10 ways to help your community during the covid-19 crisis
The only positive of the covid-19 crisis is that we’re now seeing people come together like never before to help support and care for the most vulnerable members of society. Here are 10 things that you can do to help your community in these challenging times:
1. Stay at home
We’ve all been stuck at home for the last two months and as the days are getting warmer, it’s tempting to throw caution to the wind and head outside to enjoy the sunny weather. However, to beat covid-19 it’s still important to stay at home where possible and only venture out for exercise and essential journeys. When you’re out and about, it’s crucial to observe social distancing protocols – leaving a 2m distance helps to keep us all safe.
2. Wash your hands
The easiest and most effective thing we can all do to help beat the covid-19 virus is to wash our hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds. Handwashing is especially important when you return home, before and after eating and after handling money. To make sure you’re washing for long enough, you could sing “happy birthday” twice, or hum along to your favourite song.
3. Become a virtual volunteer
You don’t have to go outside to make a positive contribution to the world. Virtual volunteering provides you with the option to engage with a range of organisations and projects around the globe from the comfort of your own home. For many activities, all you will need is internet access and some free time. Whether you’re interested in telephone befriending, online tutoring, tech support or admin, there’s a home-based opportunity out there to cater to your interests. Visit our website to find out more.
Food banks across the UK have seen a massive increase in demand since the start of lockdown. Over 90% of the food distributed at Trussell Trust food banks is donated by the general public, so without an increase in donations, food banks will struggle to support those in need. If you can, why not pop a few extra items in your trolley and drop them at the collection point in your local supermarket? You can find more information on donation to your local food bank on the Trussell Trust website.
5. Give Blood
Whilst many routine medical procedures have been postponed, there are still patients presenting to hospitals with non-covid related issues. As such, It is still crucial for the NHS to maintain stock of blood products to treat medical emergencies, post-partum women and cancer patients. You can find out more about how and where to donate on the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service’s website.
6. Support your friends and neighbours
In these challenging times, it is more important ever to reach out to those around us and offer support where we can. Whether you call elderly relatives to find out how they’re getting on, check in on a neighbour who lives alone or arrange a video chat with your bestie for a much needed catch-up, there are lots of ways you can help support your nearest and dearest.
7. Share your skills
With schools closed for the majority of pupils, children and parents are struggling to get to grips with the challenge of homeschooling. By sharing your knowledge and skills, you can help support families and play your part in making sure our children do not fall behind in their education. You can become a tutor through The Coronavirus Initiative which was set up for students, by students with the aim of linking University students with young people who need support with homeschooling. If you don’t want to do anything so formal, why not simply reach out to your wider family to see if any of your younger relatives need support with their homework?
8. Get creative
If you’re crafty, there are lots of ways for you to use your creative talents to support the wider community. For those who are handy with a sewing machine, why not knock up some masks or scrubs to help support our front-line workers? The Mid Ulster Volunteer Centre are currently looking for knitters and crocheters to help make “twiddlemuffs” for those living with dementia.
9. Support local businesses
Whilst the economic impact of the current crisis has yet to be fully realised, it’s clear that small businesses will suffer from the effects of the covid-19 lockdown. If you can, try to support local small businesses in your area by shopping at your local butcher, baker, or grocers for supplies. These businesses also often source produce from local farmers, so shopping local is vital to support local agriculture.
10. Volunteer on the front line
There are lots of ways you can take a hands-on roll in the covid-19 community response. Many of our medical, health and life science students have already answered the call and stepped up to take on roles within the NHS but you don’t have to be a medic to get involved on the frontline. Whether you’re interested in delivering food and medicine to vulnerable members of your community or helping with admin or IT, simply fill in this form and one of our team will be happy to help match you to a suitable volunteering opportunity.
New year, new me, or so they say. Yes, it’s Bebhinn, back with another blog post. I’ve resolved to stress less, to cut down on my beloved biscuits and to maybe even provide my own teabags at last… (okay, only joking about that one!)
In Volunteer SU news, we haven’t wasted any time in 2020!
We kicked off the New Year on 9th January with a Women in Leadership masterclass, which I attended at Allen&Overy along with 20 other female volunteers. Learning about becoming a leader, analysing our role models, working on understanding personal values and hearing everyone’s exciting plans for the future was inspirational, and put me in the perfect mindset for starting Semester 2.
Can you spot my awesome jacket?
Then it was time to get out of the office and come face to face with you lovely lot as we handed out leaflets across campus. You may have spotted me in the Treehouse, the Computer Science Building or the David Kier Building, trying to encourage as many of you as possible to get volunteering with Handy Helpers and Homework Clubs, or to apply for our Inspiring Leaders Programme (which I’ll be taking part in later this month!)
On the subject of our Handy Helpers, they’ve also not stopped, collecting unwanted Christmas gifts and attending sustainability and first aid training workshops in the first few weeks of the semester. Handy Helpers is such a flexible scheme that enables students to get involved with a wide range of activities at times that suit them, and I’d definitely recommend getting involved.
Finally, on 29th January we trained our second cohort of Homework Clubs volunteers – and I even gave a talk about my own Homework Clubs experience to the 58 new recruits! I’m sure they’ll soon get stuck into volunteering at clubs across Belfast.
Learning top tutoring tips
That’s all for now, but I can’t wait to see what the rest of the term will bring!
Being a Volunteer SU intern
You have hopefully read Bebhinn’s Blog post and now it’s time for mine.
I’m Michael, the other intern for Volunteer SU, and my life seems very different from Bebhinn’s. Repping the STEM subjects, I’m a second year Mechanical Engineer, school rep too, and I provide the tea bags which are
stolen so graciously appreciated. I spend a lot of the time in the SU, so you might see me at some point queueing for a meal deal during my lunch break.
We really got thrown into the deep end as new interns, manning the Freshers’ Fair stall and encouraging loads of new signups – which I think we did amazingly, with over 100 new people following us on Instagram now!
The leaders enjoying a presentation from our Inspiring Leaders cohort
I tend to spend most of my time working on the Inspiring Leaders programme. If you signed up it, you’ll have received at least 1 email from me, if not a fair few more. I get to see all the applications that come in, and have a helping hand in deciding who to allocate where. The first inspiring leaders programme ran with huge success! Our outstanding student volunteers had the chance to meet leaders from all walks of life and learn how to apply themselves to be the best leader they can.
We do so much work with so many different groups of people, but perhaps one of my favourite mornings is when the dogs from Cavaliers In Need come in – I can justify taking a 5 minute break to “check on the dogs”, which means I can get a quick cuddle before returning to my desk, a great stress reliever. The dogs of course bring in large crowds and help to raise some funds for the rescuing and rehabilitation of Cavaliers and other pups – if you missed them you can catch them next time they’re at the SU around Valentine’s Day!
This month has been a busy one, with a huge range of events, from the Handy Helpers Christmas Party, to students helping launch the Lennoxvale Tree Nursery, all the way to litter picking in the Holylands, there’s been so much for our volunteers to get stuck into! And there’s even more to come, with our Inspiring Leaders applications open for Semester 2, the Women in Leadership Masterclass, and so much more – there’s always something you’ll really want to get involved with!
I reckon that’s enough from me, if you ever pop up anytime you really can’t miss me, I’ll be working at my desk, cup of fresh made tea by my side.
Hi, Bebhinn here, one of the Volunteer SU interns for 2019/20! I’m also in my second year studying at Queens, course rep for Politics, Philosophy and Economics and an enjoyer of all things biscuits. Enough about me, though – let’s get this blog started with just some of the things I’ve been up to with Volunteer SU so far!
Firstly, I got to meet lots of lovely people whilst recruiting in the Graduate School, the Student Guidance Centre and of course, the Fresher’s Fair! I’d never seen so many reusable plastic sporks before – and on the subject of merch, our giveaways are definitely the best in the SU: we even gave away a Fitbit to a lucky newsletter subscriber!
Promo in the Graduate School – spork anyone?
The Handy Helpers welcome event was the next item on the calendar, and it was brilliant. Ellen’s Social Hackathon had the room buzzing with ideas for how to improve the world – ideas we intend to work on, so watch this space! We now have over 200 students signed up to attend one-off volunteering projects, and more people getting involved all the time.
I spent most of the first month helping to prepare for Homework clubs training, a project which I took part in myself last year and enjoyed immensely. Nearly 100 students applied and attended, and are now helping out at 20 youth groups and after school clubs around Belfast, encouraging young people to follow their footsteps into higher education.
Joining in with some Handy Helpers at a painting and planting event was one of my favourite things so far; even if it did rain on us, we refused to be defeated, and did a great job of brightening up the Holylands for some wonderful residents. It was also the perfect break from our studies. There have been six other events Handy Helpers have assisted at so far, from acorn collection to planting trees in the Belfast hills to marshalling at the Cancer Focus Pink Run – and there’s so much more to come this semester!
Painting or forensic science… I’m not sure anymore
Finally, I’m getting great enjoyment from slowly stealing Michael’s teabags. (He’s the other intern and he’ll never know, as long as he doesn’t look over my shoulder while I type this… Truly, I am a brilliant desk-sharer)
All in all, working for Volunteer SU has been so much fun so far and no two days have ever been the same. Whether I’m organising an event, working on our newsletter, painting planters or cuddling a Cavalier in Need, as long as it’s getting students into volunteering, I know it’s worth it.
See you soon!
Hey guys, Ellen here! I’m back with my latest Volunteer SU Blog & want to update you on my last few months as an Inspiring Leaders Intern! J It’s been a hectic few months, and we’ve had so many exciting events on at Volunteer SU! All the while, we’ve been working away at Inspiring Leaders, Handy Helpers and Homework Clubs every day. Let me tell you a bit more about the action-packed Semester 2 we’ve had here & some of my most notable moments in this role:
The SU Awards
WOW. Having never been to the Students’ Union Awards before, I was absolutely blown away by the achievements of students here at Queen’s. The SU Awards are held annually to recognise the outstanding achievements of students in their respective club or society, those who pour their hearts into volunteering, those fighting for equality & to those who are determined to make their club or society here, the best it can possibly be! It was so heart-warming to be in a room full of students who all work so hard for one common goal – to make other students experiences at Queen’s better!
The night was also packed full of entertainment from Queen’s Dance Society & Queen’s Music Society – well done guys! Also, a particular well done to Belfast Marrow who won Voluntary/Charitable Society of the Year & Paddy Elliot who was awarded Volunteer of the Year – some fantastic achievements & it’s incredibly encouraging for us here at Volunteer SU!
To top it all off – we had a 3 course meal from none other than Domino’s Pizza, complete with a mini tub of Ben & Jerry’s! What could possibly be better? A massive round of applause is in order for Alice Devlin, your SU Clubs & Societies Coordinator, for organising such an incredible event!
Semester 2 – Inspiring Leaders Update
Since my last blog, we have had a Women in Leadership Masterclass hosted by Allen & Overy, trained two more cohorts of student volunteers & we’ve seen all of our Inspiring Leaders complete their Degree Plus Presentation in front of a judging panel! It’s been incredibly busy to say the least & has absolutely flown!
It has also been so much fun getting to work with Roisin & Louise from the William J Clinton Leadership Institute! I’ve learned so much from them both.
Inspiring Leaders Graduation
I have to say, watching 135 of our Inspiring Leaders participants (now graduates) from the past academic year come together in one room for the first time to celebrate their achievements. It has been hands down my favourite moment in this job! An incredible group of students, with a range of passions and voluntary roles & it was an absolute pleasure to see them rewarded for their volunteering efforts! Massive congratulations to Bogdan and Mohammed, our Highly Commended and Inspiring Leaders Graduates of the Year.
We had a drinks reception upon arrival & a chance for our Inspiring Leaders to catch up! Your Student Activities Officer, Robert Murtagh, was kind enough to compere the evening for us, with inspirational speeches full of advice for our volunteers, from the NI Commissioner for Children & Young People, Koulla Yiasouma & partner at PwC, Lynne Rainey! What an exciting evening it was – not to mention the professional photographs which I’m sure are all over LinkedIn by now!
Cavaliers in Need Info Session – A Student-Led Society!
It wouldn’t be a Volunteer SU Blog if I didn’t update you on how your favourite puppies are doing! This semester we hosted a ‘Cavaliers in Need Info Session’ to raise the idea of a CIN student-led society here at Queen’s & the results were overwhelming! We had 100 students sign up to this event & had students fill in the necessary signatures to get a society started within minutes of the meeting ending!
I’m pleased to announce that this was successful & that a Cavaliers in Need Society here at Queens is official! This will raise money for and awareness of the charity’s work, rescuing dogs from harrowing situations such as puppy farms. To get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org or send the society a message on Facebook! It’s been so lovely to see students so passionate & engaged in getting this society going!
(Photo - Accurate representation of me living my best life when the pups come to the SU)
That’s it from me guys! Just a quick note to say that my time as a Volunteer SU Intern is nearly over, it’s been an incredible journey & I have loved every minute of it! Applications open again in summer & I would strongly encourage you to keep an eye out for this amazing opportunity :)
Stepping into 2019 as a Volunteer SU Intern
Hey again! It’s been a while, so I thought I’d give you an update on all of the happenings in your Students’ Union since the turn of the New Year! It’s been a busy few weeks – but totally worth it! We here at Volunteer SU have been working away on our Homework Clubs, Inspiring Leaders and Handy Helpers initiatives, and it’s been great to see such an interest in what we’re doing – trust me, our inbox says it all! There’s also been lots more happening throughout the Students’ Union that I’m lucky to have been a part of. It’s really made my experience working in the SU an enjoyable one, so let me tell you more about it:
The Christmas Staff Party
Our busy 2018 ended with the SU’s Christmas Staff Party. Weeks prior to that, though, Jennie from Advice SU was doing the rounds taking names for Secret Santa. Although I was hesitant at first being a bit of a newbie, I ended up getting our very own SU President Connor Veighy – relieved that I knew him, I was not so relieved that I had the duty of buying a gift for the PRESIDENT. It was all good though! On our last day before the Christmas break, we all congregated in Club Room 5 to exchange gifts, before heading to The Speakeasy to eat, drink and be merry. It was a really good night and allowed me to get to know my colleagues more outside of work – here’s to the next one!
Semester 2 Begins! (Homework Clubs)
And then into 2019… It was all systems go once Semester 2 kicked off with January Development Weeks, but it was nice to get back after a long Christmas break. Homework Clubs recruitment was mega busy and we were delighted with the interest from students. After responding to emails, receiving applications, reviewing applications, booking rooms and facilitators, and preparing for induction training, we are very proud and excited to say that we recruited 163 new volunteers for Homework Clubs this academic year; 163 of you that will provide homework support to children and young people living in areas of educational underachievement - THANK YOU and good luck in your new clubs!
This has probably been one of my highlights since getting involved with the SU. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the launch of OMNI, a movement spearheaded by the Students’ Union. OMNI takes a new approach to addressing issues and concerns relating to student mental health at Queen’s. 78% of students worry about their mental health, and in order to understand this further, OMNI is asking you to complete a short survey. The results from this survey will help the Students’ Union to identify the priorities and create more targeted initiatives that will tackle the mental health head on. It was encouraging to see senior leaders at the launch of OMNI such as Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Greer, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education Professor David Jones, Mike Nesbitt MLA and Steven Agnew MLA – this only highlights the importance of this initiative. Take the survey. Join the movement.
In the run up to Valentine’s Day there was a whole lot of puppy love going around the Students’ Union as we had dog rescue charity, Cavaliers in Need NI in! This might be the ultimate perk of having a job in the SU. Getting to see the cutest puppers roaming around your workplace? Yass. When you’re bogged down with assignments and extracurricular activities, these doggos always brighten your day. If you would be interested with helping getting more dogs to safety by becoming involved in a Cavaliers in Need NI student-led society here at Queen’s, then get in touch with email@example.com so we can give you all the info!
The Low-Down on Being an Inspiring Leaders Intern
Hey! I’m Ellen Fearon, a final year Law & Politics student at Queen’s University, Belfast. Along with my studies and being Vice President of Enactus Belfast, I’ve also gotten the opportunity to work as a student intern in Volunteer SU this year! I started in September, and let me tell you it’s been a hectic and incredible few months! I have the role of being Volunteer SU’s Inspiring Leaders Intern. Inspiring Leaders is a programme for students volunteering in positions of leadership, supporting them to develop their leadership skills and rewarding them for their volunteering efforts.
You don’t often get to hear people saying that they love their job, but trust me, I love my job! As ridiculous as that sounds, I’m going to give you some insight into all the cool things I got to do this month that will explain why I love it:
Application reviews - students are amazing!
After reading over 150 of the applications for Inspiring Leaders, I was so blown away by how incredible some of the volunteering that students do in their communities and in Queen’s is! We have students running clubs and societies, going above and beyond in their roles as course and school reps, & volunteering in their local communities to improve the health and living standards of those around them! All of this while keeping up with uni work & maintaining a social life …… I think a round of applause is in order. In any other situation, I’m sure reading 150 applications might become a bit monotonous, but every person’s experience in volunteering was completely unique, and it was so clear how much this experience meant to people!
This is one of my favourite parts of the job. Getting to read about student’s passion for volunteering and leadership is so worthwhile! What’s even more amazing, is getting to be a part of the process of rewarding them for their efforts!
Dunadry Hotel Residential
One word: phenomenal. Despite helping to set up and welcome the leaders and students at this, I also got the opportunity to be one of the participants on the Inspiring Leaders November Residential. First off, it was really heart-warming to see all the other students enjoy the 2 days away at the Dunadry Hotel so much, after helping to organise it for the past few months. I know a few people who made friends for life through the programme which is a massive reason it’s always so successful!
On my part, I meet some amazing people and had so much fun finding out about my own personal leadership personality and bonding with people who are so similar to me in this way! It was also really cool to get to meet different leaders coming from business backgrounds, politics, community work, academics and student leaders too! I got some fantastic advice that I can use in everyday life & learnt what leadership is really about!
I also had some really nice food & drinks but that seems slightly less important… thankfully there were no hangovers!
I also get the opportunity to be involved in other initiatives within Volunteer SU…
Homework Club Co-ordinators Forum
This is hands down one of my favourite things that I’ve gotten to do in the last month. I was asked to sit in and take notes in a forum with all of the amazing people who co-ordinate the different Homework Clubs that Volunteer SU partner with. Just getting to sit in on this meeting, meant that I too got access to Volunteer Management training delivered by Volunteer Now which was really inspiring and helpful to me! I also got the opportunity to record some really positive feedback on the tutoring that our Homework Clubs volunteers do across Belfast.
Ps. Getting coffee & tray bakes from Café Krem doesn’t hurt at all.
Cavaliers in Need Cuddles!
Ok, so, honestly I wasn’t overly involved in this but I feel like any chance to play with dogs during your work day deserves a mention! I got to take some cute photos of the pups during the Cavaliers in Need Festive Cuddle Day… which got me in the festive spirit and took away all the stress from my uni work! Every day is different in Volunteer SU and small stuff like this really makes me appreciate that this is a really unique opportunity!
5 Reasons Why Being a Volunteer SU Intern is So Good!
Hey! I’m Ryan Lavelle, a second year Philosophy with Politics student here at Queen’s. I’m also a student intern in Volunteer SU where I get to help other Queen’s students find their perfect volunteering opportunity. I work specifically on the Homework Clubs initiative which allows students at Queen’s to help local children and young people build their study skills and confidence. What I like most about my role is promoting the value of service and volunteering throughout my own university whilst also helping fellow students develop themselves personally and professionally.
I’ve only been an intern in Volunteer SU for two months. Two months isn’t that long of a time, but I already feel like I have accomplished so much and have fitted into the team really well. From the office banter, to the unbelievable amount of emails, to the tea breaks, it’s all been good – and as I look at my (busy) calendar for the upcoming academic year, I’m excited for what’s ahead. Here are five reasons why I love being a student intern in Volunteer SU:
1. The new (temporary) Students’ Union building!
As some of you may know, the Students’ Union has temporarily moved from its old location, opposite the Lanyon Building to two locations nearby.
As much as I’d like to say that I spend my time in The (new) Speakeasy, myself and my Volunteer SU colleagues are situated in the office on the 2nd Floor of Students’ Union Elmwood. It’s pretty great, although it was daunting at first walking in as the newbie intern. After a week or two it felt like normal and everyone has been ace. We’ve also been doing Volunteer SU drop-in sessions since the start of the semester every Monday at 2-3pm, so if you’re reading this and you’re curious about what all we do here, pop in and we can have a chat – don’t be afraid of coming on in, if I can do it, you can too.
2. The pizza!
Anyone who has been to a Students’ Union event before might know that Domino’s pizza is the heart and soul of our lunchtimes. In October we had our Homework Clubs Induction Training an initiative I am particularly involved in) and aside from booking rooms, facilitators and so on, I knew ordering the pizzas would be the make or break decision. How much is too much? How little is too little? Do we need vegetarian pizzas? Vegan pizzas? In the end we ordered 42 pizzas. That’s a lot of students and guests to feed, but we did it and it worked a treat. Anyone interested in Homework Clubs can read about it here, or you can come to our drop-in session with any queries – we are recruiting for Homework Clubs volunteers again in the run up to Christmas, so keep an eye out for the application going live!
3. Meeting new people!
When you start a job with the Students’ Union, you better be prepared to meet loads of new people. One second you could be having a conversation with a senior figure within the University and the next you could be listening to questions from an enthusiastic, excited fresher. Since joining as an intern, I can’t begin to count how many people I’ve met – the rest of the Volunteer SU team, Enterprise SU, Marketing, the Student Officers, Homework Club Co-ordinators, representatives from Belfast City Council… the list goes on!
4. The merchandise and freebies!
Upon starting as an intern in Volunteer SU, Lucia – my new boss – gave me and fellow intern Ellen goodie bags full of Volunteer SU merch and freebies that have literally saved my life at times – shout out to the spaghetti measurer! If you saw us at Freshers’ Fair, you may have got a few freebies yourself. If not, I’m sure you’ll see our stall again at various events throughout the year….. with an abundance of pens, lanyards, note pads, highlighters, card holders, and, of course, spaghetti measurers!
5. Helping other students find their perfect volunteering opportunity!
At the heart of my job is helping Queen’s students to find their perfect volunteering opportunity, so that they can give back to the community whilst also developing their own personal skills. Although I am officially the Homework Clubs Intern, I feel valued in a whole team of people who work together in promoting different volunteering opportunities to students. I have volunteered myself previously in my local community as a Millennium Volunteer (and still try when I can), so I’m quite passionate about having and promoting a strong volunteering ethos. Being a student intern in Volunteer SU allows me to do just that, and it’s great! Volunteering can lead you to great places, allowing you to meet a whole bunch of people that may one day become your best pals - so why not try it this year?