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01 June 2020

King's is celebrating Volunteers Week

Discover how the King's community is #ContinuingToServe and find out how you can give back to others

The Stamford Street Apartments Residences team with their NHS wellness boxes

During this period of uncertainty and change, King’s has stepped up efforts to deliver on its promise to make the world a better place by continuing to serve our local, national and international communities. For Volunteers Week, we are celebrating our community of volunteers and thanking them for the contribution that they have made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

King’s is #ContinuingToServe

Our students, staff and alumni have been serving communities across the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

King’s staff have used their time and talents to support the NHS in their communities. Bryony Frost, Head of Research Operations in the Research Management and Innovation Directorate, has been making scrubs for healthcare workers. While Holly Knower, Head of Ventures at the King’s Entrepreneurship Institute, has drawn on her sewing skills by making fabric headbands for nurses and midwives.

To help boost the wellbeing of NHS staff, the Residences team at Stamford Street Apartments volunteered their time to put together care packages as part of the #NHSWellnessBox initiative, which was created by Dr Vishal Patel, a King’s College Hospital doctor, and his wife. So far, the Residences team has delivered over 200 wellness boxes to staff at St Thomas’ Hospital.

Momin Saqib, a King’s alumnus, former KCLSU President and current King's staff member is one of the founders of One Million Meals which provides healthy meals to key workers. The all-volunteer team identifies demand from essential workplaces and then arranges deliveries from participating restaurants. One Million Meals have have delivered more than 60,000 meals to 47 NHS hospitals so far.

To relieve pressure on NHS testing sites, King’s opened a COVID-19 diagnostics centre which is staffed by a team of over 120 volunteers, made up of PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, research assistants and academics. Students, academic and professional staff from the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences volunteered at a 3D printer “farm” to produce around 1,000 face shields every day for frontline medical staff treating coronavirus patients.

King’s students and alumni have been volunteering to source and deliver PPE to key workers. Trishala Lakhani, a final year dentistry student, sourced unused PPE items from closed dental practices and raised £500 to purchase further equipment for care homes. After her placement was disrupted due to Covid-19, third-year medical student Inbar Aberman has been volunteering with Medical Supply Drive UK (MSDUK) to match donated PPE with requests from across the country. Alumna Ghonche Alavi (MA Public Policy, 2015 and former member of staff at the Policy Institute) and her Sufi community are living out the Sufi ethos of ‘service’ by distributing PPE to key workers.

Service means being part of the wider society and giving back. We will all have different times in our lives when we need help, and times when we can give it. I think it’s important that we all help each other when we can.

Gavin Beattie, Associate Director of Research & Impact, Libraries & Collections, on volunteering with Samaritans

Staff have also been volunteering remotely to help people in need. Erk Gunce, a project intern with the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion team, has been volunteering as a ‘Check-in and Chat’ NHS responder, phoning people who may be isolated, lonely or vulnerable. Stephanie Lambeth, a student services officer, has also been volunteering by speaking to an isolated older person on the phone with Silver Line, a free confidential helpline and friendship service for people aged 55.

Alumnus and GP Daniel Grace (Medicine, 2012) has been volunteering with Virtual Doctors, a UK-based charity that gives medical advice, via a smart phone app, to rural health centres in Zambia. This virtual service has become more vital than ever in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Zambia.

Our students and staff are also volunteering to help communities and organisations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help keep Shakespeare’s Globe open for future audiences, alumni from the Shakespeare Studies MA recruited 200 volunteers from around the world for a 48-hour readathon. Read for the Globe has raised over £13,000 so far.

Nutrition and Dietetics student Chrissie Browne has been working with The Traveller Movement on their project to provide bespoke phone-based tutoring for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) families. Chrissie has been matching volunteer tutors with families and has witnessed a significant spike in engagement, with more parents, schools and individuals getting in touch than ever before.

In addition to ensuring King’s students and staff can work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, the team at King’s Service Centre are continuing to support their communities in Cornwall. Emma-Jane Wood, IT & Business Operations Manager at King’s Service Centre, set up a website to bring together businesses in Cornwall that can still deliver goods and services.

These are just some of the many ways in which our students, staff and alumni have been helping others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To discover more #ContinuingToServe stories, visit our webpage and follow @ServiceAtKings on Twitter and Instagram.

Volunteering and wellbeing

Volunteering can have a huge impact on your health and wellbeing. From building relationships with different groups to making friends and learning new skills, volunteering can help you to develop both professionally and personally, feel more positive and find new ways to get active.

For students, volunteering not only boosts wellbeing but also helps to develop resilience, increase confidence and has been shown to have a positive effect on academic achievement and future employment. Students report that volunteering provides a sense of purpose, as well as new social networks and professional connections.

Volunteering is also particularly important for staff, with 77 per cent of employers and employees reporting that volunteering is essential for wellbeing and 74 per cent stating that it gives them an improved sense of purpose.

As a third year medical student at King’s who saw the impact of COVID-19 on placement before everything ended abruptly in March, I found MSDUK at a time when I felt I was suddenly lacking purpose and wanted desperately to make a difference to staff and their patients.

Inbar Aberman, Medicine student, on volunteering with Medical Supply Drive UK

Discover how you can give back to others

We want to make it as simple as possible for King’s students, staff and alumni to support communities in our local area, across the UK and internationally. That’s why we launched #ContinuingToServe, our university-wide approach to bringing together, strengthening and celebrating the many ways in which King’s people are making a difference, wherever they may be, fulfilling our purpose as a civic university that serves the world.

Visit the #ContinuingToServe webpage to discover ways that you can help, and subscribe to the #ContinuingToserve roundup to receive recent volunteering opportunities and a summary of our good news stories.

To tell us about your volunteering story, email or let us know how you are making a difference by tagging @ServiceAtKings on Twitter and Instagram, and by using the hashtags #ContinuingToServe and #WeAreKings.

Service means showing empathy and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Volunteering with vulnerable people can give you another perspective and remind you of what you have to be thankful for.

Stephanie Lambeth, Student Services Officer, on volunteering with Silver Line

Remember that the main priority when volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic should be to keep yourself and others safe. Any activity that involves leaving the house is only permitted in certain circumstances and before volunteering you should read carefully the government guidelines for wherever you are. You can read the UK government’s guidelines on how to help safely here. KCLSU has put together some advice for students on how to keep safe whilst helping others.