Two Donegal students at NUI Galway have helped develop a unique initiative to support people in high-risk groups during the Covid-19 pandemic by sending parcels to ease isolation.
Jason Mulhern from Ballyshannon, Brían McHugh from Ardara and their classmates are making a big difference through the Build-a-Box campaign, which is being run by the University’s occupational therapy students, in partnership with COPE Galway, Galway City Partnership and a Deis primary school in the region.
The charitable initiative was designed and brought to life by third year undergraduates in the service-learning module Community Engagement, with the aim of mitigating isolation and the impacts of social distancing and cocooning for some of the most vulnerable members of the community.
Around 100 boxes filled with items to reduce the negative effects of confinement are being delivered to older adults living alone, women in Direct Provision, homeless women and children with additional needs and in lower socio-economic groups.
Occupational therapy student Jason Mulhern, from Ballyshannon, said: “The Build-a-box campaign opened my eyes to ways vulnerable groups were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was rewarding to see how the boxes positively impacted on these groups.”
Fellow student Brían McHugh, from Ardara, said: “The build-a-box campaign made a nice change in some people’s lives during lockdown and this was a rewarding experience.”
Commenting on the initiative, President of NUI Galway Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “In the context of ongoing clinical and academic demands, we commend our occupational therapy students for helping to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Initiatives such as the Build-a-Box campaign emulate NUI Galway’s vision and values of openness and respect, of our students and staff as citizens connected to and contributing to community and society in Ireland and internationally for the public good.”
Dr Sinéad Hynes, lecturer in Occupational Therapy in NUI Galway’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, said: “Loneliness and isolation are significant issues for many people, particularly older people, and this has been further exacerbated by the pandemic. The students have taken ownership of this project and partnered with community organisations, which is especially difficult when working remotely. It is our hope that the Build-a-Box campaign might be one way in which we can support those in our society who may be worse impacted by the restrictions.”
Dr Hazel Killeen, also a lecturer in Occupational Therapy at NUI Galway, said: “In tough times, our students responded with great compassion to very vulnerable people in our community. They showed a willingness to overcome the barriers of organising all aspects of a very practical project through virtual means. This was more than a grade for them, they wanted to be part of the solution, and did so with heart.”
The Build-a-Box project is supported by funding from the Community Knowledge Initiative, NUI Galway, with the boxes provided by Carabay Packaging.