Supporting the local community and beyond

Supporting the local community and beyond

Professor Anne-Marie Kilday, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Student and Staff Experience at Oxford Brookes University, writes:

As we experience the ongoing challenges of the second lockdown - and with Christmas fast approaching - feeling part of a wider community seems more important than ever. I was pleased to learn recently about some of the positive actions our students are taking to support local communities and good causes. Many of their stories are inspirational.

Take first-year student Rosie Clear. Rosie was selected to take part in The Rickshaw Challenge which took place last week for BBC Children in Need. The challenge, now in its 10th year, raised over £4 million. Due to coronavirus, the event was adapted so that it could take place away from public roads at the Goodwood Estate in Sussex. Rosie was one of six rickshaw riders who between them were due to cover 332 miles - the distance from Edinburgh to London. Unfortunately for Covid-secure reasons they were sent home. But that didn’t stop them and they completed the challenge on standing bikes - in the end cycling 830 miles. You may have seen their daily progress last week on the BBC’s The One Show.

Rosie has cerebral palsy, and was put forward for the challenge by The Pace Centre, a charity benefiting from Children in Need which has supported her since she was three years old. I feel so humbled by Rosie’s sheer determination to take on the challenge which I know involved following the BBC physio’s training plan, and plenty of trips to the gym, to build up the strength in her legs.

A long distance charity bike ride is also coming up fast for another student. At the end of November, Emma Hunter aims to cycle 250km on a spin bike for the Oxford-based hospice Sobell House. Emma, who is studying for a master’s in Applied Sport and Exercise Nutrition, is keen to give back to the charity which supported a school friend whose mother died of cancer. She was due to run the Oxford Half Marathon but when the event was cancelled due to Covid-19, she was determined to carry on. So far she has raised around £1,000.

The desire to help others going through tough times is one reason why our students in healthcare are drawn to their profession. Many are currently contributing in hospitals and the community. Within Oxfordshire and Swindon, we have more than 500 nursing and midwifery students on work placements and more than 200 allied healthcare professional students from physiotherapy, occupational therapy, paramedicine, operating department practice and social work. From the new year, 62 student teachers will be in schools on their placement, rising to more than 240 students by the summer. All of them will be navigating Covid-secure measures while supporting young people in school and building valuable experience.

Some students turn to volunteering to support a cause they passionately believe in. Joanna Freeman, who studies Nutrition, volunteers with Good Food Oxford, designing new ways to reduce food waste being thrown away locally. She’s been involved in the ‘Switch up your lunch’ campaign to boost vegetable consumption and devised vegan and vegetarian lunch ideas as part of a drive to tackle climate change.

Our students are part of the beating heart of Oxford, and the University places great value on these local community connections. To help people navigate what could be a tough winter ahead, Oxford Brookes has pledged a £5,000 donation to support the work of the Oxford Hub, a charity which is helping local people with practical tasks, companionship and support. We will also be advertising a number of volunteering opportunities to our students, so they can get involved in providing practical help and support.


In the face of the pandemic crisis and many other pressing global concerns, I’m proud to see our students making a positive difference to the local community and beyond.


This article was originally published in the Oxford Times

Pictured: Student Rosie Clear taking part in BBC Children in Need’s Rickshaw Challenge 2020