In March 2008, at the age of 31, Hugo’s life was turned upside down by a life-threatening illness, which in turn led to him losing his job, filing for bankruptcy and losing his fiancée. This turning point in Hugo’s life ignited a passion in him to lead expeditions with a team of volunteers to less developed countries.
He has since become known as 'The Volunteer', raising awareness, support and education for causes around the world. Having overcome his illness, Hugo decided to go and volunteer in the slums of Nairobi caring for orphans with HIV. With a team of volunteers he set himself the task of re-building a medical clinic. The experience had a deep impact on him and on his return he decided to document how volunteering and project building overseas can help small charities and the local communities.
Hugo’s documentaries and volunteering projects have taken him to the slums of Kenya, rural Uganda, and the suburbs of Moscow with the homeless, to name but a few. ‘The Volunteer’ has now become a recognized brand and via his documentaries (which include contributions from personalities such as Sir Richard Branson and James Blunt), Hugo aims to inspire people into the benefits of volunteering while also exposing the good work that UK charities are doing overseas - often under difficult and dangerous circumstances.
Hugo has raised huge amounts of funding and awareness for a variety of UK charities through his projects and expeditions, which have seen him climb Mount Kilimanjaro, cross the Sahara desert, cycle across Cuba and run a marathon in Siberia! Hugo’s projects and expeditions have taught him valuable lessons about teamwork, endurance, leadership and how to operate under great stress and danger. Hugo has now written a book called ‘The Volunteer: A Guide to Volunteering’ which he has begun distributing across the country in a bid to bring the benefits of volunteering into people’s lives. David Cameron has written the introduction to his book and Bear Grylls has done the foreword.
The continuing imbalance in the world has reinforced his passion that everyone now needs to show social responsibility, whether at home or abroad. This is applicable to individuals, corporations and governments. He makes the point that the leaders and companies of the future will only succeed long term and attract the best talent & growth, if they are seen to be fulfilling their ethical and social responsibilities. The best of the next generation will apply to those leading the field in these growth areas with volunteering at its core.
Hugo now lives in London where he teaches languages while also working with inspirational speakers looking to share their experiences around the world.
"Hugo encouraged us to think about how we could include volunteering in our lives to support causes and communities that are important to us. With lots of ideas, advice and tips about how to get started, and by showing how highly volunteering is regarded by universities and employers. Hugo was an inspiring speaker whose videos and images from his many overseas projects left a powerful impression".– Mr Magnus Bashaarat, Headmaster, Milton Abbey
"Hugo visited Bromsgrove to give his inspirational talk on the benefits of volunteering to Fourth Form pupils during Head of Year. In 2008 Hugo faced a life threatening illness which was to change the course of his life. He sold his property business in Central America and began volunteering in Africa for a charity working with orphans in the slums of Nairobi. Hugo’s new book, The Volunteer – A guide to volunteering, is out now and has a foreword by Bear Grylls and an introduction by Hon. Davd Cameron. Within it, there are real world stories, diary extracts from those who have undertaken volunteering work as well as hints and tips."– Ms Zia Leech, Head of Lectures, Bromsgrove
"Hugo Chittenden, sounds very much in name like a character from a Marvel comic; a fighter for a better world, seeking out injustice wherever it might be found. Instead, he is just a man – one couldn’t say ordinary because what he does is definitely not ordinary, but certainly down to earth and our senior boys were able to identify with him. He was an engaging speaker and also, it turned out, an Old Harrovian which endeared him further. He used his experience from his projects and the short films he has made about them to show the boys how volunteering might be a worthwhile consideration for them in a few years’ time – and how they might start planning for it now. Sixty copies of his book have been generously donated to the school."– William Austen, Deputy Headmaster, Ludgrove
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