Amy is founder of Women in Academia Support Network (WIASN). Operating since 2017, WIASN is a global digital professional network of over 11k members from PhD to Vice Chancellor. Amy leads the strategy and direction of the network to drive a better understanding of equity and access issues in higher education; proving a space to learn about and take action on oppression from race, disability, sex and gender based violence, class and inequity. WIASN has approx. 500k interactions a year and has been overwhelmed with acute support needs during Covid. WIASN has been recognized by Facebook as a community of significance being invited to be one of a few Power Admin.
Members have 24 hour access to support. Through the support of the network members have been able to affect real change from mental wellbeing support, legal advice on disability and discrimination, support to develop their teaching and research practice and progress academic careers. The ability to gain support and advice from academics of all stages with an international perspective makes WIASN a unique community with care and compassion at its heart. The very quick growth of the network uncovered an un-met need for support networks inclusive of international audiences of women (gender fluid and trans inclusive). This year Amy led WIASN to become a CIO (charity) to further expand support for marginalized scholars, going above and beyond to affect real change for academic women and those aspiring to academia.
As the Covid pandemic broke, Saif (at the time a 4th year medical student) noticed many health care professionals voicing worries on social media about how they were going to balance their home life commitment with their increasing numbers of shifts and increasing work hours.
Saif posted an idea on Facebook on how medical students might help support the NHS, and was inundated with offers of help from fellow students. Very quickly, more than 450 medical and social care students across Manchester volunteered to support NHS workers while they tackled the COVID-19 pandemic - and became the ‘Manchester National Health Supporters’ - with students providing help to NHS workers while they were working – including supporting home commitments, childminding and helping out at GP surgeries.
Saif helped facilitate expansion of the scheme across the UK as students in other parts of the country launched similar initiatives. As well as coordinating the Manchester National Health Supporters, he has helped oversee part of the initiative nationally.
“Within just a few days we have created a movement across the country of students who have NHS workers’ backs. We’re here to help them so they can focus on the day job," said Saif. "We’re in a unique position - unlike final year students we can’t be fast-tracked into junior doctor level posts, but we all have DBS checks and first aid training to help NHS workers with babysitting and working in GP surgeries on reception."
Susan is the Founder of Chifundo UK (2015) and Chanasa Malawi (2014), two small charities, who aim to empower girls and women in Malawi through funding their education and income generation.
Chanasa was formed in 3 locations in 201, with unemployed women in poorer suburbs of Blantyre. The Chanasa social enterprise of 50 women today make sustainable fashion, accessories and household products which are sold in Malawi and the UK.
In 2018, Chifundo and Chanasa teamed with the Gift of the Givers Foundation in Malawi and developed the Lotus Project to meet the menstrual health needs of girls in government schools in the Blantyre Urban and Rural areas. This has included menstrual health training for girls, boys, mothers and staff, as well as the Chanasa Women making unique reusable, compostable sanitary pads, which teamed with other essential items in a bag are distributed. Mothers have also been trained to make reusable sanitary pads and bags and to start a small sustainable business. To date 1,575 girls have received training and packs at 8 schools.
Susan has also established Chifundo UK as a support network. She takes the lead in fundraising and promotional activities, as well as raising awareness about Fair Trade Issues in the Textile and Fashion Industries. They raised funding for the Chanasa women to undertake 3 weeks business skills training and money is raised to pay for the women to undertake tailoring courses at the Beehive Tailoring School.
When the Intergen project’s typical in-person activities began to be cancelled in March 2020, project leader Fangyuan proposed a new initiative that would continue to support the older community whilst they were confined to their homes. The Intergen Buddy scheme matches student volunteers with older members of the community, providing a phone-call chat once or twice a week to combat loneliness and social isolation.
For those members of the community who do not have a strong support network, or rely on attending groups and activities, there is an increased risk of poor mental health and depression, and feelings of loneliness and despair. This new strand of the project focuses on friendly conversation, discussions of hobbies and skills, and positive encouragement for the members. Whilst the students cannot offer clinical support, being there for a virtual cup of tea and a biscuit has been invaluable for so many at this difficult time.
The project began with around 30 members of the community matched up with student volunteers, and has since expanded by reaching out to local community groups, the local councils, and the NHS to accept new referrals. Across the term over 45 volunteers have participated, supporting more than 60 older people.