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Durham University

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Volunteering during Covid-19

(20 March 2020)

The developments around Covid-19, the escalation of preventative measures and the increasing transition of University staff to home working have unsurprisingly meant that the current University Staff and Student Volunteering programmes will not be able to operate as they have. As we transition into different modes of working and living, our spirit of volunteering and desire to contribute to our local communities will become more important than ever.

Our position, which is fully endorsed by the Vice-Chancellor and UEC, is that our message must be to support and encourage all staff and students (wherever they are) to contribute to their local communities in any way that they can (safely within the current guidelines that we all need to abide by). It’s clear that many communities are already self-mobilising but within the Volunteering team here we hope to be able to still act as a source of information, signposting activities and a link to community partners where required and give staff and students a point of contact for volunteering and community support going forward. We are also in close contact with key local organisations such as County Durham Community Foundation who are developing a Covid-19 Sustainability Fund for the county, which will act as a focus for financial support to local communities.

Our view is that this University community has long supported a culture of volunteering, civic engagement and compassion and these principals should continue to guide us when back home in our communities. Registering volunteering or recording hours are not priorities for us during this time – we merely ask that if you are actively working from home that you consider taking an hour or two when you can (please try to have a dialogue with your line manager to maintain good communications) to consider a voluntary act of support in any way that you feel comfortable, whether it be to check on a neighbour, do some shopping for someone or have a chat on the phone to someone who may be isolated. Rather than creating new groups we would advise working directly with established activities, whether they be Parish Councils, Residents Associations or via some of the proactive social media support forums which have already become established. We are still gathering some information in these areas but a summary of Durham based Resident Association contacts is attached. They are actively co-ordinating areas of need within their local areas and are also a good point of contact if you wish to contribute in these localities. We also have some examples of online/remote voluntary support activities that you can get involved in now or that you may wish to consider – we will seek to grow and develop these as we move forward. Please contact us for more information on these.

We will try to maintain a regular flow of information and updates to you but please feel free to send enquiries through to community.engagement@durham.ac.uk and we will do what we can to help. Thank you in advance – I know that everyone will do the best they can to support our local communities at this difficult time.

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