January 26, 2018, by Carla
ParliaMentors: Making a Difference in the Community
By Joshua Holt, BA Hons International Relations (2017)
Parliament can often seem like a distant concept. You decide who you want to sit there on your behalf, but often that’s where your engagement ends. It’s not uncommon to start feeling pretty detached from the whole process.
Among our generation, it’s even worse. Do you often hear people say they feel disconnected with Britain’s political system? How many people do you know who don’t even vote? Do you?
The ParliaMentors programme has been set up to change this. Last year, I signed myself up, and here’s why I think you should too.
Your opportunity to get involved
ParliaMentors connects you with a local MP who offers support as a mentor. With this support, the programme aims to facilitate social action campaigns that will positively impact the local area. Essentially, you get to create social change and see politics in action.
Deciding to make a difference
I was teamed up with four other Nottingham students and we were tasked with devising our social action project. A common theme that came out of our early discussions was that engagement between students and the wider community was limited. When it did occur, it was often negative. We also noticed that the elderly are often the most isolated from the wider community, and a consequence of this is often loneliness. We wanted to make a positive change to this.
To the library we went – we started to dig a bit deeper. You might be shocked at what we discovered. Over 20,000 people in Nottingham stated that they felt “trapped in their own home” and 36% of elderly people asked feel out of touch with modern life.
So, what could we do to change this? Thinking caps went on. What if we could connect students and the elderly? Potentially using a ‘low-tech’ approach? This might be seen as novel to students and comforting to the elderly.
PensionPals was born
The idea was simple: letter exchanges between students and the elderly. For just the cost of a stamp, students would have the potential to improve an older persons’ quality of life dramatically. In this age of technology and gadgets, it can actually be quite refreshing to communicate offline. It feels somewhat personal to pick up a pen and craft a letter.
We had easy access to students, but we had to figure out how to get in touch with the elderly. After speaking to several local care homes, two were eager to pilot the project. The response from students was overwhelming. Seven times the number of participants signed up than we could accommodate! It’s a great start and indicates the potential for expansion.
It’s not been an entirely smooth road. Developing contacts and understanding safeguarding provisions have been just a few of the challenges along the way. However, it’s such a rewarding opportunity. If you want to develop skills, get support and make a difference, this scheme is for you.
ParliaMentors are looking for students to take part in their 2018/19 scheme now. Start your application here.
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