Coaching volunteers who can support refugees

When the number of refugees arriving on the Greek island of Lesvos hit an all-time high in 2015, strategy director and social entrepreneur Sunil Singh (MBA 2001), his wife, and a friend who is a coach wondered if there was a way that they could help. They decided that they would try to put their large coaching network to good use to help others and quickly mobilised more than 50 volunteers to offer free six-month coaching programmes to 100 leaders in an international non-governmental organisation (NGO).

What is it about your effort that makes a positive change?
“We knew people who had travelled to Greece to make a difference. We asked ourselves if we might do the same when it occurred to us there might be a way we could have more impact. What if we were to offer coaching to leaders in organisations who are making a difference at refugee camps, or even people working at the organisation’s headquarters? So we identified an organisation that could use our support for its work in crises.”

Why do you do it?
“I had trained as a coach because I had been offered a coach at my company, and this relationship gave me some significant breakthroughs as a result of the questions that I was asked. It’s been one of the things that’s had a lot of impact in my life.”

“We realised that the refugee crisis was something that wouldn’t be over in a week or a month, and we could help build resilience in the people who are working with this situation by coaching them.

“It was an amazing experience for all the coaches, including me, and for our client-leaders. We coaches initially had a sense of being helpless, and this was a practical way for us to contribute through something that we enjoy and are skilled at doing. Hearing how our client-leaders are working better is also really rewarding.”

How can others get involved in doing something with you – or something like what you’re doing?
“If you want to make a difference in the world, try not to spend all your time on your day job. Bring some of your energy to volunteer projects. For me it was coaching; being plugged into the community of coaches was the one thing that really made this project possible.”

“You can also try to initiate these activities yourself with like-minded friends; find people you trust so that when the idea arises, you have people you can share the idea with and bring them on board.”

Sunil’s project to provide pro bono coaching for the NGO ended in 2018, however the team he co-founded is now working on a new pro bono coaching project, borne out of the disruption of the pandemic.