Interview: Sophie Morris, RAG President

Image Description: a red RAG logo, with a student spotlight sticker.

Our Student Spotlight articles highlight charities and societies in the Oxford Community that students can get involved in. If you have a suggestion for who we should feature, fill in this form.

We spoke to the current Oxford Raise and Give President, Sophie Morris, about RAG in Oxford, the past year, and what’s coming up. Sophie oversees the executive committee, and overall activities of RAG, coordinating between each team and the Student Union, to plan projects and see them through. Whilst the pandemic has affected the events RAG holds, they are continuing with a range of events, and nominations for this year’s charities are currently open.

What is RAG and why is it so important? 

RAG raises money for charities elected by students, allowing the funds to go to causes that mean something special to our community. As the largest student fundraising body at the university, RAG is the most direct and accessible way for Oxford students to have fun whilst giving to charity. As an SU organisation, it also has the funding and opportunity to be able to do all the great things we strive to do in order to fundraise.

The charities we are raising money for currently include local (Oxford sexual abuse and rape crisis centre, Oxford Gatehouse), national (British Heart Foundation) and global (Against Malaria Foundation) organisations, meaning the work that RAG does has a huge impact both close to home and far overseas. Especially given the times we are currently in; the charity sector is struggling and need bodies such as RAG to help them in order to be able to continue the vital work that they do. On top of this RAG really does bring out the best in people, whether that be through: participation, attendance or volunteering with the team. It represents a collective spirit of wanting to do good and help.

What is the best way that students can get involved with charities, and more specifically RAG, during their time here? 

There are lots of opportunities available to help with charities within Oxford, even currently as there are plenty of virtual ways to help out. For RAG, there are always ways to help out both on the team and in participation. We are going to be launching recruitment for the ball RAG Ball committee soon, and we have positions on project and event teams that we are accepting rolling applications for.

What is the best part of being involved with RAG? 

I don’t think I’m able to give one answer to this question, so I’ll give a few. Firstly, the rewarding nature of the work you do. Whether the totals raised from projects is £2000 or £150, it is amazing to see that the work you do will always have an impact on the causes you dedicate your time to. Secondly, meeting people with similar goals and motivations, I have made some amazing friends through RAG and student fundraising! Thirdly, the experience that it gives to you and the opportunities that arise as a result, are priceless.

What has been your favourite RAG event during your time at Oxford? 

Having only been in Oxford for two terms pre-pandemic, I have not actually experienced that many in person RAG events! However, the RAG Santa Dash in my 1st Year Michaelmas was definitely a highlight – many Oxford students stampeding through uni parks dressed as Santa is definitely not a sight to miss. It really represented the RAG spirit.

Are there any events on the horizon for RAG?

This term we have Blind Date (virtual edition), and I am really looking forward to seeing this roll out. There’s the option to have a Blind Call, where you get matched, but have to find out who it is, through a team’s call! You get sent an activity pack suited to how you and your match answered questions about what you enjoy doing, so that it’s less awkward too. A blind double date with my friend is definitely the lockdown lifter I need. For later in the year, we have a challenge in the planning for the adrenaline seekers out there (watch this space) and we are also hoping to have the RAG Ball live and in person! Exciting stuff.

How has RAG been affected by the pandemic? 

RAG held some of the most exciting events in the Oxford calendar – balls, parties, overseas challenges… that have all had to either go virtual or be cancelled. It has history of raising tens of thousands of pounds, which has been significantly cut by our inability to do what we do best and are known for. The team has been trying to work collaboratively to try and create COVID-safe events, but unfortunately the uptake has inevitably not been near to our historic successes. Nevertheless, we still have managed to generate proceeds which is amazing, and we are so thankful for all the people that have continued to support RAG.

RAG nominations for next year’s charities are open until Monday 1st February. The information about how to nominate, and which charities are eligible is here. The chosen charities could receive up to £10,000.

Voting by the student body on these will take place from Tuesday 9th February until Thursday 11th February.

If you are interested in getting involved with any RAG projects, you can email [email protected]   The SU also has a dedicated volunteering page here

Image credit: Oxford SU, with spotlight logo by Tian Chen