Trinity student George Rosenfeld has received the Vice Chancellor’s Social Impact Award for founding the May Week Alternative (MWA), an initiative that encourages Cambridge students to celebrate May Week by making the world a better place.
May Week Alternative invite students to donate the approximate cost of a May Ball ticket (£150 recommended, though donations of all sizes are welcome) to charity. They then host a Summer Party during May Week which celebrates the end of exams, the money raised for Against Malaria Foundation – every donation is doubled – and the impact of giving.
George, who is studying Arabic and Russian at Trinity, received his award from the Vice Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, at a ceremony at Emmanuel College in February. The awards were established this year by Cambridge Hub, the centre for student social action, with the support of the Vice Chancellor, to celebrate and recognise exceptional commitment to social impact.
George is one of four winners out of 55 nominations for 2019. Cambridge Hub Manager, Will Hedley, said:
The judges were struck by George’s fortitude in setting up May Week Alternative in the face of opposition while challenging the status quo. They were also impressed by his understanding of the impact of his work, and the tangible benefits of his fundraising on beneficiaries.
George was inspired to set up MWA by the celebratory spirit of May Week and a talk at Trinity last year by Cambridge alumnus, Rob Mather, the founder of the Against Malaria Foundation. George said:
May Week seemed to me to be a celebration of the opportunities which we enjoy studying in Cambridge and I thought it would be wonderful if we could combine these celebrations with something which looked beyond Cambridge and made a real difference to the lives of many people around the world who live in very different circumstances.
With matched funding, MWA raised £12,000 in its first year for the Against Malaria Foundation, protecting more than 15,000 people from the disease. Already this year, over 150 Cambridge students have joined, raising more than £30,000 for the charity, which is enough to protect over 35,000 people from malaria, far more than the number of students in Cambridge. ‘Seeing the incredible impact that could be achieved with relatively few people made me realise how much potential MWA has,’ George said.
It is very exciting to see that so many students are putting charity at the heart of their May Week celebrations and are choosing to celebrate by having a huge impact on the lives of people all around the world. Often students are making the biggest donation they have ever made and it’s done in an explicitly positive, celebratory context. I think that is really powerful in changing the way students think about charity in the long-term.
The idea that MWA is opposed to students enjoying May Balls is a fallacy, says George. ‘They don’t have to choose between the two. For some, MWA is the centrepiece of their May Week celebrations – for others, it’s a welcome addition alongside May Balls and garden parties. MWA is simply there to offer students a framework through which they can celebrate May Week and have a wonderful time while making a huge difference. It’s all in our motto – Feel Good, Do Good!’