While the focus of many coaching businesses is to work with people and organisations to improve their performance and manage change, the team at Oxford Executive believe in supporting opportunities, wherever they may arise, to enable people to find and develop their talents – not just in the workplace but in life. They invest in developing human and social capital to help create a better world.
In 2009, Paul co-founded the Brookes Gaza Scholarship – a fully-funded annual scholarship for students who live in Gaza to undertake a year’s postgraduate studies at Oxford Brookes University. The scholarship enables a graduate from Gaza to come to Oxford to study, to experience life outside of the Palestinian territory and to gain knowledge and insight that will positively impact the rest of their lives.
Since 2009, nine scholarships have been awarded and Paul, who was a governor at Brookes for many years, is incredibly proud of the project and the students he has met. He says, “I started the Gaza Scholarship with Sir Iain Chalmers, co-founder of the international Cochrane centres for evidence based medicine, with the aim of letting the people of Gaza know that they are not forgotten. We wanted to provide young people living in this most challenging of places with educational and life experience opportunities.”
The application process is organised in Gaza by the British Council, with the final selection being made by a small committee of staff at Oxford Brookes University, who interview the chosen shortlist over the Internet.
For the first year, the Scholarship was funded by Iain and Paul, together with a small number of friends, who shared their concern for young people growing up in such challenging circumstances. For the past three years, most of the financial support has come from a group called The Friends of Gaza, which Paul leads.
Alumni of the scholarship have gone on to achieve some amazing things, including setting up the first youth-led organisation to promote sustainable waste management in the Middle East, working for the Bank of Palestine in Gaza, writing for the books The Arab Spring: 5 Years On and Gaza Writes Back and working as an environment analyst for Zero Waste Scotland.
Paul says, “Maire and I firmly believe that anyone can excel in their chosen field or area of interest if they’re given the opportunity and space to learn and grow. It’s a core value of our coaching and mentoring methodology as well as our own personal approach to everything we do.”
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
This year’s scholar is Haya Abdelhadi, seen here with Maire and Jan Chalmers, who arrived at Oxford Brookes in October to study for an MA in the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP).