By Paddy Henry
Occupational Therapy students in NUI Galway have developed a novel initiative aimed at supporting people in high-risk categories during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Build-a-Box campaign sees students send parcels to those in vulnerable groups to help ease the sense of isolation that the pandemic has brought about among those most at risk from the potential effects to the virus.
The campaign is being run in partnership with COPE Galway, Galway City Partnership and a local primary school and was brought to life by third-year undergraduates in the service-learning module Community Engagement,
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 commended the Occupational Therapy students for their efforts and engagement with the wider community;
“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 praised the Occupational Therapy students for taking ownership of the initiative:
“Loneliness and isolation are significant issues for many people, particularly older people, and this has been further exacerbated by the pandemic. “, she said.
“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.” added Dr Hynes.
Occupational therapy student Maria Stapleton, from Loughrea, said that the project helped give those taking part a different perspective on the impact that the pandemic is having on the more vulnerable sections of society:
“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.”, she said.
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.