Oxford Brookes students in the business of kindness

Friday, 22 May 2020


Two Oxford Brookes students from Italy have been working hard to support elderly and vulnerable people in their home community of Northern Italy, one of the areas in Europe most severely affected by the pandemic.

Tina Poletto ( BA, International Business Management) and Andrea Nicassio (BA, Business Enterprise and Entrepreneurship) flew home to Italy before lockdown in the UK, so they could be on hand to help. Their plan was to set up  a scheme for delivering food and medical supplies for elderly and vulnerable people in their region.

“We started the project when we were still in the UK,” explains Andrea. “For 10 weeks, everyone was in strict quarantine, where only one person per family could go food shopping up to twice a week. Yet many elderly and immunosuppressed people were advised to stay at home and did not have anyone to support them.”

After the local council identified who would benefit most, Tina and Andrea worked with local young people who shopped for food, obtained medicines, and then delivered the supplies to their homes. So far, they have helped 200 people in the region of Provincia di Gorizia, near the Austrian and Slovenian border.

The main challenge, says Tina, has been ensuring maximum protection is in place to prevent the spread of the virus: “We have trained our helpers and have provided all the necessary gloves and masks to ensure everyone is kept safe.”

Their army of helpers are young people who are members of a local non-profit organisation which Andrea started three years ago. The organisation - called Attic - puts on sports and music events for young adults (aged up to 26) and promotes social and environmental causes.

Both the delivery service and Attic itself are funded by Tina and Andrea’s entrepreneurial business ‘Studiare in UK’  which offers online support and mentoring to Italian and international students wanting to study at UK universities. Set up in 2019 with help from Brookes Enterprise Support, it was a finalist in the University’s Fuel Awards for 2019.

Being able to fund the delivery service as part of their wider work locally, has been a source of great satisfaction to them both. “For us it’s a way of feeling closer to our hometown and supporting our community. We have realised how together we can overcome many challenges and have received so much gratefulness from the people we’ve helped.”