2020 Emergency Fund

Message from Tobi Olasunkanmi (MCR President 2013-2014)

Dear Hughesian,

My conversations in recent months with Hughesians have coalesced around the same topics: covid-19, PPE, antibodies, antigens, remote working, remote learning, record unemployment, riots, racism, and mental health.  This uniformity is striking because my friends are scattered across the globe—from Amman to Hong Kong to Zanzibar.  The last time our local challenges were so in sync was when we were all students at Hughes.  

You and I may not have spoken, but I’m willing to bet that similar topics are on your mind.  No doubt, like me and my friends, you may feel a mixture of sadness and anger at the state of the world.   The global coordination that was a hallmark of the 2014 Ebola crisis seems to be giving way to isolationist tendencies.  The diversity embodied at institutions like Hughes is under attack in some quarters.  Many of us feel helpless in the face of such seemingly intractable problems and wonder, “what can I possibly do”. 

Charitable giving is an immensely personal choice but, if you are in a position to do so, I believe donating to the college’s student hardship fund is one concrete starting point towards positive action.  Here’s why:

  1.    Donations multiply your impact.  The world will continue to have colossal problems, and no one person can solve them all.  Supporting students facing hardships enables them to graduate from Hughes and go on to better their classrooms, corporations, clinics, and countries.  People I met in all three years at Hughes are doing important work – from nuclear non-proliferation research (Ty Otto ‘12) to analysing geopolitical economic risks and implementing the post-crisis international banking capital framework (Marie Lechler ‘13, Rohan Sakhrani ‘13) to improving mathematics literacy (Bobby Seagull ‘14), and constructing the future of the gaming industry (Holly Priest ‘12). I have been lucky to use my law degree to advise governments on investment treaties and play a small role in supporting constitutional litigation to advance LGBT+ rights.  Many other alumni are doing the important work of keeping people alive and the economy afloat.  My point is this: your donations will help students navigate present challenges, so they can go on to tackle the big problems that a Hughes and Cambridge education equip them to do.
  2.    Hughes was founded on the principles of idealism and egalitarianism: those ideals remain worth advancing today and are worth some sacrifice.  It is now undisputed that people from underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds (and both) disproportionately bear the burden of the pandemic.  The world is in desperate need of more teachers, doctors, lawyers, researchers, and responsible business leaders — and it needs these people from all walks of life.  Despite my many privileges, it was unfortunately too common in my time at Hughes for people to assume I did not go to Cambridge.  Hughes is one of the more diverse colleges at Cambridge, and supporting this diversity is important.  The support Hughes is seeking to provide to students who may otherwise fall through the cracks is important.  
  3.    There is a track record of donations having a demonstrable effect on improving student life.  For example, my MCR term formalised a ‘Homeless Hughesians’ scheme whereby Miranda Abild ‘12 spent the summer assisting students who could not secure college accommodation with finding housing in Cambridge. By 2016, thanks in part to fundraising efforts, Hughes was able to open Gresham Court to house more students.  Similarly, we introduced college academic advising for MPhil students in 2014; today the college has gone further and has a nurse, Maria, to assist with physical and mental wellbeing.  Financial support will enable the college to improve the student experience for those facing drastic changes to their circumstances—the Hughes and Cambridge experience is challenging enough even without dealing with the ramifications of a global pandemic. 

In the face of a retrenching world, I am encouraged by the college’s determination to ensure its progress is not eroded.  We are going forward.  If you’re in a position to give, I hope you will because your money addresses a clear problem.  If you cannot give, but want to support students anyway, please get in touch with the Development Office about how else you might be able to help. 

Stay safe, 

Tobi Olasunkanmi

MCR President 2013-2014


If you would like to a make a gift to support students in hardship, you can donate to the 2020 Emergency Fund via our website

Tobi has attempted to take-up tennis during lockdown, but he will be keeping the day job.