NUI Galway students “Build Boxes” to support the vulnerable

NUI Galway lecturers Dr Sinéad Hynes (far left) and Dr Hazel Killeen (far right) with students (L-R on steps) Eilísh Ní Chiobháin Dearbhla Forkan Jack Sayers Jason
Mar 29 2021 Posted: 14:49 IST

Students from NUI Galway have developed a unique initiative to support people in high risk groups during the Covid-19 pandemic by sending parcels to help ease isolation.

The Build-a-Box campaign is being run by the University’s occupational therapy students, in partnership with COPE Galway, Galway City Partnership and a local Deis primary school.

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.

Commenting on the initiative, President of NUI Galway Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: "In the context of ongoing clinic​al 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 more severely 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.”

Occupational therapy student Maria Stapleton, from Loughrea, said: “It was really interesting to learn about the impact of the pandemic on different vulnerable groups, and working with the community partners gave us a different perspective on the effect it has had.”

Fellow student Lorraine Moloney, from Corrandulla, added: “The Build-a-Box campaign was a rewarding and challenging experience. It gave me a better understanding of the effects of the pandemic on vulnerable groups, while providing our class with an opportunity to address these issues and make a difference in their lives.”

The Build-a-Box project is supported by funding from the Community Knowledge Initiative, NUI Galway, with the boxes provided by Carabay Packaging.


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