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Alumni changemakers

Meet the Newcastle alumni taking action in their personal and professional lives to raise aspirations and ensure everyone has access to the same opportunities, whatever their background.

Abi Walker (BA Hons English Literature, 2017)

Starting her career with Gateshead-based charity Changing Lives, for the past four years Abi has worked for Action Foundation, a charity supporting refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. She has raised tens of thousands of pounds of grants which enable the charity’s vital work to continue and played a key role in its strategic plan as the youngest member of the charity’s leadership team.

Alongside this, Abi has also been a Trustee for the Virgin Money Foundation, and here again was the youngest member of the Board. She is also part of a mentoring programme which supports diverse groups getting into Board leadership roles.

Monju Meah (MSc Strategic Planning and Investment, 2011)

Monju is a committed volunteer and fundraiser, dedicating the past 15 years to fighting poverty and hunger in Newcastle and beyond.

He is a keen supporter of the West End Foodbank in Newcastle and has been a Trustee for the charity for the past year. Through his fundraising efforts, over £300,000 has been raised for the foodbank on the past 5 years. Additionally, the donation platform Monju spearheaded at the charity has empowered other supporters to organise their own fundraising events, raising a further £500,000. For this incredible achievement, Monju was named the Evening Chronicle’s Fundraiser of the Year in 2019. He has also supported international aid missions in war-torn countries like Peru and Syria to help reduce poverty.

With the need for foodbanks rising during the cost-of-living crisis, Monju is now turning his attention to opening multiple food pantries across Newcastle upon Tyne to help save hundreds of thousands of pounds in grocery shopping for those in need.

Smajo Beso OBE, Design Tutor at Newcastle University (BArch Architecture, 2010; Postgrad Diploma Architectural Practice & Management, 2015)

Alongside his role in the University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Smajo Beso is also the founder and Chair of the Bosnian Genocide Educational Trust.

Smajo arrived in Newcastle as a nine-year-old refugee and survivor of the genocide in Bosnia. He went on to study Architecture at Newcastle University at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, before joining the School as a lecturer on the BA Architecture and Urban Planning and MA Urban Design programmes.

He has worked tirelessly to promote cross-cultural and inter-faith understanding ever since arriving in the North East. He regularly shares his experiences and has played a vital role in organising Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations in the region.

In the King’s New Year Honours, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to Genocide Education and Commemoration.

Thomas Hopkin (PhD, 2020)

Tom is the co-founder of The Lubber Fiend in Newcastle, which provides an affordable, supportive environment for new and experienced artists, and encourages a healthy and experimental creative community.

A music venue and community space operated in the spirit of DIY music and culture, The Lubber Fiend offers a variety of opportunities and initiatives including regular open call nights for new artists, musicians and performers. It also attracts tourism from outside the region to Newcastle, making a broad social, cultural and economic impact in the North-East.

The venue currently employs ten people, has a team of volunteers and offers free training and practice time for people to learn how to use professional music and live broadcast equipment. 

Bridget Stratford MBE (BSc Hons Psychology, 2017)

Bridget organised a small group of students to volunteer with the refugee and asylum-seeking community in Newcastle while she was completing her degree with us.

This small, student-led club has now evolved into an established charity under Bridget’s leadership, making a massive difference to the local community and helping thousands of families. For this incredible impact, Bridget was named our Rising Star in 2022.

North East Solidarity and Teaching (N.E.S.T) is designed to educate, empower and integrate the forced migration community in the North East of England. The team of student volunteers, led by Bridget, support roughly 700 refugees and asylum seekers each year and deliver weekly sessions to teach English, play sports, promote arts and creativity, go on trips in the region and much more.

Since being recognised at our Alumni Achievement Awards, Bridget has guided N.E.S.T through a year of global upheaval and turmoil, which has seen an increase in people seeking sanctuary in our city from Ukraine, Afghanistan and other war-torn countries. On top of the 25+ weekly sessions delivered by the N.E.S.T team, additional support packages have been created and offered to welcome these individuals to our community.

Do you know an alumni changemaker who should be on this list?