Students across the University are volunteering for the NHS, food banks and charities during their spare time to help vulnerable communities during the coronavirus pandemic.
During these challenging times, it is more important than ever to provide support to the most vulnerable and join the fight in slowing the spread of coronavirus. Many organisations are looking for remote support, and many Westminster students are joining volunteering efforts and making a difference for those who need extra support.
Global Public Health Nutrition MSc student Lynette Homer is one of many of the Westminster community to give up her time to help the vulnerable during this crisis. As the crisis began to unfold, the Global Public Health Nutrition class discussed on how more people were experiencing food insecurity for the first time.
As a result of this conversation, Lynette reached out to Lifeafterhummus, a community benefit society in Camden, to see if they were planning a response and whether she could help. At the time, the Director was adapting the organisation to meet the changing needs of the community and launching a Community Action Response Support Centre for local residents.
Talking about the experience, Lynette said: “Volunteering for Lifeafterhummus is ideal for me given my interest in public health nutrition and love for plant-based cooking. The organisation promotes whole food plant-based nutrition for all of its health benefits, and its offer now includes free fruits, vegetables and other whole foods, as well as freshly prepared plant-based meals. They are also helping the community apply for financial assistance and other welfare referrals.
“As a volunteer, my role involves taking grocery orders from self-isolating families needing assistance and delivering them on my bicycle locally. I help organise the stock of donated and purchased foods as well as personal hygiene items. Some days I assist with meal preparation. It’s a terrific team that is dedicated to reducing inequality and helping the vulnerable in the local community.
“My MSc dissertation involves research into food bank nutrition and their responses to COVID-19. Not only is this project allowing me to contribute to this effort, but the first-hand experience is also informing my research project at a critical time.”
Amber Davey is another Public Health Nutrition MSc student offering her free time to help out vulnerable people. Amber has been project managing the Seeds for Life project with Lambeth GP Food Co-op. The project is delivering seed kits and food parcels to around 6,000 vulnerable residents in Lambeth, in the hope that enabling people to grow food at home may provide them with some relief whilst in isolation.
Kits are due to be distributed this week and the project team are also providing a ‘gardening buddy’ telephone service for those who need it, or who just want someone to talk to.
Amber said: “We have had a lot of support for this project, especially from the food and seed industries. It has really taught me about the kindness of strangers and that there are people out there who want to help others. Times such as these really highlight the need to support our communities and everyone should know there’s always people out there that care about them.”
Others such as Lau Prieto have signed up to be a telephone ‘check in and chat’ volunteer for the NHS Volunteer Responders group. NHS check in and chat volunteers provide regular support calls to the elderly and vulnerable people who are lonely or need emotional support as a result of self-isolation.
Westminster’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team who run the Change for Good initiative have also been promoting various volunteering opportunities through the Change for Good blog to support students who are interested in volunteering but aren’t sure where to start.
Westminster Inclusion, Diversity and Equality Officer Berekhet Berakhy said: “To be a volunteer during peace time is to be worthy of our admiration. To be a volunteer during a pandemic is to transform into a superhero. For all our Westminster student and colleague superheroes, whether you are volunteering informally, helping your neighbours, formally through the NHS or through one of our partner charities, we are proud and are thoughts are with you and your loved ones. May your volunteering be accomplished in full health and safety.”