Creating the Aberdeen City Mutual Aid Volunteering Group

Creating the Aberdeen City Mutual Aid Volunteering Group
Adult Nursing Student Robyn Ward won an Inspirational Student Prize in the COVID-19 Student Innovation Challenge after setting up the Aberdeen City Mutual Aid Volunteering Group as the country went into lockdown, bringing together and supporting member of the local community.

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.  

The group provides practical and emotional support and has gained press attention, built from a Facebook group with a community of thousands. Robyn even set up a fundraiser which has made more than £3,000 – all while working on placement in the front lines of the NHS.  

Why did you decide to set up your business?  

I set up Aberdeen City Mutual Aid back in March of this year. A week or so before the lockdown began, I noticed similar groups being set up around the country and couldn’t find one for Aberdeen. I wanted the group to be formed of local volunteers under the concept of providing mutual aid to those most vulnerable and in need in our community.  

As you will be aware, a lot of people suddenly found themselves in isolation with no preparations as the pandemic hit. Posters were put up around the city, a Facebook page and email account were set up, and with the help of other volunteers, a phone line was established. We have been able to help those in need by offering to do shopping, collect prescriptions, walk dogs etc. We also were able to set up a JustGiving account to provide much needed financial assistance to those who require it. 

How did studying at RGU contribute to your business?  

I'm a third-year student studying Adult Nursing. I started studying at RGU in 2017 and will be due to graduate next year. I am the current Vice President of the Nursing Society and an Acting Pilot Officer in the East of Scotland University Air Squadron – a part of the RAF Volunteer Reserves. I have also been working in ARI as a Band 4 healthcare support worker throughout the pandemic.

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

We’ve been able to assist hundreds of local people throughout the pandemic, with requests arriving from worried family members all over the globe. Hundreds of local volunteers stepped up to help, proving that Aberdeen remains a close-knit community who look out for each other in tough times.  

I’m not initially from here myself and wouldn’t have been able to be as successful in this venture had I been doing it alone. The people of Aberdeen have themselves to thank for the support provided by this group. 

What does winning this award mean to you?  

As the founder of the group, I am so grateful to be able to receive this prize on the whole group’s behalf. Without the volunteers who have been working so tirelessly, we wouldn’t have succeeded in our task. We hope that the group will be able to continue providing aid to the local community through the remainder of the pandemic and look towards hopefully forming a charity sometime in the future from the network we have built up. 

Judges’ thoughts on the project 

Robyn epitomises the entrepreneurial spirit, using her initiative to make a positive change for her community while inspiring others to join her on the journey. Founding the Mutual Aid Community in her own time while continuing to navigate her own academic and clinical commitments took passion discipline and resilience.  

Having founded the volunteer group, it has continued to grow and gained excellent media attention following robins initial proactive promotional work. In addition, Robin has demonstrated her resourcefulness by raising money to support the cause through Just Giving and is dedicated to continuing her work to help the vulnerable. 

You can find out more about Robyn’s work on the project’s Facebook page. You can also subscribe to free updates from the Innovation and Entrepreneurship group using the Innovation@RGU email subscription form.

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