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The Ugly Fruit Group goes to Enactus Regionals!

It’s Thursday morning, I’ve left my dissertation behind me and I’m on the train with five other members of Enactus Durham, heading towards Leeds. We’re on our way to the Enactus headquarters to represent Durham University and compete with other projects for a space at Nationals….  The atmosphere is buzzing!

Enactus is a global organisation of students, academics and business leaders that seeks to empower communities and individuals through entrepreneurial action. They work with 61 universities in the UK and have over 2,000 students involved in various social impact projects. Each year, students gather to present their progress over the past year at competitions. We first begin at Regionals, then hopefully qualify for Nationals and if successful will go on to represent the UK at the Enactus World Cup! This year, Enactus Durham was presenting two projects: Shakti, which works with burn victims and girls in India; and The Ugly Fruit Group, of which I am a member. The Ugly Fruit Group aims to reduce fruit and vegetable waste in County Durham and empower those facing food insecurity. You can read more about this in our recent blog, A story of Ugly Fruit and Vegetables.

Enactus Durham at Leeds station.

Once we arrived at Leeds train station, we hopped into a taxi and headed towards the headquarters. We were greeted at the reception by smiling faces and directed into a waiting room. Having been told that we could use their coffee machine, we take full advantage of this while we wait for our presentation slot. While we’re there, we get the chance to meet Enactus York who tell us about their projects and wish us good luck!

Then, the moment comes and we are asked to go into the room where nine judges are waiting to hear about our project. They are given three seemingly never-ending minutes to read our presentation booklet. As our nerves begin to grow, our teammates who are not presenting and are sitting at the back of the room, give us support with encouraging smiles and big thumbs-ups.

The organisers announce: “Enactus Durham you may now start your presentation!” and we are off. We tell them about our different backgrounds and how Enactus Durham brought us together, our passion for social change, our projects and the impact we have had so far. We also speak about the future and how we intend to continue to grow and expand our projects and increase our impact. 12 minutes later we are done and the judges have the opportunity to ask us questions concerning the practicalities of our projects and the partners we work with, in a long Q&A session. We try our best to explain our projects and respond to any unclarities or doubts that the judges express. The judges show genuine interest in our projects and are supportive of our work, giving us plenty of smiles as well as good feedback. This was very reassuring and encouraging as we have all put in a lot of work this academic year to make our projects a reality!

The comments and observations from the judges have given us a lot to think about and prepare, if we are to make it through to the next stage of the competition: The Nationals! As we pack-up our things, and get ready to leave the headquarters in Leeds, a representative of Enactus congratulates us for our presentation and gives us information about the next steps and what to expect. We then pile into a taxi to catch the train back to Durham, after a full day of nerves and excitement.

Some of the products made from our Ugly Fruit!

Putting myself forward as one of the speakers for this event and answering questions about my project, The Ugly Fruit Group, was thrilling. It proved that pushing myself out of my comfort zone does not lead to catastrophic consequences but good outcomes. The feedback by the judges was invaluable and I can only hope that The Ugly Fruit Group continues to move forward and make strides in tackling food and vegetable waste as well as helping those in need. To date, we have managed to save up to 250kg of food from going to waste and provided over 50 food bank users and their families with their 5-a-day… we are aiming to do much more.

We want you to join us!

Are you interested in joining? The Ugly Fruit Group is currently recruiting for new members. We are looking for individuals with a diverse range of skills and time availabilities to help us bake fruity cakes, run our stalls, manage our social media and play a leading role in the team. Deadline is March 13th. Fill out this form if you want to join!

Julie Jongen

Hi, I’m a third-year Psychology student here at Durham from Mary’s. I joined The Ugly Fruit Group at the start of this academic year and have loved every bit of it! I am also involved with college rowing and I am the co women's captain for Mary’s boat club, which has taught me many invaluable skills!
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