Queen Mary staff keep up the volunteering during pandemic
We caught up with staff from across the University to hear more about their different volunteering efforts over the last few months, from leading Queen Mary initiatives, to helping their local communities, to joining national volunteering drives.
Sharing and Publishing Images to Embarrass (SPITE)
Sharing and Publishing Images to Embarrass (SPITE) is a clinic run by our award-winning Legal Advice Centre (LAC), where Queen Mary law students, supervised by qualified solicitors and barristers, provide free, accessible legal advice to the public. SPITE is a specialist clinic, covering the very prevalent issue of image based sexual abuse. The LAC is the first and only free community legal advice centre to provide legal advice on this topic.
SPITE was formed in 2015 and has helped 161 people so far. This summer, for the first time, the project will be running at an increased capacity with a number of virtual appointments available.
Kelli Ryan, Client Services Coordinator at the LAC, said: “Generally, the summer LAC sessions run without our students, but this year, we’ve had a number of students come forward and say they still want to participate, which is great!”
Following the success of SPITE, it has expanded to include the Street Law activity SPITE for Schools: educating young people on the potential consequences of sharing intimate images. Other successful activities run by the LAC include the “I am U” Project. This uses fun and interactive teaching techniques to convey the principles of the Equality Act 2010, in a clear and understandable way to primary school children.
We spoke with Sue Harris, Professor of Film Studies in the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film. As a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Instructor with MFHA England, she was invited to undertake accelerated training to become a Shout volunteer in response to the pandemic and lockdown.
Shout is the UK’s first free 24/7 text service, for anyone in crisis. By providing confidential one-to-one support, it can bring people from a hot moment to a cool calm place through active listening and collaborative problem-solving. The number to text is 85258.
Shout is unique in that it allows people to reach out for help in a way that may seem less intimidating than speaking to someone on the phone. There are also many people living in crowded or unsafe situations, amplified by lockdown, for whom calling a helpline would be impossible.
Crisis volunteers work from an interactive platform, under the guidance of a supervisor who is an experienced mental health practitioner. Anyone over the age of 18 can apply to volunteer with Shout, making a minimum commitment of two hours per week. As the text service is 24/7, volunteers can choose whenever they wish to complete a shift.
Sue mentioned how she had wanted to use her MHFA skills in an active and meaningful way but had struggled to find a volunteering opportunity that fit. She said: “I’d always wanted to volunteer, but logistically, I thought it might be difficult. I love the flexibility of Shout; you can volunteer whenever you want and you can do so from your sofa. It’s perfect, because it fits around your lifestyle, meaning I can carry on volunteering once lockdown is over.”
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