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Make a Smile: KCL’s Latest Philanthropic Society

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With the reintroduction of in-person university activities, students will have the opportunity to get involved with one of King’s many student groups and activities. From societies discussing fine wine to rock music, there’s something for everyone. If you are interested in using your free time to volunteer and help others less fortunate, then Make a Smile might be the group for you.

Make a Smile is a non-profit organisation which helps to support and uplift children dealing with illnesses or disabilities. Their goal is to help these children to enjoy their childhood as much as possible, and fun is always the number-one priority for everyone. It aims to achieve this by engaging the children in play therapy, reading them stories and even visiting children in hospitals dressed as their favourite characters. While Make a Smile is an independent organisation, there are chapters at universities all over the country.

To find out a little more about the organisation, Roar spoke to Soamopriya Som, President of the Chapter here at King’s. Som decided to join the organisation due to her fond memories of meeting her favourite Disney characters at Disneyland as a child, and was keen to play a part in helping spread that joy to other children. She began as a Training Officer in part of Make a Smile’s Cardiff chapter, and found the experience incredibly rewarding and enjoyable. After graduating from Cardiff University, Som pursued her Masters at King’s and saw it as the perfect opportunity to bring the organisation here.

Som thoroughly enjoyed the wide range of events she got to experience while at Cardiff. She has visited schools and children centres dressed as Princess Jasmine; attended Halloween dance parties dressed up as a witch; and organised and took part in fundraisers like PJ socials and bake offs. She was also keen to improve representation among the organisation, and successfully executed a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Person of Colour) photoshoot.

Although she describes working with the organisation as ‘one big favourite experience’, some of her most memorable moments include working alongside reindeers and seeing a shy toddler spellbound by his favourite princess. With planned events including visits to London hospitals, character visits to discos and a variety of costume and non-costume activities, there are numerous opportunities to get involved in.

If you would like to make a meaningful difference to the lives of children across London, but would prefer to get involved behind the scenes, there are also options for you. Make a Smile is keen to ensure that every event is free for both children and volunteers, but this means they rely on independent funding. As such, there are many opportunities to organise fundraising events like bake sales, charity matches and movie nights. Volunteering with Make a Smile comes with plenty of flexibility, as you can volunteer at a time when best suits you.

There are also plenty of ways to get involved virtually. In the past, volunteers have created pre-recorded storytimes, BSL singalongs and even virtual visits and events. During these events, you’ll dress up and provide children with the invaluable opportunity to video-call their favourite character. In addition, you may even get the chance to work with volunteers based abroad. The Covid-19 pandemic has enabled the organisation to strengthen their training portal, so you will receive high-quality training on subjects like BSL and can still improve, even if you are unable to or don’t feel comfortable attending in-person events.

If you’d like to get involved at the committee level, the Make a Smile committee has 11 positions: President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Training Officer, Wellbeing Officer, Recruitment Officer, Events Manager and Wardrobe Manager. The King’s Chapter is currently seeking a Fundraising and Social Media Officer, and new opportunities may also pop up throughout the year.

If you’d like to spend your days reliving your childhood and making a difference to children’s lives, you can sign up on Make a Smile’s official website, makeasmile.org.uk, to be added to the database and access online resources. You can also stay updated by joining the Make a Smile KCL Facebook group or @makeasmilekings on Instagram.

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