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Student Volunteering During COVID-19

05/06/2020

Ireland has seen a huge wave of support from people across the country wanting to help those in need of support during COVID-19. A huge part of this group is our student volunteers, who even at a time when they are meant to focus on exams and assessment are giving their tie to various national and local initiatives.

Students are being encouraged to seek volunteering opportunities through the portal StudentVolunteer.ie. For example:

  • 'UCC Responds' is an initiative to encourage staff and student community support initiatives and present them coherently to the public.
  • Medical students at UCD have set up the COVID-19 Medicine Deliveries Group, which delivers medicines to vulnerable people who are self-isolating. Over 800 students have volunteered and the group has linked with 355 pharmacies across the country.
  • UCD’s Research Motor Neurone group led by Prof. Orla Hardiman has innovated its services in collaboration with IMNDA to ensure people with MND receive 24/7 cover and home visits.
  • UL medical student, Cathal Freeman, has raised €54,000 for frontline healthcare workers fighting COVID-19 by completing a marathon-length run around a circuit close to his home on UL campus (while soloing a sliotar throughout.)
  • Tech2Students is part of an innovative collaboration between Trinity Access and Camara Education Ireland, supported by ESB. The initiative is to gather donations of disused laptops for redistribution to vulnerable secondary school students who need them.
  • Eileen Culloty from the DCU School of Communication is working with Age Action to create resources for older people around COVID-19 disinformation and scams.
  • Academics from DCU’s School of Health and Human Performance and the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics have teamed up for a four-part series of Facebook live events providing practical advice on how adults and children can stay active at home.

Here are some further testimonials from our student volunteers and from volunteer organisations...

DCU

#ClearTheHead for Pieta House

 

Terence Rooney, Co-founder of #ClearTheHead
Aisling Fagan, VP for Welfare & Equality, DCU Students' Union

#ClearTheHead is a campaign set up by a group of DCU students to raise funds for Pieta due to the postponement of Darkness into Light. I​n light of recent events and the global Covid-19 outbreak, Darkness Into Light which was scheduled for May 9th has been postponed until the autumn. However, the services that Pieta provides to people in suicidal distress cannot be postponed. We wanted to help keep these services available to those who need them most, especially during these uncertain times, as 80% of Pieta’s funds come from the general public. ​There has also been a huge surge in demand for their services due to these trying times.

We asked DCU staff, students and the wider community to #ClearTheHead for Pieta by donating the price of a haircut, shaving their head/giving their hair a chop and nominating a friend to do the same. A number of DCU students shaved their heads on Instagram Live to get the ball rolling, and the trend has since spread across the country. We have raised over €14,000 thus far and these funds raised could mean that one more call can be answered to someone in suicidal distress, one more person can get the help they need, when they need it, and one more family can be spared from the devastating heartbreak of suicide.

These trying times have seen the demand for services and organisations such as Pieta increase and be put under immense pressure. It is important that we all do what we can to support these essential services during this time. Supporting such causes can provide an outlet for volunteers in quarantine while also helping organisations who need it most. The generosity being shown has been incredible with many fundraisers and initiatives popping up all over the country, seeing volunteer numbers surging during a time we never thought they would. People are finding new ways to help every day in innovative and creative ways and are showing how much can be done through online mediums.

Upside Video Series

 

Amy Russell, HeadstARTS Chairperson 19/20, Upside Co-founder
Thomas Bird, Enactus DCU Chairperson 19/20, Upside Co-founder

 We were approached by an educator who was concerned about the vulnerable people he teaches. He asked if there was anything we could do to help them during this pandemic. Between our two committees, we created Upside. Upside is an initiative which creates 2 minute long videos lessons for those who are out of education at the moment. These videos range from art and baking to mindfulness and organisation. These videos are posted daily on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @upsidesocials. We put out a call for volunteers to make videos of their own and have been overwhelmed with the response we have received. We plan to continue encouraging individuals to make videos on something they are passionate about to help others who are in need. You can find our videos using #upside or on our socials @upsidesocials.

COVID-19 has made our usual volunteering opportunities impossible. Using initiatives like Upside has helped us to continue to help vulnerable populations. It’s hard to keep going through times like these so little initiatives can encourage us to work together until this is over.

LIT

Meabh Moriarty, volunteer and member of the GIVE project.

The GIVE project stands for “Guided Initiative in Voluntary Engagement”, it aims to encourage students to take part in voluntary activities and to give back in some way. It is focused on learning and development and is so beneficial to both the community and to the student volunteers.

Since joining the GIVE project in September 2018, I have been involved in the 121 Digital Skills for 2 consecutive years, have spoken to potential LIT students about LIT and what it has to offer, been involved in an “Engage in Education” scheme which consisted of speaking to youths about the advantages of 3rd level education and mentored students from a local secondary school in the ‘Go4it’ Program.

Being a part of the GIVE project has not only given me a real purpose and sense of pride but has allowed me to learn new skills, meet new people, make new friends (young and old!) and of course connect with the community.

Covid 19 has forced a lot of different events and fundraisers to be cancelled, not just for the GIVE programme but also for different charities such as the Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day and Pieta House Darkness into Light. This is extremely unfortunate as these events provide a huge amount of vital funds. Luckily, for the GIVE programme a lot of our events such as the 121 Digital skills and the “Go4IT” are carried out in semester 1. What I have noticed over the last few weeks especially on social media is that many people are getting involved in different campaigns such as the Run 5, Nominate 5, and Donate 5. Many people are trying to give back in some way whether that is offering to do the shopping for a person with young children and nobody to mind them or donating an amount to a charity that means something to them.

NUI Galway

Criodán Ó Murchú, Content Contributor and Proof-reader with SpunOut.ie &  Coordinator with Student Connect Mentoring NUI Galway

SpunOut.ie is Ireland’s youth information website. We aim to provide a platform for people aged 16-25 to gain access to reliable information in any area they may require, be it employment, mental health, sexual health or more. I started off with SpunOut.ie as a content contributor, writing pieces from my experience as a leaving cert student to questioning the ethics of gene editing. In 2018 I cycled solo from Malin Head to Mizen Head to raise funds for the charity. Since then I have become involved in the regional and national action panels, a group of 150 young people around Ireland who decide the areas we need to address and steer the direction of the website. I am also a part of the Board Subcommittee concerned with Fundraising, which has been very insightful into the running of an NGO. In the past week, we hosted content calls with our Action Panel to see what information we needed to provide and to date we have published well over 60 articles in relation to COVID-19 and I have reviewed a number of them to ensure the science is correct, the images we use are suitable and the language is accessible to everyone.

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of reliable information being accessible to people and how important science communication is to educate the public. I have began to review much more content and share more content online to aid science communicators around the country.

UCC

Elizabeth Mohan, Chairperson of UCC Cancer Society

“UCC Cancer Society’s main target entity are the Irish Cancer Society. The society also raise money and awareness for smaller local cancer charities. This year’s committee have raised over €48,000 for cancer services and research. Little did we know that when we started this endeavour in September 2019 that the money raised would be more vital than ever as fundraising for charities have been cut short due to restrictions in place as a result of COVID-19. As many already know, Daffodil Day was cancelled this year which is a huge opportunity to raise much needed funding. However, with inspiring innovation and determination a digital daffodil replaced the traditional daffodil badge. Although COVID-19 has caused unexpected interruptions to the volunteering sector, it has forced us to re-evaluate strategies and create new initiatives which can be utilised in the future.”

UCD

UCD/HSE COVID-19 Contact Tracing Coordination Centre.

Eimear Madden,

My name is Eimear, I’m a student volunteer at the UCD/HSE COVID-19 Contact Tracing Coordination Centre.

The role of the tracing centre is to support the HSE by contacting those who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Other information, including symptoms and the contact details of any person with whom they may have had close contact, are also collected. A large amount of data is gathered and filed on an online tracking system. There are over two hundred volunteers, a large portion of whom are UCD undergraduate and postgraduate students from medicine, law, science, dietetics and sports science. All volunteers undergo training in how to operate the tracking system and how to manage the sensitive data that is gathered. The centre operates seven days a week with social distancing being maintained at all times.

Volunteering at the tracing centre has provided students with the opportunity to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. We all know of someone whether it be a relative, a neighbour or a friend who is particularly susceptible to the virus. It is the most vulnerable in our society who we are motivated to protect. For me personally, volunteering at the tracing centre is my way of thanking my grandmother who is currently cocooning. She looked after me when I was young, and now I want to play my part in looking after her.

Medicine Deliveries Group

Larissa Manojlovich, Emily Needles & Fionnbarr McDermott Long, UCD students and Medicine Deliveries Group volunteers

In light of the current pandemic, we believe it is of vital importance that those who are elderly or vulnerable stay as safe as possible. Many of these people require medications, and may have difficulty getting them safely during this time. We thought if we could deliver these medicines to those in need, it would minimise the risk to both the vulnerable and pharmacies.

When we initially set-up the group, we were looking for healthcare students in Dublin to volunteer. This quickly expanded to volunteers registering all across the country! We currently have over 900 volunteers across all counties of Ireland. Volunteers are given a standard operating procedure as to how to deliver medications appropriately and correctly. They can make deliveries by foot, bike or car and how often they deliver is entirely up to themselves and the need in their local pharmacies.

370 pharmacies have registered for the service, and are using our volunteers to carry out medicine deliveries to vulnerable and elderly people who are self-isolating.

Many of our volunteers are healthcare students who are eager to be involved in the fight against Covid-19, but aren’t quite finished their training and able to help out on the front lines. This has provided an important opportunity to help members of the community stay safe, and ease the burden on pharmacists across the country.

PPE with 3D printing for COVID-19

Dr Heather O’Connor and Dr Andrew Dickson, postdoctoral fellows, UCD

We both work in in UCD Engineering in the SFI funded I-Form Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. When the Covid 19 pandemic started, we began thinking of ways we could help using our 3D printing resources. We started with a few printers testing designs, before we finally turned the entire lab over to shield production. We also received offers of 3D printers from the UCD Innovation academy and several clubs and businesses, increasing our capacity to 150 shields per day. We are also working with several hospitals to solve their immediate problems such as replacing machine parts. Some of the items we are printing include PPE such as face shields and goggles, components for oxygen masks and prototype parts for an open source CPAP oxygen hood. We have up to 15 printers running at any one time, and have recruited colleagues Axieh Bagsol (IForm PhD student) and Frank Vaughan (I-Form researcher) to help in running production 7 days a week. We have printed and distributed over 2000 face shields to date. We’re glad we could be of some help during these unique times and hope to keep assisting healthcare professionals as long as they require our help.

The Covid-19 epidemic has been a very troubling time for everyone. However, we believe it has brought our little island together as everyone does their part in helping to flatten the curve. It has also strengthened our international relations with universities, as requests for technical assistance and design advice are shared back and forth without the barriers of business as usual.

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