Volunteer Impact Award: Impact Beyond Volunteering

The Impact Beyond Volunteering Award recognises the significant contribution a volunteer continues to make after their placement has finished.


  • Divya Gill, UK: ICS returned volunteer and creator of 'Through Brown Eyes' podcast
  • Emma Rose Lees, UK: ICS returned volunteer and creator of 'Pass on a Smile' project
  • Molly Bufton Steer, UK: ICS returned volunteer and creator of 'Molly's Meals' food delivery service
  • NYEN core committee, UK: Nine ICS alumni who lead the National Youth Engagement Network (NYEN)

Winner: Divya Gill

UK: ICS returned volunteer and creator of 'Through Brown Eyes' podcast

Although her ICS placement in Cambodia was cut short by the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020, Divya decided to use her time during the UK’s lockdown to continue her active citizenship. Along with two friends, she wrote and produced a podcast series, ‘Through Brown Eyes’, which encourages open and honest conversations around pressing issues for young Asian people in the UK, such as mental health, race, and employment. By developing a safe space for young people to discuss the barriers and discrimination that they face, Divya has become a champion for inclusion and diversity.

Divya also plays an important role in the UK National Youth Engagement Network, volunteering as Regional Ambassador for the Midlands and representing her area within the network.

Emma Rose Lees

UK: ICS returned volunteer and creator of 'Pass on a Smile' project

When Emma Lees, 22, returned home from her ICS placement in Kenya, the UK was at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the country entered lockdown and levels of self-isolation increased, Emma was acutely aware that the ‘new normal’ could have a huge impact on people’s loneliness. To address this in her community, Emma created ‘Pass on a Smile’ – a project to combat loneliness and poor mental health due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Emma launched a website where people can download and share hand-illustrated postcards to remind others they aren’t alone, alongside a blog with activities and tips to support wellbeing, details of relevant charities and helplines, and a community-generated ‘happy song’ playlist. She also created a free booklet of children’s mindfulness activities, which has since been used by primary school teachers in the classroom.

Molly Bufton Steer

UK: ICS returned volunteer and creator of 'Molly's Meals' food delivery service

When Molly Bufton Stear, 22, returned to the UK from her ICS placement in Tanzania, she knew that she wanted to start a career in the humanitarian sector – but she had no idea of the pandemic that was about to take such a toll on her local community. After it became clear how badly coronavirus was affecting older people in particular, she knew how she could get involved: just days before the UK entered its first lockdown, she set up ‘Molly’s Meals’, a daily service providing free hot meals to elderly and vulnerable people in the community.

To date, Molly has delivered over 3,500 meals, fundraised over £3,000 to make the service free, and recruited over 25 local volunteers who help with cooking, deliveries and checking in on people. The scheme is still expanding and now operates under a registered charity, meaning it can continue to support people indefinitely. Molly herself has been recognised by local and national media, and even commended by the Prime Minister, receiving a Point of Light award and a personal letter of thanks from him.

NYEN core committee

UK: Nine ICS alumni who lead the National Youth Engagement Network (NYEN)

Since April 2020, the nine ICS alumni who make up the core committee of the UK National Youth Engagement Network (NYEN) have worked to develop an inclusive network of 200 young people, amplifying youth voices and contributing to positive, sustainable change both in the UK and globally. Despite the challenges of the past year, each member has balanced their full-time jobs and studies with dedicating time, passion and commitment to volunteering – so epitomising VSO’s values.

Some of the group’s key achievements include collaborating with strategic partners to deliver a range of online engagement opportunities for young people, with webinars spanning COVID-related topics from mental wellbeing and resilience to youth employability. They have also worked to raise awareness of the impact of UK AID, and led training for young people as part of the campaign to defend the UK’s aid budget.

Finally, the team co-designed and led a series of global engagement events on climate action to mark International Youth Day, including delivering five online webinars, collaborating with Uganda’s NYEN to run a two-day ‘hackathon’ workshop on sustainable consumerism, empowering young people from a range of backgrounds to take part as speakers, and coordinating a successful and far-reaching social media campaign.