August's edition of Our Alumni features Vicky Lam.
Following a varied period of study and work, Vicky became a founding member of the charity, Dignify. She spoke to us about her charity work, gave her younger self some fantastic advice, and reminisced about food discoveries as a youngster in the UK.
When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you ‘grew-up’?
I was at BC for sixth form, and it was my first time living away from home (in Hong Kong). I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to be but biology was my favourite subject and I loved nature and the environment, so I went on to study applied ecology at Imperial College, thinking that I would go into some sort of environmental protection work. I then did a master’s in applied entomology, also at Imperial, which has turned out to be completely useless to me professionally, but it is handy as an interesting conversational titbit as I look the most unlikely person to have anything to do with insects.
Tell us about yourself now you've grown up.
I like to think I’ve gotten slightly better at big life decisions and planning than I had been when choosing what to do for my master’s degree, which is a good thing as I am now a mum and responsible for two little humans.
What about your life now would most surprise your Brighton College teachers?
That I spend my spare time ‘talking about porn’.
What are your favourite memories of your time at school?
Don’t judge… but the ‘unlimited’ number of sausages one could eat at breakfast is something I remember even now with a deep satisfaction! Also, the discovery of Marmite (not a ‘thing’ in Hong Kong back then), the freedom to fulfil my daily calorific requirements purely from chocolate bars (not recommended), singing in the choir in Chapel, making (a few) new friends, being a short walk from the beach, the snake in my biology teacher’s classroom that escaped one night and caused a minor flood when it wound itself round the tap.
What advice would you give to your school age self?
Lots! But here are my top 10 pieces of advice:
- words have power to affect others positively or negatively, so choose your words thoughtfully and be kind;
- push yourself out of your comfort zone and try new things;
- talk to and get to know more people;
- ask for help—don’t try to do everything alone;
- make lots of mistakes—that’s how you learn;
- don’t take yourself too seriously;
- get over being offended quickly—most people don’t mean it;
- don’t allow the labels other people put on you to define you;
- don’t look to other people’s approval or validation for your sense of worth;
- the happiness of others is their responsibility, not yours.
What do you do as a career?
I was an academic Publisher for almost 15 years. For most of that time, I was with Elsevier overseeing their medical journals publishing programme in Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. I left that career when I relocated with my family to the UK in 2018.
What does your work involve?
Uprooting and moving to a different country presented me with an opportunity to consider afresh what I wanted to do. I am a founding member of the charity Dignify and our mission in a nutshell is to ‘talk about porn’ and shape a new narrative so that children and young people can thrive within healthy relationships, free from the objectification that porn can normalise.
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
Protecting my heart and my mind. The distressing experiences we read or hear about in the course of our research and work with schools, or conversations with youth workers and other NGOs in this space are heartbreaking. I have learnt not to dwell too much on the great evils that some people can perpetrate against others as that can get very dark and overwhelming. Instead, I resolve to do what I can to change the narrative for the young people who are growing up with a distorted view of intimacy as a result of exposure to porn.
What are you most proud of?
That, since moving to the UK, I have become quite a dab hand at DIY, only 15% of my house plants have died (down from 100%), and I’ve even managed to grow my own herbs and vegetables in the garden.
Work-wise, building the Dignify School Survey in 2020. It has become one of Dignify’s key service offerings that gives schools a useful picture and a deeper understanding of the harmful behaviours happening in youth communities.
Also, creating the Dignify Whole School Lesson Pack, which enables schools to deliver a holistic response to the relational crisis of normalised harassment and a lesson plan on misogyny.
What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
A machete (which is a great bit of survival kit in case you were wondering!), a selection of vegetable seeds (so I can grow some to eat) and my Bible (food for my soul and spirit).
How would you like to be remembered?
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7, The Bible.
I hope that it will be said of me that I finished well.