Paul Brummell, British Ambassador to Romania

Paul Brummell

Head of Soft Power and External Affairs Department, Communication Directorate

24th October 2018 London,UK

They are Chevening

One of the most important events of our annual Chevening Scholarships calendar is the orientation day, held on Saturday at the ExCel Centre in London’s Docklands, when new Chevening scholars learnt more about the year that awaited them, had the opportunity to debate key issues from climate change to artificial intelligence, and heard from such inspirational speakers as Lord Bilimoria, the Chairman and Founder of Cobra Beer. The day was one of celebration, as we applauded the achievements of our 1,780 new scholars in being selected for this prestigious scheme against tough competition. Many of the scholars arrived in national dress, or waving the flag of their home country, and the event had an exuberant feel. The Mexican delegation, in coordinated outfits, treated us all to a heartfelt rendition of Cielito Lindo (“ay, ay, ay, ay”) in the break.

Chevening scholars from Zimbabwe and Colombia enjoying Orientation.

I was asked to give the closing remarks at the event. Morna from the Association of Commonwealth Universities, which hosts the Chevening Secretariat, gave me a helpful brief for the slot, containing the rather daunting injunction that I simply needed “to deliver an inspiring ending to the orientation proceedings.” 2018 marks the 35th anniversary of the Chevening scheme, and I thought that this marked the perfect opportunity to think about some of the women and men who had gone before the current cohort, using their Chevening scholarship to bring positive change; in their fields; to their communities; to their countries.

Closing speech at Chevening Orientation 2018

Like Zola Amarsanaa. A qualified psychologist since 2005, she has dedicated herself to eliminating violence against women and children in Mongolia, setting up the Beautiful Hearts Against Sexual Violence NGO in Ulaan Baatar. She received a Chevening scholarship in 2015 to study social research methods at the University of Sussex, focusing on gender-based, domestic and sexual violence. Along with her colleagues at Beautiful Hearts she received in 2017 a With and for Girls award, recognising locally-led girl-centred organisations empowering women and girls around the world.

Like Erdem Moralioglu. A Canadian-Turkish fashion designer with an MA place at the Royal College of Art, but with his father seriously ill with cancer he would have been unable to pay the fees without the Chevening Scholarship he received. An article in Vogue by Alexandra Shulman reports Erdem commenting with pride that “they’d never given it to a fine arts student, let alone a fashion student.” He closed the 2003 RCA show with his graduate collection, and launched his own Erdem label in 2005. He has dressed public figures from Keira Knightley to the Duchess of Cambridge.

Like Fatuma Abdulkadir Adan. In a tale with echoes of Romeo and Juliet, her parents hailed from rival tribes in the violence-hit district of Marsabit in Northern Kenya: a Borana father and a Gabra mother. From her father, Fatuma inherited a passion for football, but in the conservative environment of Marsabit she didn’t kick a ball until she was twenty-five. Girls just didn’t play. She told journalist Colin Nickerson that this was “a region where it’s far easier for youths to get an AK-47 than an education.” Her Horn of Africa Development Initiative focuses on soccer, among both boys and girls, as a means of peacebuilding between rival communities, with the message “shoot to score, not to kill.” There are no red or yellow cards to punish foul play. Instead, good play gets a green card and a snack. In 2011, Fatuma received the Stuttgart Peace Prize for combining soccer and emancipation.

Like Anne Enright. An Irish author who won a Chevening scholarship to the celebrated University of East Anglia creative writing course, where she studied under Angela Carter and Malcolm Bradbury. Her novel The Gathering won the 2007 Man Booker prize: a tale based around the funeral of Liam Hegarty, an alcoholic who committed suicide in the sea at Brighton, and the family history which might have contributed to his death.

Like Carlos Avarado Quesada. Awarded a Chevening scholarship to take an MSc in development studies from Sussex University, he was elected as the 48th President of Costa Rica at the age of just 38 in May this year. He became one of fourteen current or former heads of state or government worldwide who are Chevening alumni. He has paid tribute to the award, saying:

“My thanks to Chevening for the opportunity that it gave me, and for all that I was able to grow because of it. As a country, we must pursue the path of education and more opportunities to study for everyone.”

Like Baby Ruth Villarama. A documentary filmmaker from the Philippines, whose Chevening scholarship took her to Birmingham University for a Masters in film distribution and marketing. Her documentary Sunday Beauty Queen follows Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong competing in a beauty pageant. There is a Cinderella feel to the tale. Sunday is their one day of freedom, where they can pursue dreams like winning a beauty pageant, but they must return to their employers by midnight or risk the sack. I was delighted to meet Baby Ruth when she received a few weeks ago the social impact award as part of the prestigious British Council alumni awards. In her video message as part of that awards scheme she comments:

“I want to change how the world sees the Philippines, and more importantly how the Philippines sees itself.”

I look forward to following the careers of this year’s intake of Chevening scholars, as they follow in the footsteps of their illustrious predecessors and help to change the world.


2 comments on “They are Chevening

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