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Digital Inclusion

The roots of charity

Living and breathing volunteering

Capgemini’s Monju Meah has been honored with a British Citizen Award for his volunteering work. Here, he shares his journey and outlines how charitable work has enriched his life.

Picture the scene: You’re standing in front of the head teacher, trying to explain your delinquent behavior. In the room is your sister, whose job is to translate for your mother. You’ve failed almost all of your GCSEs. Your education is going off the rails. Your very future hangs in the balance…

“I’m afraid to say this was me,” explains Monju Meah, digital inclusion project manager in the Capgemini UK CSR team. “This was the moment I decided to change.”

British Citizen Award

Fast forward to June 2023. Monju, aged 36, is standing in the Palace of Westminster, House of Lords, receiving a British Citizen Award for his extraordinary contributions to volunteering and fundraising. Known as “The People’s Honours,” these awards were established in 2015 to recognize exceptional individuals who work selflessly to make a positive impact on their communities and society.

Monju received special recognition for his work for Newcastle West End Food Bank, with which he has volunteered for nine years. His involvement has grown steadily, from helping in the warehouse and participating in bucket collections to setting up a fundraising platform through which the food bank has raised more than £1 million in donations.

Now a trustee with the charity, Monju has personally raised more than £300,000 through charitable events and initiatives.

For him, it was the culmination of 15 years of volunteering and fundraising for many charities in many countries. He has climbed Ben Nevis in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru, and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania for UNICEF, and fundraised and volunteered with The Prince’s Trust.

Delivering social impact with Capgemini

On top of all this, in his role as digital inclusion project manager, Monju organizes the operational side of Capgemini’s social impact programs in the UK. In particular, he helps to coordinate the volunteering activity at key partners such as The Prince’s Trust and CodeYourFuture, a non-profit organization that teaches tech skills to refugees and those on low incomes. 

In practice, this involves coordinating around 1,000 Capgemini colleagues in their volunteering efforts every year. “I’ve been with the CSR team for nine years and have had the same manager for six years,” says Monju. “I absolutely love this job.”

By his own admission, the British Citizen Award and his digital inclusion role at Capgemini UK represent quite a turnaround from those early, difficult years at school.

Volunteering by accident

To boost his CV, Monju started to volunteer by teaching IT skills at a community center – and the experience changed his life. “I taught basic Word skills to a man who had recently been made redundant, enabling him to apply for and get a job. I was blown away by how much impact I could make on someone’s life through just a single day of volunteering.”
The experience totally altered Monju’s trajectory and he admits he became “addicted” to volunteering, giving more and more of his time to help others.

In 2016, he visited the Syrian refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan with a group of like-minded colleagues and friends.

Over a three-month period, the team distributed around 1,000 packs of food and essentials which could keep a family going for a month.

This experience contributed to Monju’s profound sense of empathy towards others and a desire to help them through difficult circumstances. However, the real seeds of his motivation to volunteer go deeper still.

The roots of charity

Monju’s family came to the UK from Bangladesh in the 1970s. At that time, it was normal for his family to host other migrants who were trying to settle in the area. Indeed, his mother always tried to instill positive values in him, encouraging him to help others.

It was when his father became ill, however, that Monju faced some of the formative challenges of his life. “Dad had a series of strokes and gradually became severely disabled. My mother had to look after him as well as six children. I was also helping with his care up until his death. It was a stressful time and it contributed to my failing most of my GCSEs.”

Thanks to the help of some key mentors, Monju was able to overcome these difficulties and secure a place at Newcastle University. “I worked extremely hard for my A levels and ended up with some of the top grades in the year. It was an amazing turnaround after that meeting with the headmaster and gave me much more confidence.”

Reaping the rewards

In fact, he believes he was accepted onto the graduate scheme at Capgemini because of a volunteering stint he did in Peru just before the application. “Extra-curricular activities are really important. We spent three-quarters of the interview talking about that. It shows what a supportive, value-driven company this is.”

Monju believes that volunteering has hugely enriched his life, in terms of his skills and his personality. “Today, my charity work and my role at Capgemini work harmoniously in a virtuous circle, each strengthening the other.”

At Capgemini, Monju now leads the UK roll-out of the company’s flagship ‘Impact Together Month’ program, which takes place every October. Through this annual initiative, employees have the opportunity to engage in volunteering activities developed with not-for-profit partners, which allows Capgemini to have a positive impact on its ecosystem: throughout October 2022, 11,000 employees in 27 countries supported 220 NGOs and influenced the lives of 22,600 people.

Monju is determined to use the exposure he’s gained from his award to spread the word about the benefits of volunteering. He has started to create video blogs sharing his insights on the subject and has launched a podcast interviewing incredible people and sharing their stories. “I want to challenge imposter syndrome and create a spark that can change people’s lives,” he says. If only his headteacher could see him now…

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