Lockdown: Community Support
Laurence Garfield, Government & Community Relations Officer, looks at how our students and staff have been helping support some of the city’s most vulnerable people – and considers how we can continue to build links with our neighbours during the recovery
The upheaval to daily life brought about by lockdown has revealed one of the greatest strengths – often behind the scenes – that the University has to offer: the commitment of its staff and students to supporting the local community.
At a time when the demands on all of us have been exceptional, many colleagues from across the University have given their time and resources to the charities, voluntary groups and local authorities working to ensure that those in need are not forgotten.
One of the most pressing issues at the beginning of lockdown was finding accommodation for Oxford’s homeless population. A team from University Administration and Services (UAS) and the Conference of Colleges quickly responded to the City Council’s call for action for temporary housing. Saïd Business School and University College provided rooms for those required to self-isolate, while Pembroke College’s catering team stepped in to supply breakfast and two hot meals a day for a group of 120 formerly homeless people.
The urgent demand for personal protection equipment (PPE) for essential workers also received an enthusiastic response from the University and the colleges. St Hilda’s acted swiftly to organise the delivery of vital supplies of PPE to medical staff at John Radcliffe Hospital and the Bodleian Libraries donated a quantity to the City Council to use in their locality response centres for workers on the frontline.
It has been fantastic to see such huge numbers of people volunteering to help those shielding or in self-isolation. Sara Fernandez, Chief Executive of the Oxford Hub, told me that the scale has been impressive and that she ‘didn’t know where to start’ when describing the contribution made by more than 2000 volunteers – many of them students and staff – to the Hub’s Oxford Together initiative, which is supporting people affected by COVID-19.
Students have organised social check-ins for people unable to leave home, helped with shopping and delivered medicine, along with using their talents to give online tutorials for local school children to help prevent them from falling behind with their work.
Now that we are moving out of lockdown, and as a sense of normality begins to return for some people across the city, it is a priority for the University (and an ongoing commitment of our Strategic Plan) that we nurture these relationships with community partners. This will be a focus for me over the coming year, alongside colleagues in Public Affairs, the Knowledge Exchange and Impact team, Research Services, colleges and our public engagement teams – to name just a few.
While there is still a huge amount to do, I am confident that we can all help make sure that Oxford recovers stronger.
For your info
To find out more about the University’s work with the community visit our community pages or contact Laurence at email@example.com.
You can sign up to volunteer with local organisations on the Oxfordshire All In website.
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