Caring students and staff at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have clocked up more than 2,000 hours volunteering to help city projects during the pandemic.
From making and distributing PPE kit to schools, hospitals and care homes to ensuring elderly and isolated people have had someone to talk to during lockdown, the university’s army of helpers have been hard at work giving their time to support others.
Volunteering efforts have been run through the university’s public engagement team DMU Local, who worked with organisations across Leicester to ensure help went to those who needed it most.
Laura Rowe, public engagement co-ordinator, said: “We have been blown away by the response from our students and staff, and we have also had some of our alumni volunteering as well.
“Whether it’s been a one-off, a few weeks or a continued commitment, every one of our volunteers knows that they have been able to make a difference and that is something to be proud of.”
More than 200 DMU staff and students joined a special pandemic volunteering register set up at the university in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent national lockdown.
Jobs have included delivering food parcels to residents, packing and preparing food and care packs, cooking meals, and joining a team of street co-ordinators in Beaumont Leys who visit elderly, isolated residents and check on families in the area.
Among the projects to be helped are a food bank at Woodgate, Wesley Hall, Highfields, Christ the King Church in Beaumont Leys, and the E2 Learning Centre in Beaumont Leys, which runs a food bank, distribution centre and a befriending service, as well as being part of the citywide volunteer programme co-ordinated by Voluntary Action Leicestershire.
The team has also been supporting with Leicester City Council’s coronavirus testing programme, visiting homes across the city to offer home testing kits.
Oriana Lander, who is from Venezuela in South America, has been supporting projects in the Woodgate and Belgrave areas of the city. She said that as an international student, volunteering has helped her learn more about Leicester.
Oriana, whose Master’s course begins in October, said: “I didn’t have the chance to meet a lot of people because of Covid, so it was refreshing to see people and faces. In a way they were helping me – I needed to see new faces and met people. It has been great, I feel like it’s helped me to learn about the new culture here, it is so diverse. I have met people from Italy, India and Africa, all over, and everyone is very friendly.”
Andy Gale, DMU’s international student support officer, was part of the street co-ordinators team for six weeks, while the university was closed. He said: “I was happy to help, even if it was just in a small way, and make a small contribution to supporting the community.”
Shazia Yakub is one of the placement students who has been working with DMU Local for the past year. She helped fulfil orders for the distribution centre, delivering PPE kit across the city and county.
“I’ve been lucky to be able to volunteer,” she says. “I know a lot of people who would want to can’t because they are shielding or are looking after family. When I’m in my final year, I want to be able to volunteer even more.”
Fi Donovan, Head of Public Engagement, said: “DMU has been part of Leicester for 150 years and we’re committed to supporting the city during this unprecedented time. The hard work and dedication of our volunteers is testament to our place as a resource for the community.”