RAG Member and News Editor, Eleanor Smith, gives us a run-down on LUU’s biggest volunteering society’s largest event of the year.
This week saw Leeds Raising and Giving (RAG) take over the University of Leeds as RAG Week launched into action. The week, aimed at raising money for grass-roots Leeds-based charities, involved a variety of fundraising events to help support those in need. The money raised goes into the community fund and is distributed to local charities later in the year.
Leeds RAG is a Leeds University Union volunteering society which serves as the main volunteering charity at LUU. Their main aims are to facilitate student engagement with charities, both locally, nationally and internationally, whether this is fundraising or simply raising awareness.
The society is large with a broad range of diverse interests, meaning there is something that everyone can get involved with. RAG activities range anywhere from bucket-shaking at Fruity for a local cause, cycling endurance challenges to Prague for a national charity, or an international volunteering project in Uganda.
RAG Week is a staple in the society’s calendar as an annual occurrence involving lots of different events. Unlike other RAG activities, RAG Week is specifically targeted at supporting Leeds-based charities. These charities have small incomes of less than £100,000 a year which, in the world of charities, is not a lot of funding. However, these charities do amazing work, therefore RAG Week is a great way for students to get involved in supporting our community outside of the University. Supporting local charities also allows students to see where their money is actually going. We can visit the places receiving funding from RAG Week fundraising and observe the change that is being facilitated.
The week is organised by Community Fund Coordinator Katie Ebbrell. For Katie, the week is more than just raising money: “RAG Week is important as it provides a platform and a voice for students to engage with local Leeds charities. We encourage students to get involved as together we can enhance not only the local community, but, more importantly, our community presence.”
During RAG Week, there was an event on every day: Monday saw a pub quiz in Old Bar, Tuesday featured an information stall inside LUU, an open-mic night was hosted in Terrace on Wednesday, on Thursday a group of students abseiled down the the Michael Sadler Building and there was a cocktail masterclass in Terrace, and Friday featured a self-defence class in the daytime and a glitter stall at Fruity. The events were varied, allowing everyone to get involved with something they were comfortable with, or try their hand at something new in the name of charity.
Besides the events, students could also get involved with supporting RAG Week with minimal effort. A selection of products were created and sold in Terrace and Old Bar, with 10% from each sale going to the community fund. These included three pizzas and a cocktail in Terrace and three burgers in Old Bar. RAG makes doing your bit for charity as simple as buying your lunch or enjoying a drink after lectures. It’s hard to not get involved!
The week is always a success. In 2017, £4178 was raised in RAG week specifically, with a further £1226 raised before or after the event. This money was given as grants to twenty Leeds charities such as Holbeck Food Bank, Leeds Little Free Library, Rainbow Junction Café and Mini Mermaids. RAG are expecting to raise even more this year, to help as many Leeds charities as possible, and contribute to the amazing £1.2million total that has been raised by RAG since 2012. To receive funding from RAG Week, charities must apply and are chosen. The grants are presented to the successful charities at a presentation evening in May.
RAG Week is a key event in the RAG calendar for several reasons. It is the longest fundraising event, spanning five days, however fundraising for it begins before the event itself, with ticket sales, and continues beyond end of the week, such as for sponsorships. RAG Week is also unique in its sole support for the local Leeds charity landscape.
Further than just fundraising, RAG as a whole provides a platform for lesser-known charities, as well as the opportunity for students to bring attention to great causes they care about. RAG is so successful because of the way it involves as many people as possible in different ways that utilise their strengths to bring about positive change. RAG Week is a great example of the power of RAG through its facilitation of local charities.
Even though RAG Week is over for another year, students and staff can still get involved. On social media, sharing, liking and supporting friends involved with RAG is a great way to keep the awareness alive beyond the week itself. Likewise, researching the charities that will receive community fund grants will raise awareness of grass-roots charities that are doing great things yet lack the publicity of more mainstream or national charities.
If you missed out on the events of RAG Week, you can still get involved with RAG throughout the year, as there are always events, challenges and projects going on to suit everyone’s passions.
(Image courtesy of Katie Ebbrell)