How my experience with pro bono work has impacted my career journey

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Kashif Imambaccass, UWE Law Student, shares his experience of pro bono work at UWE

My interest in pro bono was initially piqued in my first year and I ended up joining in my second year, after using Blackboard to compare different pro bono opportunities and attending the Pro Bono talk. It was there I heard about African Prisons Project Pro bono group. I was immediately impressed by the work that they do and the impact that they have on the justice system in Africa. They teach inmates in African prisons how to access justice by assisting them in undertaking Law degrees remotely. I approached Kelly Eastham and Nakita Hedges, who were involved in the leadership of the group at the time, and asked if I could take a leadership role as I had had prior involvement in social activism in Mauritius. They agreed and at the start of 2019, I began having meetings with them on strategy and formed the three subgroups – fundraising, media and blogs and teaching. We also nominated leaders for each individual group and I was nominated to lead the teaching group.

Working with the group was amazing – our faculty contact Kathy Brown was the backbone of the organization and has motivated us to develop the organization further after handing over the group to us. We invited new members across the university to get involved and organized both a bake sale and a book collection for our students in Kenya.

In January of 2020, our group had grown significantly, with 70 new members. We had also started developing podcasts to support the learning of the inmates. We were also beginning to plan for the visit of Morris, one of APP’s graduates who had been wrongfully sentenced to life for aggravated armed robbery. We set up a visit at UWE on the 10th of February for him to give a talk, which ended up being so successful that we ran out of space in the lecture hall. Morris spoke about his fight for freedom and how he has freed over 300 inmates since.

His talk sparked a lot of interest and APP was invited to a dinner at Lincoln’s Inn in London, along with Morris. I was able to network with judges, barristers and solicitors who were intrigued by APP’s work. We also set up a fundraising event at a local pub a few weeks after, raising over £300.

And then Covid-19 hit. I had to leave the UK on the 16th of March. The borders were closing and the airports were insanely busy. Luckily, we were able to continue our work with APP and adapted our work to provide remote learning over Zoom. All of our current tutees passed with flying colours. With our fundraising money from March, we were able to make bail for four female minor offenders. We also received some sponsorship from the law firm, RPC, at this time.

Despite the barriers posed by working in different time zones and trying to navigate social activism in a new world, APP continued to thrive. In fact, we began to rebrand APP as EFJ – Educating for Justice, a completely independent non-profit. We broadened our offer as a group and began to work with inmates in more communities. We have been working with Justice Defenders and have established a subgroup at Oxford University. As chairperson of EFJ, I have been responsible for liaising with all of our affiliates, as well as assisting with launching our new initiatives, in particular our programme based in Mauritius working with juvenile offenders.

Overall, pro bono has opened so many doors for me. Through my work with EFJ, I have been able to secure a mini-pupillage with the Directors of Public Prosecutions Office under Mr Santokee. Through this role, I have been involved in research work, bundling and court prep and juggling EFJ, a pupillage and university feels like great preparation for a career as a barrister. I could not recommend pro bono work enough to any Law student looking to develop skills for a career in the legal industry.

For more about EFJ, go to https://educatingforjustice.org.uk/.

My journey with UWE Equity Mentoring

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Mamadou Sow, Politics and International Relations student shares his experience of getting a BAME mentor and how it led to a dream internship

Through UWE Equity, I had the opportunity to be mentored by the Policy Advisor for the Mayor of Bristol, who provided me with a great deal of insight into how the mayoral office in Bristol functions and helped me to secure a placement with the International team.  

The International team promote Bristol throughout the world and liaise particularly with twinned cities, such as Hannover and Bordeaux.  This resulted in great opportunities to be involved in meetings within and outside the Mayor’s office where real issues were being discussed and decisions made.  I also had the opportunity to shadow the Mayor several times – particularly during his meetings with the UNHCR Ambassador and during visits to deprived areas.  The team allowed me to contribute as well -  I conducted research into events in Bristol and twinned cities to help with the promotional effort. 

The placement allowed me to develop, both as a professional and an individual. I now have a strong understanding of international relations and have developed an aptitude for research. I have found that I learn well in a business environment and am quick to understand new subjects.  I also discovered areas of weakness, such as my knowledge of how local government is involved internationally.  Another aspect I was unfamiliar with was the difference between academic and corporate styles of written communication.  I worked hard to correct these weaknesses and build on my strengths.

Apart from the opportunity to see real work in action, the primary benefit of a mentoring and placement programme is the acquisition of skills that are applied in that real environment, rather than those learned in just an academic environment.  Now the placement has ended, I can see how I have gained truly practical real career skills that are rarely considered, like the appropriate distribution of resources, how to manage my time effectively, project management and how to adapt my approach by shadowing others. I have also strengthened my language skills, adapting to use both English and French when collecting data from various sites. This technical skill will benefit me greatly in future work within international relations, as will the other transferrable skills I acquired.

When I first met with my mentor, I explained my career goals of entering international diplomacy and ultimately run for the presidency of my home country (Guinea).  I further explained that I had only started speaking English – as a third language – three years ago.  He was impressed by this and my ambitions.  Clearly, he had a strong idea of what would help me on this path because the placement has substantially increased my awareness of this dimension of politics, has granted me extraordinary opportunities to witness and to participate in these efforts whilst continuing to improve my language skills.  I have gained new contacts as well – people who are happy to support my continued development and will be useful in my career ahead. Overall, the placement really highlighted the value of good leadership.  Seeing how the Mayor and the councillors dealt with issues has made me even more certain of my career aims. 

The Kickstarter to my Career in Illustration

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Tomoko Nishida undertook an internship for Ying Adviser (Linkelite) as a Creative Marketing Intern.

The UWE International Talent Scheme has been a great opportunity for me. It was formative in kickstarting my career as a professional illustrator. My tasks were realistic and achievable, and I was able to make a real difference to the company. I learned how to conduct business in the UK, and developed marketable skills.

Pale pink Chinese lanterns in the background with the outlines of two pandas in the foreground, with the title Ying Advisers

I was placed at Ying Adviser, a start-up consultancy. Ying Adviser provides information about China and its culture, to businesses wishing to expand their presence in China. Prior to my assignment, their online presence was under-developed.

My brief as a Creative Marketing Intern was to help develop an online brand to their specification. The brand would demonstrate their business’s understanding of China. 

Following a successful video interview: the supervisor and I arranged to meet in a cafe to discuss the placement. She was one of the company’s two directors, and told me the story of their company. We were interested in each other’s culture, and so I was excited to draw Chinese illustrations for use on their website. My working hours were flexible: I would work 3 days per week, for 4 weeks. 

I characterised the company’s directors as pandas. I worked on the general idea of pandas having fun, and provided a range of sketches. I had a lot of freedom to decide what to make and how to make it. The brief specified that I would work in red and greyscale watercolour, to evoke a traditional Chinese style. 

Tomoko talking to other students at the Celebrating UWE Talent Awards

The use of humour was the core theme of the illustration. For example: pandas being fried in woks, or riding paper planes or hugging one another. I had to develop techniques for Chinese watercolour in a short time.  Adding elements of Chinese calligraphy helped me to give my illustrations an authentic feel. I tried to depict humour and a sense of momentum by using strong brush strokes. Combining these new techniques broadened my perspective of painting and brushwork.  

This work experience gave me an opportunity to develop Photoshop skills, which directly improves employability. I have gained confidence in using Photoshop in a professional way. 

Once a week, I would work with my supervisor at her house. The rest of the time, I worked from home. This developed my self-management – a skill essential for any illustrator. I would write a daily report on what work I’d produced, and what my plans were for the next shift. The directors emailed me regular and useful feedback. 

I recognise that I would benefit from pursuing experience in a creative team, to complete my professional profile. It is important to learn from a teacher or fellow professional. 

The creative techniques and organisational skills that I honed during this internship, are already proving useful for my 3rd year personal project, and I have confidence that they will help me toward my dream of illustrating children’s books professionally.


The International Talent Internship Scheme provides you with a paid short-term work opportunity over the summer. Internships are a great way to experience the professional workplace and develop your skills.  

If you would like to find out more about International Talent Internships, then do get in touch on InternationalTalent@uwe.ac.uk.