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Jack Abrey, in his time as a first-year Geography (Human and Physical) student at the University of Reading, embarked on an adventure with a difference – travelling to Madagascar with international charity WaterAid and the Scouts to help improve access to clean water and safe toilets across the country.

“The University supported me from day one with regards to my charity work and volunteering; from providing ways for me to integrate my work into my studies to being flexible when I had to attend events at short notice.

"Moreover the University actively encouraged me to continue my work within the third sector and provided opportunities for me to share this with other students and promote charity work via blog posts and media work.

"This tailored approach to teaching and learning has made me feel extremely valued as a student and as an individual!”

Campaigning for change

Jack saw the impact of life without access to clean water and sanitation first-hand during his time in Madagascar. He joined sessions on the importance of clean water, good sanitation and hygiene, and helped to build facilities at the camp, such as "tippy taps" – a cheap way to wash hands where there is no tapped water.

Jack campaigned for water and toilets for all, and to increase understanding of the importance of good hygiene among communities.

“It was mind-blowing to see the changes clean water and good sanitation can bring. These basic resources are vital for a healthy and prosperous life... Even by taking small actions, together we really can make a difference in poor communities in Madagascar and across the world.”

Award-winning impact

Jack's commitment and hard work was recognised by the UK Prime Minister with a Points of Light award – a scheme set up to recognise outstanding individual volunteers who are making a change in their community.

“I was absolutely honoured to receive a Points of Light award – I did not expect it in the slightest! I truly believe in the power of volunteering, social action and young people and was lucky enough to chair the Scout Association Community Impact Group responsible for the A Million Hands Project.

"Throughout the project I saw first hand that when we join together be it locally, nationally or internationally we are unstoppable!”

Jack received a personal letter from former Prime Minister Theresa May to congratulate him on the award.

“Your fantastic work on 'A Million Hands' is mobilising half a million Scouts to volunteer and creating a vibrant community of young people whose service will have a positive impact on the UK for years to come.”

Former Prime Minister Theresa May

Supporting communities

Since graduating from Reading, Jack is continuing his drive to make the world a better place, and is now in a full-time role with the Scouts where he manages the A Million Hands campaign.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jack has been working with the Scouts to support communities, triumphing kindness and positivity in anxious times.

Read more about what Jack's been up to since graduating

Learn more about our undergraduate courses