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COVID-19: ADVICE FOR STaff, STUDENTS AND COMMUNITY

Connecting the caring community through art

Art by Avril McKie
During lockdown, vulnerable groups have become more isolated and simple acts of kindness can make a significant impact. Painting student Avril McKie is developing an ‘Art from the Heart’ project to reduce social isolation and was awarded with the Inspirational Idea Prize in the COVID-19 Student Innovation Challenge for her efforts.

Run by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group, the COVID-19 Student Innovation Challenge awarded five student projects grown through lockdown with a package of support and £500 funding from the RGU Foundation

Art from the Heart will bring together artistic students to be picture pals, like pen-pals, for care residents to share drawings and personal notes that create connections for the residents to the outside world. Find out more about Avril’s work in this Q&A. 

Why did you decide to set up your business?

I was moved by the kindness I had witnessed of care home staff during the pandemic and their dedication to the most vulnerable groups, particularly the elderly. I was particularly impressed by the voluntary nature of their selfless contribution – often sacrificing personal time to protect those in their care. 

How did studying at RGU contribute to your business?

I know that, while studying at RGU, the teaching staff dedicated great care to help us achieve at the end our first-year studies by tutoring and mentoring remotely. That contact also identified how much could be achieved without face to face meetings. There was authentic participation from the community, which provided support and purpose during an unprecedented period of social isolation. That link became more important as the breadth of life began to shrink in lockdown.    

How has COVID-19 impacted your business and personal life?

The pandemic seemed to provide a platform for genuine acts of kindness. I felt that I wanted to do something practical that might contribute to the lives of the most vulnerable. I made the decision that I would try to utilise my art skills in a voluntary capacity to care for others. COVID-19 made me consider my priorities in life and accentuated the need to make a compassionate contribution to society. 

What does winning this award mean to you?

It means that I can activate my idea and make it happen. The financial award can be utilised for the initiation of this project as a gift to a care home. It also provides an opportunity to draw others into the idea, therefore, making its impact wider. It provided an impetus and a responsibility to realise the idea. 

What do you hope to do next?

I would like to initiate the idea as an individual model, which when demonstrated can attract the support of my student peers and wider college community to create similar links to care facilities. The future aim of the idea would be to work collaboratively to develop these individually crafted relationships into a shared movement of care. Its simple mission would be to spread kindness and care through artistic correspondence and voluntary activities in community facilities. 

Judges’ thoughts on the project

The judges felt that our Avril's art from the heart project was an inspirational creative demonstration of connecting communities and a meaningful and powerful way to reduce social isolation and feelings of loneliness brought about by lockdown conditions. Using art as a bridge draws upon her own artistic talents and responds to those in need in an innovative and powerful way. 

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