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Alexander Gray 'Appy' to win Simon Shades Award


Alex Gray is the 2023 recipient of The Simon Shades Award. He describes his involvement with The Brun Bear Foundation as "really, really rewarding"


Bristol University student Alexander (Alex) Gray is the 2023 recipient of The Simon Shades Award. He will receive £1,000 and will also develop an app to improve communications and engagement between The Brun Bear Foundation, its beneficiaries and supporters.

For Alex, the Award represents an exciting new phase in his involvement with The Brun Bear Foundation, having started volunteering with the registered charity as a student at Colfe's, a co-educational private day school in Lee, in the London Borough of Lewisham


"I wanted the opportunity to not only volunteer somewhere, but also get some experience in computing"

Alex first heard about the Foundation through his school and chose to volunteer to gain computing experience. "I wanted the opportunity to not only volunteer somewhere, but also get some experience in computing," says Alex, who has just started the first year of his Computer Science degree. While studying for his A Levels Alex was able to apply and develop his programming by playing an integral role in bringing the charity's maternity education online academy to life, which he found "really, really rewarding."

Alex's project idea was sparked by a realisation that The Brun Bear Foundation lacked an app and was using a mix of WhatsApp and mailing lists to communicate with beneficiaries and supporters. "My feeling is that the charity can enhance its communications by centralising communications through an app," he says.


He plans to involve beneficiaries in designing the app to ensure it meets their needs

He plans to involve beneficiaries like Colfe's School in designing the app to ensure it meets their needs. Alongside partnering with Colfe's on student work placements, mentoring and internships, The Brun Bear Foundation jointly delivered a community day in June that saw 60 Year 12 students, aged 16-17 years, take to the local community to volunteer their time for a diverse range of organisations spread throughout Lewisham.

Alex envisions the app having event listings and bookings, donations, a shop, and chat functions to facilitate engagement. "The experience I gleaned working on the online academy will be valuable preparation for an iterative, collaborative build," he says.

For Alex one of the most exciting aspects of the project is the potential to make a difference through something he will build. "I'm looking forward to applying my existing knowledge as well as what I stand to learn at university to build something meaningful and tangible that builds connection and enhances the experience of all who come into contact with The Foundation."


Alex's project encapsulates what The Simon Shades Award is all about

"Alex's project encapsulates what The Simon Shades Award is all about," says founder of The Brun Bear Foundation, Edwin Lampert. "The Award simultaneously will support a talented student who hails from the locality in his personal and professional development and will also, through the enhanced communication it will bring, support The Brun Bear Foundation in delivering even more strongly on all of its charitable objectives. Alex is a truly deserving winner. His project stood out in a field of strong and varied applications."

To learn more about The Simon Shades Award, including how to apply please click here.

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