Emma's story

16 March 2023

In the interview, Emma shared that she had a happy upbringing, surrounded by her siblings, parents and grandparents. She grew up near London and moved to rural Norfolk with her family. Growing up, education was always important to the family. Her parents didn’t get the opportunity to go to university, so they conveyed the value of good education to Emma and her siblings. This led Emma to study geography at university.

I was the first in my family to go to university… that’s been really important. 

After graduating from university, Emma gained employment at her local council, where she worked in their recycling department. She had a passion for sustainability and the environment but didn’t know where to direct her passions. Working at the council was not a long-term career for her as there was no direction or long-term career prospects. She describes how she didn’t know where her life would take her or what she wanted to achieve. “I had no career plans or anything, really… I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

Emma participated in the London Environmental Leadership Programme (ELP) in 2018. The ELP appealed to Emma as is offered a space to grow as a person and focused on the topics she was passionate about. “I have always had a real passion for the environment and sustainability more generally. Like I said, I worked at the wind turbine; I studied geography. It’s one of my passions.” The programme gave her the structure to explore her passions and develop her skills. She describes this as important to her for giving her a space to grow, a chance to reflect and the accountability she needed to make that happen. 

Being part of the London cohort was also very important to her. She had recently moved back to the city, and the programme gave her a way to meet like-minded people with a shared goal. “I think that was one of the best things; just the structure of [the programme] was really good. And we went to different parts of London every time…it was also great to get to know the city.”

Emma has maintained relationships with many of the people she did the programme before, especially those who worked on the social action campaign alongside her. She described how she is proud to be an alumnus. “I’ve got one of those tote bags that they gave at the end, which I carry around, and if anyone asks me, I’m very happy to talk about it [laughs]. I’ll actually recommended [the programme].”

I found out a lot about the climate crisis and migration and how they intersect.

Emma worked on a social action campaign during the programme to raise awareness about the relationship between climate change and migration. They created a small art project based on the important topic, allowing them to interact with the public. “I found out a lot about the climate crisis and migration and how they intersect.” This project ignited an interest in migration and climate change, so much so that she realised it was what she wanted to do. After the programme, she completed a master's at Bristol university in migration studies. She shared that this was directly due to her time on the social action campaign. 

Since then, Emma has gone on to work for SOS UK – Students Organising for Sustainability as a project manager. As of January, she has been promoted to a senior manager position. In her role, she engages students and young people in sustainability initiatives and raises awareness about social injustices.

The lessons that I learnt from taking part are really valuable and really relevant still to my life.

Emma still draws on the skills and experiences she gained from the ELP, “I think the lessons that I learnt from taking part are really valuable and really relevant still to my life”. The programme provided her with a foundation that she has been able to develop over time. She describes how UpRising has created a domino effect in her life. The first programme has led her to another, where she continues to learn and develop.