Students and staff at De Montfort University sign up to support fight against coronavirus

Students and staff from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) are joining the citywide response to support those most in need as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grip the country.

A new register has been created for students and staff who would like to volunteer their time to helping the citywide effort. Work could include doorstep deliveries, making phone calls to people who are self-isolating or utilising expertise such as giving business advice for SMEs.

DMU Local, the university’s public engagement team, will run the register and co-ordinate offers of help alongside Voluntary Action Leicestershire (VAL), which is leading the response for Leicester City Council and Leicestershire County Council.

DMU will continue to pay their wages of staff who sign up after bosses agreed to suspend its volunteering rules to support the city’s efforts.

Professor Heather McLaughlin, Pro Vice-Chancellor, said: “Over the past couple of weeks, we have been overwhelmed by requests from students and staff who want to do their bit to help the fight against coronavirus. We want to ensure everyone who wants to help the relief effort has the opportunity to do so.

“We know the strength of the extraordinary community spirit and kindness that exists in the De Montfort University family and look forward to working with Voluntary Action Leicestershire to ensure we can provide help where it matters the most.”

Already, more than 1,500 student nurses and midwives are on placement with hospitals and care organisations across the East Midlands, medical students are volunteering and NHS-registered members of staff have re-joined the health service.

DMU has also donated its stock of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS, offered the use of its 3D printers and given over its car park for medical staff to use.

The university has closed its campus to all but essential services and moved all its learning and teaching online from Monday 23 March. A hardship fund has been created for students who have lost income due to illness, self-isolation or loss of work because businesses have closed.

Some students have already been volunteering. Law student Aneesah Latkan has delivered postcards offering help if they are self-isolating. The help options on the print-out postcard include ‘pick up shopping,’ ‘a friendly phone call,’ ‘posting mail,’ and ‘urgent supplies’.

“One woman I delivered supplies to started crying because she was so grateful,” said the 22-year old student from Leicester.

“I left them on her doorstep and she kept apologising that she couldn’t invite me in and thank me properly. Honestly though, it was the highlight of my week – just knowing what my help means to people and the difference I can make in these tough times.”

Pharmacy student Jay Patel has been working at his pharmacists in Macclesfield to help relieve pressure on frontline services. He said: “I went into pharmacy wanting to help people, we all did, so I wanted to volunteer and help as much as possible. I think we have the expertise to jump in and support in ways that other volunteers who don’t have our skills and training could do.”