April 2020

Leeds community short stories

Paramedic Emily Morris (Psychology 2015) stands on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic in Greater Manchester.

“It’s dreadful, but we’re plodding on!” she says. Emily is just one of the University's community members playing their part in combatting the coronavirus pandemic all over the globe.

We share a number of their short stories, shining a spotlight on the alumni, staff, and students who are making a difference.

Addressing PPE shortages

Amidst the global surge in demand for adequate PPE (personal protective equipment), alumnus Ravi Toor (Environment & Business 2017) has been helping to supply frontline workers with protective facemasks.

His company, Filamentive – founded while he was a student at Leeds – makes the ‘plastic ink’, or filament, used in 3D printers. Ravi has provided filament at cost to 3DCrowd UK, a volunteer group committed to making facemasks, and paid for courier services himself. That’s allowed the group to produce thousands of facemasks for healthcare professionals.

“I’m grateful that I can work and contribute something useful during the pandemic,” Ravi says. “I was lucky enough to receive support from the University of Leeds to get my business going, and I’m always looking for opportunities to give back by supporting others when I can.”

The facemasks have been donated to hospitals, GPs, pharmacies, paramedics and social care practices. Although not officially endorsed, the demand for these masks has been enormous, with thousands already distributed around the country and requests for more being received each day.

Making scrubs for the NHS

At a time when a lack of PPE for NHS staff is top of the agenda, Patrick Grant (Material Science 1994) has switched his attention supplying those in need.

Now the leader of five clothing businesses, including UK-made sustainable fashion brand Community Clothing, Patrick Grant has made a difference where he can. His team at the Cookson and Clegg factory – the main factory for Community Clothing – have been making crucial scrubs for NHS staff.

"I am incredibly proud of all of the staff involved in what has been a monumental effort.”

Patrick Grant (Material Sciences 1994)

“We are pleased to be able to support the NHS. All 34 Cookson and Clegg factory staff have switched from their normal work to making scrubs.”

With machines set four metres apart to preserve social distancing, Patrick’s team are working overtime to meet the NHS orders. Patrick hopes the team will to be able to produce around 1,000 a week for doctors, nurses and auxiliary staff in hospitals.

“Three days for a process that would normally take about three months, and all achieved under incredibly strict new working practices at a time of great personal anxiety to many. I am incredibly proud of all of the staff involved in what has been a monumental effort.”

Finding real-world solutions to COVID-19

For Digital Media student, Jacklyn Biggin, a desire to help others during the COVID-19 outbreak led to the start of a global, virtual battle against the virus. Her efforts have seen over 3,000 participants from six continents join a global hackathon – an event which finds solutions to problems caused by the virus.

“The goal is simple,” Jacklyn says. “We want to give participants the platform and tools to create real-world solutions.”

Jacklyn created Hack Quarantine, her own version of popular hackathon events, which provide an opportunity for students and professionals to create technological solutions to challenges. “People can submit solutions in set categories,” Jacklyn explains. “These are: supporting people quarantined or at risk; improving awareness and behaviour; solving problems in tech and health; and solving problems in remote working. So far, we’ve had some really great submissions.”

The submissions include a tool to forecast COVID-19 spread in different countries, a bot that connects co-workers through impromptu chats to help with social interactions, and a system which crowdsources wellness checks to ensure that vulnerable people get the help they need. In short, they are solutions that will truly make a difference during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leeds student releases charity single

Music student Livvy Beer has composed and written a charity song to raise money for NHS Charities Together.

The single, “Loving you from a distance”, features 28 singers and musicians from across the UK. To date, it has gained over 1500 YouTube views.

Livvy wrote and performed an acoustic version of the song during the first week of lockdown, before sending it out to various musicians, who added vocal harmonies or instrumental layers to the track over the next five weeks.

“I wanted to make something that gave back to the community. I’ve put something out that’s nice to hear and see rather than all the horrible news that’s going on at the moment.”

A powerful chorus combines with a positive message of unity during the lockdown, and offers hope for when it is finished. As a result, the song is quickly gaining momentum, raising important funds for the NHS in the process.

You can view Livy’s single, and stream it from all platforms.

Thinking of the patients

Dr Anne Raine with letters from the children

When lockdown began in the UK at the end of March, parents around the country found themselves stepping in as teachers to their children, with many also attempting to balance childcare with working from home. This was the case for several employees at Leeds-based IT recruitment company Corecom, whose Managing Director, Jonathan Sanderson, graduated from the University’s Goldman Sachs Small Business Programme in 2014.

Fed up with the school of Mum and Dad, children of the employees began using their time to create messages for those in hospital with Covid-19.

Their bright pictures, cards and messages have been passed along to Dr Anne Raine, who has returned from retirement to provide her services to the NHS throughout the crisis. She has been taking the cards to patients at Airedale General Hospital in Keighley, West Yorkshire.

“We are delighted to receive the children’s lovely cards,” said Anne. “It is touching to think that they are thinking of those who need some comfort at this time and incredibly thoughtful of them to create something that I’m sure will give such pleasure to the patients who are facing long and lonely hours in hospital away from their loved ones.”

Creating a go-to resource during COVID-19

Anais Richmond (Sociology 2016) is part of a team behind an online portal helping people through the coronavirus pandemic. The 'What Can We Do?' hub brings together resources that will be useful throughout these unprecedented times.

“Our aim is to become a go-to resource," Anais explains. "There’s an ever-growing number of opportunities to help others appearing online, and no single place to view them all. We’ve created that place.”

The hub contains a number of sections, ranging from information on the latest initiatives and petitions, to a collection of all the actions you could take to help – such as how to become a community volunteer, or how to support a food bank near you. There’s also a section of at-home activities to help people to be productive during lockdown.

You can keep up to date on the latest initiatives through the 'What Can We Do?' social media pages and website.

We are proud of the efforts of our alumni, staff and students members, as they do what they can in the fight against COVID-19. If you know of Leeds alumni, staff or students who are making a difference to their community, we’d love to hear and share their stories too. Email leedsalumnionline@leeds.ac.uk