Alumni Stories: Volunteering in the fightback against COVID-19

“I hope this story can offer a little happiness in these dark times!”

Charlotte Yandell, Music, 2017

We are proud of the contribution that University of Hull staff, students and alumni are making at this time of crisis. We have University of Hull trained nurses, carers and doctors fighting the pandemic at the frontline in hospitals and care homes across the region and wider. Staff at the University are involved in the training of returning NHS workers, and in the running of the Yorkshire Nightingale Hospital. One of our graduates, Professor Sarah Gilbert, is currently leading the team at Oxford University working on a vaccine, and another, Ben Morrin, has taken on a senior role at the London Nightingale Hospital. Furthermore, over 1,000 alumni, staff, students and friends of the University have contributed over £30,000 to help a team of staff in the Faculty of Science and Engineering produce face shields to protect workers in hospitals and care homes.

We asked alumni to share their stories of how life has changed, and what they are doing to help get through the COVID-19 pandemic. Many alumni are volunteering their expertise, knowledge and time, either directly to fight the disease, or simply to make life better for others. The stories included in this article show some of the great things that alumni are doing to help others.

In this article, we meet alumni who are using music to help children and older people in care homes, a graduate who is volunteering to deliver food to refugees, and a graduate who is volunteering the skills from a former career as a phlebotomist on a weekend.


Zoe Kenington, Drama 2019 – “We have been creating videos that I have been sharing on various social media platforms and have received so much feedback from members of the public about how positive the videos make them feel and how they give them hope during this difficult times.

“I graduated from The University of Hull last year (July 2019) studying Drama and Theatre Practice. 

“As a self-employed singing teacher, I have temporarily lost my job due to Covid-19. I knew I had to do something to keep Hull singing and therefore started offering FREE 1-1 video call singing lessons via Skype or FaceTime which I have been doing with several young people over the last 5 weeks. Together, we have been creating videos that I have been sharing on various social media platforms and have received so much feedback from members of the public about how positive the videos make them feel and how they give them hope during this difficult times.

“This is my latest video which I have made and have received more than 1000 views in just over 24 hours on Facebook. For this video, I reached out to the Hull and East Riding communities asking them to send in their rainbow photos / displays for the video via various community pages etc. I received almost 150 photos from people across Hull and East Riding, with people making them specifically for my video as well. This video is to say thank you to the NHS and Key workers.

“My last video involved 25 people from Hull collectively singing a song called “Sunflower” from the comfort of their own homes which I organised and put together and the video was published in The Hull Daily Mail last week.”


Steve Moss, Biomedical Sciences, 2010, Biological Sciences (PhD), 2015“I have however volunteered to return to the NHS and work at Scarborough General Hospital as a phlebotomist on a weekend.”

“I undertook a BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science and a PhD in Biological Sciences at the University of Hull between 2007 and 2015. Whilst at university I worked part-time at Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital as a phlebotomist and medical laboratory assistant.

“My family and I have since returned to our home town of Scarborough, and I am now working for NHS Digital in Leeds. I have however volunteered to return to the NHS and work at Scarborough General Hospital as a phlebotomist on a weekend. I am considered to be in a higher risk group, so I am being kept away from the so called “hot” wards (although it is difficult to know exactly who is infected given asymptomatic spread).

“I have done a couple of refresher training days as they are using a new blood collection system now, and will officially be starting on Saturday 2nd May. I am looking forward to getting back to frontline NHS work, and helping with the COVID-19 effort.”

Steve has also been blogging on challenging the misinformation around COVID-19. You can read more on his blog here.


Lisa McKinley, Music and Theatre 2012 – “Imagine… in your short life you’ve fled war, persecution, injustice, you’re alone, separated from your family in an unfamiliar country, struggling to learn the language. You’ve been waiting months – years! – to know if you can stay or will be deported back to the nightmare you fled from. You’re anxious. You can’t sleep. And then there’s a lockdown.”

I now live in Birmingham and, as part of an arts charity I work with, am delivering iftar to young asylum seekers around the city during Ramadan. 

I got involved with The Gap in 2019 when I was hired to work as an actor on an Arts Council funded performance. After that, I began regularly volunteering in their community cafe and was asked to join the core team in early 2020. They’ve supported a couple of my independent theatre projects and I’m involved in running a couple of The Gap’s projects. 

All of mine and The Gap’s projects have been put on hold since mid-March. I was in the middle of a mini theatre tour and getting a couple of other projects off the ground when the crisis hit. We had to close The Gap and all of my work stopped. This has obviously had a massive impact on my income, mental wellbeing and career growth; the theatre industry is extremely uncertain and we don’t know far or long lasting the impact will be.

So, I jumped at the chance to help with the iftar deliveries. It feels good to be able to make use of myself and do something positive in the midst of such a difficult and anxious time. It’s a great initiative to be involved with and I’m very grateful. 

More info can be found on this Facebook post on The Gap Arts Project’s page.

Since posting this, we’ve received donations and even more support which has enabled us to increase our delivery days to three a week with a team of volunteers.


Charlotte Yandell, Music 2017 – “Care home managers have had to cancel all outside ‘entertainment’ for the foreseeable future, leaving many residents feeling increasingly isolated”

“I graduated from the University of Hull with a BA in Music in 2017 and then decided to continue my studies at the University of York, graduating with an MA in Music Psychology in January 2019. I made York my permanent home and soon after graduating, launched my own music therapy business, Kiddleydivey York, delivering interactive music sessions designed to support elderly residents’ continued mobility, social interaction, connection with memory and quality of life. I’ve successfully developed and expanded the business over the last year and before the current pandemic, was visiting over 20 different care homes across York, Malton, Selby and Harrogate. 

“Sadly, due to the Coronavirus outbreak, care home managers have had to cancel all outside ‘entertainment’ for the foreseeable future, leaving many residents feeling increasingly isolated and without an accessible source of ‘live’ music to enjoy. It has consistently been proven that music provides a vital lifeline for those living with dementia, especially during this period of social isolation and so, in response, I’ve been in regular contact with my care homes in an effort to continue to share the unique power of music with the residents. I have recently started offering online Skype sessions and have also encouraged staff to send clips of residents singing along to ‘We’ll Meet Again’ so that I can produce a video of their combined efforts – I’m hoping that it will be a wonderful memento of the ability of music to unite us. I’ve attached clips of a Skype session and also, a couple of residents singing along to We’ll Meet Again. I’ve also linked my recent feature in The York Press Music unites residents

“I hope this story can offer a little happiness in these dark times!”

2 thoughts on “Alumni Stories: Volunteering in the fightback against COVID-19

  1. Good Morning,

    It is good to see the contribution of Hull graduates in fighting the virus. The following may be of interest:

    Economics 1960 and PGCE 1961

    My contribution is to try and raise morale, nothing spectacular but being successful. With a background in PR and having used this for 20 years on behalf of a number of activities, including the Cranwell Branch of the RAF Association, the Lincolnshire Branch of the Civil Service Retirement Fellowship and Neighbourhood Watch I decided to use this base.

    I use jokes at the end of meeting of the CSRF and considered that I could send these to a range of members and friends. This took off and additionally I have become the conduit for distribution of pictorial jokes. I have just sent the 55th daily contribution (on 23 May). I also had a store of 30 question quizzes that I used to entertain members on returning home after coach outings that I organized, number 17 was sent to-day, the answers are forwarded after 2 days.

    These contributions are now forwarded by the Chief Executive of the CSRF throughout the UK to members. Other groups and families use them in other parts of the UK. Additionally they find their way to France, Germany, New Zealand and Australia.

    Sincerely

    Mike Smith

    M J SMITH

    01526 833 273

    ________________________________

    Like

    1. Hi Mike, thank you for your comment and for sharing your story – I’m glad that you enjoyed the article, and that you are also doing your bit to boost morale and make the lives of others a bit more cheerful! I hope that you stay well and keep sharing your jokes in this difficult time!

      Like

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