York undergraduates volunteer throughout lockdown

News | Posted on Friday 1 May 2020

Support for people in the local community from volunteers has never been more important than during the COVID-19 crisis. Many members of the University community have been involved in crucial volunteering work throughout the lockdown, and here, two University of York undergraduates tell us about their experiences.

Molly Paffett

Molly, a first year Politics and Economics student, has been helping older people to stay connected online, a volunteering scheme supported by York Cares.

Molly Paffett

"I’ve been volunteering, as part of a small virtual team of three, to help make the internet more accessible to older people so they can stay in touch with friends and relatives. We produced a series of handouts and session outlines designed to give elderly people the skills and confidence to use technology – including making video calls, sending messages, using Facebook and staying safe online when using email.


"The project was originally supposed to take place in person, so our team had to adapt quickly to moving it online. The University was amazingly supportive and Sarah from the Volunteering and Enterprise team always had an ear available to listen to our queries and worries, setting us off on the first few steps of the project while we gained our own footing and confidence with what we needed to accomplish. "When my Great Grandfather was in a nursing home, I was unable to visit him and this project gave me the opportunity to support those who are facing similar levels of isolation. Supporting older people to get online means they can stay in touch and communicate with their loved ones, even from afar – something that has become especially important over the lockdown. The older community is one of the most vulnerable during these uncertain times, and I think keeping their moral up is so important.

"The handouts we produced were sent straight away to be used by real participants and it was highly rewarding to know our hard work was going to be making a positive impact on a community immediately. Now these handouts exist, they can be distributed, stored, shared and used, not only now, but hopefully they will be helping people to reach out to their loved ones and keeping relationships alive in the future as well."

Nikhita Kataria

Nikhita, a first year Applied Social Science student and winner of the University’s Student Volunteering awards 2020, has been supporting children and young people with deafness.

Nikita Kataria

"Last September I was browsing the University of York’s volunteering pages and saw an advert from a York based charity called Lollipop looking for deaf mentors. Lollipop supports children and young people with any degree of deafness, as well as their families, by giving them opportunities to meet and build friendships with other children with shared experiences.


"My role as a deaf mentor is to support young people by taking part in drop in sessions at the charity’s headquarters as well as activities such as trampolining and ten-pin bowling."I was inspired to get involved because I have had a hearing loss since birth and struggled with it during my childhood. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to help others. I have participated in a range of volunteering opportunities since I was quite young as it’s a great way to develop skills, meet new people and make a difference.

"Because of the lockdown, I had to leave the university campus and move home earlier than anticipated, but I was able to continue my involvement with Lollipop via online sessions. This has meant that we have had to come up with some innovative and practical ways to get young members involved with activities.

"Lollipop members come from a wide geographic area including Yorkshire, Humberside and the East Riding, so lockdown has had a devastating impact on the opportunity for members to stay in touch with each other. Many are too young to be on social media, so our online sessions have played a vital role in keeping members connected with each other. Loneliness is so prevalent among young people at this time and this is intensified when you have a hearing loss.


"I really enjoy learning about other people’s experiences through my volunteering, whether they are members, staff or volunteers, and my work has also given me the opportunity to start learning British Sign Language for the very first time. Since lockdown I have been looking into other online volunteering opportunities too – I’ve downloaded the Zoological Society of London App and have been helping with animal conservation by identifying animals in photographs triggered by camera sensors in countries all over the world. This is a quick, easy and fun way to start volunteering from the comfort of your home."

University staff and students can apply to get involved in volunteering here.

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