Despite restrictions and challenges brought about by Covid19, University of Bedfordshire students have been selflessly donating their time and effort to help local communities and causes.
The demand and need for volunteers has rocketed since the pandemic began and the annual Volunteers’ Week highlights how volunteering is a great way of improving skills, life experience and overall wellbeing, which is particularly important during these uncertain times.
The University’s Volunteering team is encouraging students with spare time to take up virtual and home-based volunteer work, as a simple way of helping those in need whilst gaining worthwhile work experience.
A spokesperson for Careers & Employability said: “The University of Bedfordshire is committed to contributing to the development of civic and public life through involving students, staff and external audiences in volunteering programmes. We offer a range of ways for students to get involved in volunteering, from one-off events to regular and long-term commitments.”
Ways student volunteers have already got involved include remote mentoring and tutoring, translation work, food delivery management and PPE creation. Here are some student volunteers and their stories which the University would like to celebrate as part of Volunteers’ Week 2020:
Rachael has been providing support in the community by making food and medication deliveries, calling individuals to see how they are coping and if they need anything, and calling residential care home's and care agencies to see how the University can support them.?
She has also helped with organising residential care and coordinating cancer treatment for a patient, all while supporting other professionals and students in the team who are struggling with the isolation and their own fears of the Covid19 outbreak.
Rachael said: “It has been a very busy time in the team as you can imagine! The added isolation measures due to Covid19 has meant our community’s older people are even more vulnerable at this time.? With day centres, lunch clubs and all community social activities suspended, the loneliness impacts massively on their wellbeing.?
"We have been required to work more creatively than ever as we negotiate remote support, and prioritise our case load. Statutory and voluntary agencies are working with depleted staff numbers, yet I find genuine human compassion and extra efforts have prevailed.
"It has been challenging to provide extra support and safeguard people, however the multi-professional team I am on placement with are amazing. Their expertise, wealth of knowledge and experience are invaluable. The people we support are thankfully doing ok and I am learning so much.”
Britzer Paul has been doing some amazing work to support social care, NHS and charitable groups across Luton and Bedfordshire, inspired by his friends back home in India and their voluntary work in his home country.
Britzer is a second year international PhD student examining organ donation in India and has no family in the UK, with only his student peers as his social network, and so volunteering in the local community has helped to maintain his mental health and wellbeing.
After obtaining sewing equipment he has been working with the Relief Society to create PPE face masks which have been distributed to care homes, pharmacies and other healthcare organisations across Bedfordshire.
He has also been helping SEVA Trust UK to coordinate and deliver food packages in Bedford to people in need.
Britzer said: “I really wanted to be of some help. When Covid19 first hit the UK, I had flashbacks to some of the many natural disasters I witnessed back in India. As such I felt that I should do something for the local community where I have been made so welcome.”
Laylah has been heavily involved with the SU’s Enactus Society and has created a project to help people rebuild their lives in partnership with Community Led Initiatives. She has worked closely with two advisers in the University’s Careers & Employability team who have reflected on her encouraging voluntary work:
“Laylah’s project focuses on the development of key life skills in individuals who have or are facing issues due to substance misuse. She developed this programme through meeting with CLI and the University’s Careers service numerous times to attempt to understand what the organisation’s needs were and what she could plan, devise and deliver.
“As it stands, Laylah has curated a programme which incorporates a mix of key skills, such as communication, team work and confidence. So far, she has successfully delivered two sessions which included a variety of activities and tasks which encouraged engagement from the participants.”
Layla was also recently awarded with the Lord Lieutenant’s Community Engagement Award at Bedfordshire’s Vice Chancellor’s Student Experience Awards for her dedication to and development in the Enactus project.
Pallabi is an international student from India who has nearly completed an 8 month placement with the Careers service as part of her course requirement. She has prospects to work in marketing and branding in the future and so provide the team with relevant support such as managing social media platforms, taking video and photo content at events and creating YouTube videos to help promote the University’s International Office.
She has also worked multiple part-time jobs throughout her studies and has integrated well into university life. She is always willing to get involved and help other people, volunteering her time as a Freshers ‘angel’ and joining the SU’s Enactus Society.
A group of students are running a social action campaign in Luton through the UpRising Leadership Programme.
After only launching Care4Luton in March, it’s still early days for their community project but so far the volunteers have successfully organised the continual making and delivery of PPE face masks.
They have also arranged the collection of second hand toys to be cleaned and donated to vulnerable children who are isolated at home during the Covid19 pandemic.
A group of Bedfordshire students have been training to become volunteer call takers for the Family Lives helpline. Their training started at the University just before lockdown and has since moved online.
Emergency funding to help support local artists has been successfully secured from Arts Council England (ACE) thanks to a collaborative effort by the University of Bedfordshire, Luton Borough Council and a number of creative charities.
Ahead of the International Day of Yoga on 21st June, University of Bedfordshire’s Get Active team are celebrating a 94% uptake of their online yoga offering since lockdown began.
An academic from the University of Bedfordshire, Professor Uvanney Maylor, has taken part in an online discussion about racism and equality in the East of England.
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