Every week in Her Campus we introduce you to someone who we think is a bit of a Celebrity on Campus! So without further ado here is this week’s Campus Celeb, Oxfam President – Sean Counihan.
1. Hi Sean, tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from, what are you studying, what are your interests?
I’m a fourth year Leeds Uni student studying International Relations. I grew up in Brighton which is a great city with loads going on especially in the summer. I’ve always been interested in international development and I try to travel as much as possible; I’ve just got back from a study abroad year in Canada.
2. Tell us about how you first got involved with the Oxfam Society and a bit about what it’s about.
I’ve always had a passion for international development and have always felt outraged by the injustices that keep people in poverty. In my first year of uni I came across Milly Hooke, a final year student who was dressed up as a sweetcorn and was looking to set up an Oxfam Society and I said I would get involved. Oxfam is a great society that’s really taken off this year, unlike what many students might dread when they see us on campus, we don’t ask for any money from students; we’re a campaigning society. We stage events and discussions to raise awareness of certain issues affecting people in poverty and take meaningful action to change these systemic problems; for example lobbying MPs and sending messages to world leaders.
3. What made you want to become President of the Oxfam Society?
I was involved in the committee from the outset of the society being established and it’s been great to watch it grow from a handful of us sat in the common room to an exciting dynamic society with a great team of passionate campaigners working together each week! Having had a committee role since first year I welcomed the opportunity to take up the role of managing the society and taking on the responsibilities involved.
4. What does the role involve? How do you find the right balance between uni and society life?
The role definitely involves a lot of correspondence between members, other societies, the union and Oxfam HQ and sometimes it can be tricky to keep up with replying to the numerous e-mails and Facebook messages etc. It’s definitely tricky balancing the uni/social/society life thing and sometimes it can feel like Oxfam is taking over my life! It helps being passionate about what you’re doing though and believing that there will be a positive, meaningful outcome to our efforts as a society. I also work part-time as a fundraiser for the footsteps fund so that’s an added challenge trying to fit my shifts in around everything else. Final year essays and dissertation have destroyed my social life and I feel lucky to go at all these days so at least that’s one less thing to worry about, even if it means sitting in and getting emotionally attached to x factor contestants.
5. Tell us about some of the exciting event Oxfam Society have raised over the past year.
There’s so many! In homelessness awareness week and we talked to students about their views on homelessness and putting pressure on local MPs to protect the social security net that keeps thousands of people from losing their homes and to prevent the rise of homelessness in the UK. December 8th to 12th was Human Rights Week and Oxfam worked with other societies and focussed on climate change and women’s rights to highlight the relevance of these issues with issues of poverty. We’re also pushing Oxfam’s big ‘Even it Up’ campaign to tackle extreme inequality. 85 People have more collective wealth than 50% of the world’s population and we think that’s not only crazy and unjust but also incredibly dangerous economically and we’re pushing world leaders to address the extreme gap between the richest 1% and the rest. Look out for us around campus as we draw nearer to the UK’s general elections. MPs have a lot to answer to and we’re going to hold them to account and pressure them to make promises that will tackle poverty in the UK and overseas!
6. What’s a typical week in the life of Sean like?
A typical week seems to fly by as I stress about the minimal progress made on my dissertation! Oxfam meets on Mondays and we make plans for upcoming events which I then have to follow up and contact relevant people in the union about. Each day involves keeping in contact with my fellow committee members and usually someone else in another society we’re working with or our friends in the Oxfam Leeds City Group.
7. So, Good Food Week was a couple of months ago and we heard that you all got really involved, what did you get up to and why would you say it’s important?
Oxfam staged the infamous ‘Come Dine For Free’ event. We mysteriously invited all Leeds Uni students to free lunch during good food week. When ticket-holders arrived they were split up; the majority of students were told to sit on the floor on plastic sheets and given a measly slice of buttered bread whilst a lucky minority were chosen at random to sit at the exclusive table with a generous spread of sandwiches, cheese platters, cakes and juice. We then gave a presentation on the extreme inequality that exists in the UK and around the world which everyone responded to really well; even if many of them were a little disappointed with their meal!
8. How can students get involved?
We meet weekly in Baines Wing Room 2.09 at 5pm and all are welcome to come along each week! We also share communications using Facebook; like our page “LUU Oxfam Society Page” https://www.facebook.com/LuuOxfamSoc?fref=ts and join our group “LUU Oxfam Society Facebook Group” https://www.facebook.com/groups/LUUOxfam/?fref=ts
We’re also really keen to work with other societies to make our campaigns and events even more exciting. If you’re interested in blogging, photography, art, music or just want to offer up your time please come along and get involved!
9. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for reading this far down! If you agree that poverty is a human creation and thus humans can end poverty then Oxfam is the society to get involved with!
“Overcoming Poverty Is Not An Act Of Charity. It Is An Act Of Justice!” Nelson Mandela