The head of a charity offering vital support to the vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic has said that without support from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) volunteers, some community members “would have been left with nothing".
Martin Buchanan is CEO of the charity E2, which works with communities in Leicester and Leicestershire offering support, training and education for children, young people and adults.
Volunteers preparing meals at E2
Throughout the pandemic the Beaumont Leys-based charity has had an army of volunteers from DMU helping the most vulnerable by forming street teams, who knock on doors to see if people need help.
They have then cooked meals and delivered emergency food parcels, providing a friendly, listening ear for isolated elderly people and running food banks.
Since lockdown in March there have been 200 DMU volunteers, who have clocked up more than 1,000 hours helping city communities through E2, thanks to the charity’s partnership with the university’s public engagement team, DMU Local.
Martin said: “I have been absolutely amazed by the support that DMU has provided. I would like to thank the volunteers for their time and support.
“Because of them we have been able to support people who would otherwise, quite literally, have been left with nothing. These volunteers have been crucial in helping the community not only survive but thrive in incredibly difficult circumstances.”
The volunteering efforts by DMU students and staff have not stopped there. As the UK enters its fifth month of lockdown, the university has continued to innovate and create new ways of reaching out to the DMU family and community.
Student and staff efforts
Laser cutters at DMU cut templates for protective visors
Hundreds of Nursing and Midwifery students have been providing vital support to Leicester hospitals and care homes.
While technicians and lecturers from DMU’s Faculty of Arts, Design and Humanities, as well as engineers from the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Media, have been using their skills and equipment to make hospital scrubs, scrub bags, face masks and plastic visors to help solve the shortage of PPE in hospitals and care homes.
The Watershed building at DMU has been turned into a packing centre for PPE, working with the charity 3D Crowd UK. More than 100 sets of surgical scrubs, countless face masks and more than 4,000 visors have been sent to local hospitals, care homes and schools.
Supporting local business
DMU Works – DMU’s innovative careers programme to make students work-ready - launched a voluntary placement programme for digital-savvy students within a week of lockdown.
It advertised free business support to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Leicester by matching them with students and 23 companies have been helped so far.
Ash Govind, of Mobile Media Marketing Ltd, said: "“This was an excellent initiative from DMU, and well appreciated by SME’s like mine at a difficult time when we are uncertain about sustainability let alone growth.”
Cyber Security student Thomas Davey-Spence worked with law firm Bond Adams on a project exploring the impact of lockdown.
Senior partner Rafique Patel praised his work, saying: “He will no doubt take great credit for the fact that he has produced work which will actually go live and that he has contributed to that”.
Thomas said being part of the project had not only helped him build new skills, it had helped ‘keep him grounded’ while in isolation.
Supplying protective equipment
The Estates department at DMU worked with the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences to donate PPE normally used by students in lab work while diagnostic equipment from the faculty was donated to the Government to help increase COVID-19 testing rates.
DMU partner, Liaoning University, in the Shenyang region of China, sent 1,000 face masks to Leicester hospitals to help replenish PPE stocks with its leaders saying that during the pandemic it is important to reach out 'to strengthen solidarity and cooperation'.
Dr Dan Sillence from DMU
The university’s research academics have also been helping with the fight against COVID-19.
Dr Daniel Sillence, Associate Professor and Reader in Cell Biology at DMU, is working alongside the University of Oxford to investigate whether existing medicines could be repurposed to stop the virus.
Simon Wheeler, a post-doctoral researcher at DMU), has joined a global group, from academia and industry, who are giving up their time to develop unique structures for testing new drugs that could fight the coronavirus.
DMU psychologists are asking people to take part in one of the first studies into the effect lockdown is having on the nation's eating habits.
While Dr Katie Laird, Reader in Microbiology and Head of the Infectious Disease Research Group at DMU, who has conducted extensive research into the domestic and industrial wash processes of healthcare uniforms, has advised the Government that all healthcare uniforms should be laundered in hospitals to commercial standards or by an industrial laundry, to minimise the risk of contamination and transmission of the virus.
You can find out more about the efforts of students, academics and staff to make a difference during the pandemic in the stories below
Posted on Tuesday 30th June 2020