The power of collective endeavour

The power of collective endeavour

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Resolute, despite COVID-19, our collegiate community has united, finding novel ways to respond to challenging conditions, creating opportunities to contribute to society and help each other.  Their grassroots endeavours demonstrate the collective might of our students, staff, alumni and the wider community, whether that might is physical, intellectual, emotional or financial. 

the desire to set a positive legacy by coming together to make something good out of a difficult time


Virtual Climbing Challenge

"The idea behind the Virtual Climbing Challenge was to give staff, students and community members a team building opportunity and a sense of purpose during a difficult time by contributing to the PPE Appeal," explained Karen Pearce, Deputy Director of Sport. Launched as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, the University Sports Service team led by example, conquering Mount Everest in 12 hours of virtual climbing and laying down the gauntlet to other contenders. Challenges ranged from climbing the University Library Tower to scaling a mountain and could be completed across a day or week depending on time available and fitness levels. Funds were raised for the University's COVID-19 PPE Appeal Fund, which is helping to purchase and transport essential high-quality Personal Protection Equipment from China to Cambridge. "We were delighted by the uptake of the challenge and the opportunity to support physical and mental wellbeing," said Pearce.

May Bumps 2020

Adapting to the social distancing requirements at the time, but with accessibility in mind, the 2020 May Bumps — the annual set of races held since 1887 on the Fen Ditton section of the River Cam — took place on dry land. Switching their oars for running shoes, crew members ran an 800m course, times from which were used to produce a bumps simulation. Organised and run by students from across college boat clubs, teams were set an additional challenge this year, with the team that raised the most money awarded the Pegasus Cup. Funds raised were split between the University's Cambridge v COVID-19 Campaign and the Milton Branch of East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH). Speaking about the importance of community at times like these, Virtual Bumps Committee Member Jess O'Brien commented "bringing the rowing community together was key, but we also wanted the wider Cambridge community to benefit from our enjoyment during the Virtual May Bumps this year. By teaming up with two fantastic local causes supporting the fight against coronavirus, every penny raised was given back to the community we all love being a part of."

The Boat Race

The Boat Race refused to be surpressed, pivoting to a virtual Boat Race with Olympic, Paralympic, World Championship and club rowers, representing teams from Oxford and Cambridge. On Saturday 13 June, the mixed teams competed individually at home in the virtual boat race to raise funds for Power2Inspire — a charity championing inclusion through sport. Rowers battled it out on home rowing machines with the scores from each crew member combined to make a final boat score. The Light Blues did not disappoint, leading throughout and crossing the finishing line ahead of the Dark Blues. A further competitive element was interwoven with each team striving to raise the most money for the charity. Cambridge once again triumphed, with more than £20,000 raised for Power2Inspire. Sophie Paine, captain of the Cambridge boat said, "we have had fantastic feedback about how great it was to see women and men, lightweight and open-weight, Paralympic and club athletes all competing together in the first ever inclusive virtual boat race and whilst we recognise there is some way to go, we are pleased to have been able to raise awareness of the power of sport to champion inclusion."

Big May Ball Appeal

The inspiration behind the Big May Ball Appeal for Coronavirus (Big MAC) came from the desire to "set a positive legacy by coming together as students to make something good out of a difficult time," explained Zehn Mehmood, Big MAC co-founder. By asking attendees to consider giving the refunds from their May Ball tickets to the Big MAC Appeal, this student-led campaign has raised a truly impressive amount — more than £35,000 — to support COVID-related relief and research. The two Cambridge-based causes backed by the campaign, Addenbrooke's Hospital and the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, are central to the fight against COVID-19 and future pandemics. Big MAC co-founder Jade Charles said "we were delighted to receive a further brilliant boost to fundraising efforts, thanks to the May Week Mega Event, a livestreamed evening of entertainment, bringing together the global Cambridge community to mark the end of the year in style and raising over £7,000 on the night."

While the motivations for each of these initiatives may have varied, they all demonstrate the capacity of collective endeavour to effect meaningful change.  The common thread running throughout is the irrepressible desire of the Cambridge community to make the world a better place.