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Volunteering during a pandemic

During volunteer week the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences celebrated the success of their first year BSc Dental Hygiene Therapy and BDS Dental students’ contribution towards society, as part of the Clinical Humanities & Wellbeing module.

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Volunteering

Volunteering has always been a key part of what it means to be a member of the King’s community. It is a great way to make a positive difference in the world, and during volunteer week the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences celebrated the success of their first year BSc Dental Hygiene Therapy and BDS Dental students’ contribution towards society, as part of the Clinical Humanities & Wellbeing module.

The Clinical Humanities & Wellbeing programme for the undergraduate oral healthcare team pioneers a cross disciplinary approach, integrating creative and critical thinking from arts and humanities into the clinical curriculum as education for sustainable oral healthcare, supporting student personal growth and professional identity formation.

As part of the programme, first year Dentistry BDS and BSc Dental Hygiene Therapy students were allocated curricular time to research and then implement their own individual volunteering projects.

Dr Flora Smyth Zahra, Academic Lead for the programme explains:

“We encouraged the students at this very early stage in their education to involve themselves as much as possible in local communities. Taking a service learning and humanities frame to their projects, we asked them to consider their volunteering through a critical lens, identifying a genuine community need.”

The students were asked to critically reflect on their experience, record their hours and post a vlog on an interactive SharePoint site designed by the iTEL team at FoDOCS. Many students wrote about the particular challenges of volunteering through the COVID-19 pandemic. With many charities having to pull back on their services, some found a need for support closer to home. One student sought to help their local community and spent time volunteering for their neighbours.

BDS student Khushi Dhadda explains:

“Many of my neighbours are elderly and lonely and were having to shield, following government guidance. I had noticed that a few of them were finding what we consider simple tasks such as online shopping, to be quite difficult and I felt that I could help in some way. So every week I would run some errands and grab the necessities for them and in total in took me around 2 hours to grab their bits and bobs, pack and deliver them and have a little chat on the doorstep to see how their doing.

“Just from this experience, I got to know and appreciate my neighbours more just by having a short chat with them every so often. Not only that, but I also noticed that they were grateful that an eighteen-year-old was willing to spend time and it was great to put a smile on their faces. In addition, this experience improved my communication and listening skills - both important qualities as a dentist!”

Professor Kim Piper, Dean for Education at the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences was heavily involved in the programme this past year, leading several of the groups of students through the modules. She reflects on the experience:

“The entire programme this year has been a huge success, allowing busy clinical students the time and space to reflect, grow, connect with each other and local communities, and realise their potential as global change agents for health and social wellbeing.”

As the students progress into their second year the faculty will be holding an update volunteering afternoon online via Teams to share some of the accounts and blogs. The students will be able to ask questions and receive support before they embark on their next academic year and the volunteering opportunities available to them both locally and internationally.