Walsall student joins WaterAid in ground-breaking scheme

31 October 2019
Rachel Westcott, Director of People and apprentice Zainab Allam. London. October 2019
Image: WaterAid/ Lis Parham

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Zainab Alam, 19 from Walsall, has become one of the UK’s first students enrolled in a degree dedicated to social change.

Zainab will split her time between studying at London’s Queen Mary University and working as an apprentice at international charity WaterAid. 

It was the problems of local gang violence and drugs that inspired Zainab to seek a career in the charitable sector. Before enrolling she worked in her local British Heart Foundation shop and organised fundraisers in her local mosque for the UK Islamic Mission. 

Zainab will be employed by WaterAid throughout her studies, completing stints in different departments across the organisation. The innovative scheme will mean she graduates with zero student fees debt and up to four year’s work experience.  

Zainab said: 

“I know a lot of families and people in Walsall whose lives are destroyed by gangs, stabbings and drugs. I am determined not to go down that path and want to show my friends that education is the key. University is important to me but so is a just and fairer world. This opportunity means I get to do both. 

“WaterAid is a fantastic organisation working in some of the most challenging environments on earth to ensure everyone has access to clean water and decent toilets. My dream is to one day work in one of WaterAid’s country programmes.”  

More than 500 people applied for the new BSc course, with only 13 students being awarded a coveted place. The degree apprenticeship focuses on the social sector, and involves a range of charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. 

It is designed to encourage future leaders of thought and creativity to explore career opportunities in the social sector, equipping them with skills to tackle global challenges that lie ahead. 

Rachel Westcott, WaterAid’s Director of People, said: 

“Zainab is an incredible young person who already has an impressive background dedicated to social change. We welcome her to WaterAid and know that in the next few years we hope to inspire her as much as she has inspired us." 

For more information, please contact: 

Laura Crowley, PR manager, [email protected] or +44 (0)207 793 4965. 

Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552 or email [email protected] 


WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 26.4 million people with clean water and 26.3 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit www.wateraid.org/uk, follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or find WaterAid UK on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wateraid.

  • 785 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water close to home.[1]
  • 2 billion people in the world – almost one in four – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[2]
  • Around 310,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's almost 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[3]
  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[4]
  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.[5]

[1] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[2] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[3] Prüss-Ustün et al. (2014) and The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2018)

[4] World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage

[5] www.wateraid.org