, play hard!

A shout-out to persuade people to join RAG! Being involved in RAG will give you lots of new friendships, you’ll do something good for others, and it will also look great on your CV! Anyone is welcome to join us – and maybe YOU will become the next RAG Officer?

I hope more and more people will now want to be involved in our amazing RAG! If you want to get in contact with Maria, you can email her at raiseandgive@city.ac.uk . And don’t forget to check out their FB page!

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