Kevin Chang passed suddenly and tragically in 2018. As a Fellow on Year Here, he was his own man: a computer engineer with a passion for art and design; a Marxist; a wearer of exceptional shirts. These days, ‘be yourself’ is such an overused adage that it’s been rendered meaningless, but Kevin could not have been more himself if he tried.
To honour his memory, in consultation with his cohort, we created the Kevin Chang Award to celebrate to a Fellow who demonstrates a quality that came naturally to Kevin: authentic leadership.
Alumni, Leyla McLennan, presenting the first award in December 2018 at GradFest, our biannual graduation ceremony, shared her reflections of her time with Kevin:
“Like all the most interesting people, Kevin can only be summed up in contradictions: proud yet humble; a rebel that went with the flow; argumentative whilst always truly considering the alternative.
Another member of our cohort, Ally B, described him beautifully: ‘Rules and conventions didn’t seem to bother him. It wasn’t that he disrespected them, he just lived his life free from the tyranny of other people’s expectations.’
Kevin spent five months at the Bromley by Bow Centre working on a community time bank project and digital inclusion classes. Despite – or perhaps owing to – his huge frustrations with the impersonal, target-driven system, Kevin worked hard to make connections with everyone he came across.
During the consulting phase, Kevin worked for a housing association setting up a grant-giving charity. He persuaded his client that the distribution of the funds should be participatory – putting the power in the hands of the residents. As a proud Marxist this was no surprise to us, he stuck fiercely to his values but always with a cool ease.”
Our 2018 Winner: Rachel Lewis
The first winner of the Kevin Chang Award was Rachel Lewis, described by her cohort as ‘a calm and steady presence’.
Over 10 months she demonstrated an understated yet tenacious leadership, continually standing up for what she believes in, quiet courage and the confidence to stick to her path and challenge what goes on around her.
Rachel, a filmmaker prior joining Year Here, has co-founded Plastic Shed. The fledgling venture is a recycling workshop bringing communities together to make beautiful and useful things out of otherwise wasted plastic.
On the night, Rachel received a certificate designed by Kevin’s close friend Ayshah Aziz, and a financial contribution to support her venture.