Hundreds of staff at Northern Regional College will be volunteering some of their time and talents to mark COVID-19 Volunteer Day this Thursday 07 May – a bespoke initiative to support local communities and help raise vital funds for charities affected by the pandemic.
Members of senior leadership plan to lead by example. They will be stepping out as one of the teams take part in a virtual walking challenge organised by Health and Social Care lecturer, Kate Pegram. Each team has a target of walking a combined total of 79 miles – completed as part of their daily exercise routine – the distance between the College’s campuses in Coleraine, Ballymoney, Ballymena, Newtownabbey and Magherafelt.
Jenny Small, Vice Principal, Performance and Development, who is overseeing the Volunteer Day explained: “Northern Regional College is rooted in a deep culture of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and community partnership. Throughout the academic year, we encourage our students and staff to participate in activities that raise awareness and funds for nominated charities. Our usual fundraising activities have been put on hold because of the lockdown but the College’s commitment to achieving its CSR objectives remains as strong as ever.
“We designated May 7 as a COVID-19 Volunteer Day to support staff members wanting to help their local community, as well as recognising and celebrating the many outstanding volunteering efforts already taking place.
“Adapting to online learning and home working as the new normal has been challenging and we realise that anyone looking after vulnerable relatives and neighbours or home schooling their children won’t have much spare time but we wanted to support staff who want to do something to help but perhaps haven’t had an opportunity to do so yet.”
She continued: “As we are all in this together, we felt designating a specific Volunteer Day was a way to give everyone working in the College an opportunity to spend some of their time that day helping those who are most vulnerable. We have a strong and mutually supportive relationship with communities around our campuses so this is our chance to give something back. It’s also our way of saying ‘thank you’ to the amazing frontline workers - many are past or present students of the College - across a wide range of sectors and services.”
Many staff are already involved in volunteering and fundraising activities. Kyle Leckey, Health and Safety Co-ordinator, ran 26.2 miles, the equivalent of a marathon, around his neighbourhood and raised £2,600 for FareShareNI, while Social Care lecturer Jacqui McAllister has been working weekends as a healthcare assistant in the COVID ward at Antrim Area Hospital and donating her wages for COVID-19 research. Child Care lecturers at the Newtownabbey campus have been knitting, crocheting and painting to raise funds for the Friends of the Cancer Centre, as well as producing handmade mask attachments for frontline workers in hospitals. Cheryl McNeil, Business Engagement Officer who also runs Debut Dance Company as a social enterprise, has developed a series of seated and armchair based exercise videos for distribution to residential care homes.
The College plans to maintain its volunteering efforts and it’s COVID-19 Volunteer Response Group, under the leadership of Irvine Abraham, will continue to generate ideas about the best way to supporting support local communities impacted by the pandemic.
A wide variety of volunteering activities are planned for Thursday, May 9 including volunteering at local foodbanks, doing shopping and chores for elderly neighbours, donating blood, producing items of PPE, baking and cooking for vulnerable neighbours and supporting telephone helplines. While many staff will be working in teams to complete the virtual walking challenge between campuses, some are opting for more strenuous physical challenges, and a brave hearted few, at the risk of wearing out the stair carpets, are even planning to scale the equivalent of Mount Everest indoors.