Interviewing Julie Woods, from the Blind Foundation

Interviewing Julie Woods, from the Blind Foundation

Julie Woods is a wonderful client and ambassador of the Blind Foundation. She is also an active member of the Otago community. You can find out more about her on her website. To quote her website,  

” Julie Woods is an inspirational speaker and coach; who has visited the seven Wonders of the World!  So, is it really true she threw a party when she’d been blind for 15 years and has refereed three games of nude touch rugby?” 

Could you tell me a little about what the Blind Foundation does in the local community?

The Blind Foundation provides blind people with rehabilitative services so that they can lead meaningful and productive lives. From providing talking book machines to teaching a blind person to read braille, the Foundation supports local blind people with their vision loss.  

What makes you angry or upset about our community?

Attitudes towards people who are blind and partially sighted is the biggest barrier our members face. The public believing that blind people can’t do things like boil an egg leads to discrimination and prejudice that prevents our community from accessing employment.    

What needs to change in Dunedin?

Attitudes so that blind people can be employed!

What were your expectations coming into the Blind Foundation, and how have they changed?

There’s nothing like watching blind people do the things you think they can’t to open your mind to their capabilities. I’ve watched a 98 year old learn how to use an iPad.

What keeps you motivated?

Knowing that by telling blind people’s stories we can help shift attitudes about blindness and create a truly inclusive society.

What has surprised you the most during your volunteer activity/role/responsibilities?

How dedicated our staff are in believing in what blind people are capable of. I’ve never heard a rehab staff member say to a blind person  “no you can’t do that!”

How can interested students help out?

By phoning 03 466 4230 and offering to volunteer. We’re always looking for great people to help our great people!  

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

Louis Braille, the inventor of braille! I’d have to brush up on my French though!

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

Travelling to 50 countries by the time I was 50!

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

Eating Ice cream, listening to ABBA and reading some braille!

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

For my optimism. It helps me face each day with hope!

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Blind Foundation

Te Tūāpapa o Te Hunga Kāpō

P: 09 355 6891

Blindfoundation.org.nz

 

BusGO Dunedin

BusGO Dunedin

Recently, I had a fantastic time talking to Peter Dowden from Bus Go Dunedin.

Could you tell me a little about what the Bus Go Dunedin does in the local community?

Bus Go is short for Bus Users Support Group Otepoti-Dunedin and we aim to maximise people’s access to the bus service and to bring problems people have to the attention of decision makers.

What makes you angry or upset about our community?

Nothing gets up my nose more than hearing of people trapped in their suburb because of an accessibility or poverty issue preventing them from travelling.

What needs to change in Dunedin?

There has been so much achieved making Dunedin’s one of the most wheelchair-accessible bus fleets in the world, but the poor design of our streets let this effort down. Our city’s bus stops just do not match the quality of our buses.

What were your expectations coming into Bus Go Dunedin, and how have they changed?

I thought we needed to splurge money on the bus service, introduce free travel, double the number of buses and that sort of thing, but I have come to realise how much the system proscribed by central government squashes those sorts of visionary ideas. Now we concentrate on getting the existing budgets spent more fairly and efficiently. There is huge waste in the system, especially with empty seats being denied to passengers who can’t afford to travel.

What keeps you motivated?

I should explain that I have an abnormal, possibly unhealthy, interest in buses! A bus geek, if you like. If I wasn’t doing this I would be spending more time with another local club that restores old buses or do more work as a part-time driver for one of the local bus companies. But the “people” side of it keeps me most interested as I am not that mechanically minded compared to most bus enthusiasts.

What has surprised you the most during your volunteer activity/role/responsibilities?

I came into it as a greenie thinking I needed to campaign to promote bus travel to benefit the environment, but I found advocacy for social justice was what people wanted: folk came to us for help negotiating with administrators of the bus service.

How can interested students help out?

We’re keen to support bus users who find the service difficult to use. We have a plan for “Bus Buddies” – support volunteers who help people with disabilities or communication issues to use the bus service. We have plenty of potential volunteers but we need a few people with management skills to help establish the Bus Buddies scheme. It would be a great project for students of commerce, management or social work and when they had established the service they could hand it over as a running concern.
And finally, just a few fun questions:

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

Sir Brian Souter, the Scottish bus billionaire: he’s cool in a bussy sort of way but he’s also a totally bigoted ant-gay Bible-bashing nutjob, we could have some fiery arguments. He lives in a castle, so I’d be his dinner guest.

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

Ignoring my parents’ expectations and becoming a bus driver, and getting away with it.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

Well I can go a few days without buses in my other job (which is in media) but I get a bit antsy if I don’t get at least a few hours a week behind the wheel of a bus – that’s perfect week.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

When I see a bus stop that a bus can actually get into tightly alongside the kerb without hitting anything, so that passengers can easily step in or out… there are not many of those in Dunedin though.

You can get involved with Bus Go Dunedin here: https://www.facebook.com/busgodunedin/

Disposable Syringes and Drug Addiction

Disposable Syringes and Drug Addiction

This article was originally published on the SciBlogs network on 16/6/2017. It is reproduced here with permission. 

The nurse steadied my arm as she gently positioned the syringe barrel in place. “You can look away if you need to,” she said, “it will soon be over.” I squirmed in my seat, but kept my eyes fixed on the needle as it gently slid beneath my skin. I was six years old, and photographs of children suffering from measles, mumps and rubella kept me awake at night. I would toss and turn, imagining that every tickle from my flannelette sheets was the first bump of an angry measles rash. This cold, silver needle gliding into my vein represented freedom from this anxiety. It stung, and it made me feel queasy, but any childhood fear of contracting some horrifically virulent disease was alleviated.

Colin Murdoch

Disposable syringes made of plastic are commonplace today. We don’t blink twice upon seeing a hollow needle made of metal, a barrel and a plunger made of plastic. Indeed, sixteen billion of them are used the world over every year. However, it has been only 55 years since the plastic syringe was invented, replacing the glass and metal syringes that had been used since the 17th century. The plastic disposable syringe was invented by a New Zealander, the pharmacist and veterinarian Colin Albert Murdoch. Born in Christchurch on the 6th of February, 1929, the young Murdoch was a precocious and intelligent child. At the age of ten, instead of playing with mud pies, he was already mixing nitrates with sulphuric acid to make gunpowder, building himself a firearm with a wick and a small asbestos-filled hammer. Despite suffering from dyslexia, Murdoch had an avid interest in chemistry and began studying at the College of Pharmacy in Wellington. At the age of 25, he opened a pharmacy in Timaru.

Murdoch was a remarkably compassionate and thoughtful man. At the age of 13, he saved a man from drowning in the New Brighton estuary and was awarded the Royal Humane Society Medal. Murdoch’s empathy extended not only to humans, but also animals. Later in his life, Murdoch studied veterinary medicine and turned his hand at treating animals and livestock. He was well aware of the risks in reusing syringes; the glass syringes in use at the time were designed for multiple use and were sterilised each time. Infection caused by the transmission of dangerous pathogens from animal to animal or person to person still occurred, despite careful sterilisation practices. This was because crystalline antibiotic deposits on the inside walls of the syringes had made bacteria resistant. Murdoch thus set out to design the disposable hypodermic syringe, a plastic version of its glass predecessors.  According to legend, the eureka moment hit Murdoch as he was playing with his fountain pen. Perhaps all those kids playing with their fidget spinners are onto something.

Murdoch immediately presented his design to the New Zealand Department of Health, but his idea was dismissed as being too “abstruse” and “futuristic”. Development of the syringe was delayed for several years due to a lack of funding and support. Thankfully, Murdoch’s design was finally implemented, and became incredibly successful. As articulated in the book Kiwi Ingenuity – A Book of New Zealand Ideas and Inventions, published in 1993, “It is impossible to comprehend the catastrophic consequences of this situation if such practices were still occurring today. Diseases of such ultimate incurability and virulence as the HIV and AIDS virus, hepatitis A, B, C and most recently a new D form… and TB to name just a few. Instead of now having to care for, and contain, the several million infected people throughout the world who have AIDS, the numbers could well be 30 or 40 percent of the entire population.”

Colin Murdoch was a prolific inventor and went on to design many different variations of the disposable syringe, such as prepared ampoule-type moulded plastic syringe darts, disposable automatic vaccinator syringes, disposable sterile pre-filled hypodermic syringes, sterile self-filling syringes for blood samples, variable dose vaccinator syringes and wet and dry disposable syringes. Despite owning the patents to over 40 inventions, Murdoch did not profit greatly from his designs. In 1995, he told the Timaru Herald, “Patents give you the right to sue, they don’t give you the money to sue. It just costs too much.”

Clean Needle Exchanges

As well as facilitating countless vaccinations and saving the lives of diabetics the world over, the disposable syringe has also revolutionised the lives of people with drug addictions. The value of clean needle exchanges has been proven time and time again. A comprehensive 2004 study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found a “compelling case that NSPs substantially and cost effectively reduce the spread of HIV among IDUs and do so without evidence of exacerbating injecting drug use at either the individual or societal level.” At these clean needle exchanges, injecting drugs users may obtain hypodermic needles at little or no cost.

Based on the philosophy of harm reduction that attempts to reduce the risk factors for diseases such as HIV/AIDs, clean needle exchanges offer equipment free of charge, and often require service users to return used syringes to receive an equal number of new syringes. These exchanges and the disposable, single-use needles they offer, decrease the spread of HIV and hepatitis without creating new drug users. Moreover, the vast majority of clean needle exchanges aren’t just clean, clinical offices where drug users can shuffle in to pick up equipment. Instead, these programs host support clubs, HIV and STI testing, health and counselling service referrals, the provision of up-to-date information about safe injecting practices, and access to contraception and sexual health service. They can also serve as safe spaces for individuals to learn about their rights and recover their dignity.

Why Should You Volunteer?

Why Should You Volunteer?

It might seem a little counterintuitive to ask what you get out of volunteering. Maybe you picture volunteers as only selfless soup-kitchen helpers and street-corner bucket-shakers. While these are necessary and noble roles, volunteering is often more nuanced than the giver and the receiver of help.

At UniCrew, we prefer to view volunteering as a two-way exchange between the volunteer and the organisation to which they donate their time. For us, a well matched role aligns with the motivations of the volunteer because it is when they are fulfilled and driven that volunteers do their best work. Volunteer jobs make up in character and fun what your classic fast-food chain or supermarket job might lack. Unlike most student jobs, volunteering positions are diverse in nature and connect students with a range of opportunities otherwise hard to come by at university. While these jobs might pay, making time for volunteering is an enriching investment for your social life, future career and the community at large.

Dunedin: A tight-knit town: 

New and seasoned scarfies alike know one of Otago’s major draw cards is its renowned student lifestyle and culture. Work hard, play hard is scarfie gospel. Otago University, New Zealand’s truest student town is close to the areas we all live, work and socialise. The upside of the student population all being packed into our cold tin-can houses like sardines is the warmth our tight knit community. Unlike, Auckland or Wellington, where your friends might live a 45 minute bus ride away, it’s pretty likely you and your mates all live within 20 minute walk of each other and uni too. The student-ville knot helps foster Otago’s hectic, colourful student culture. However, especially if you are new to Otago, you might find that you feel a little isolated even with all these opportunities in arms reach.

Students often uproot themselves from old support networks and feel adrift, especially if moving away from home for the the first time. Newcomers aren’t the only ones who become isolated. Senior students often get comfortable with a group of core friends and forget Otago University houses plenty of fresh weirdos for them to meet. Volunteering is a way to re-shape your connections with others around care and participation. You’ll burst the student bubble, make new friends with interesting people and find the truth in claims that volunteering improves your wellbeing. The confidence you will gain from relating to others from other walks of life will come in handy in social settings and future work opportunities alike.

Your university experience gears you up for many aspects of the adult world, with employment as a focus. However, often our university courses insist on assigning individual grades but the working world will not do the same. Volunteering helps enrich degrees in ways that often university work does not. Employers favour people who can communicate, show good teamwork skills and connect well with others, all skills commonly strengthened by volunteering roles.

Benefits to volunteering:

If you find group assignments a chore, you may find volunteering a more pleasant environment to develop skills for working in a team.  Future employers will also be impressed by you having something professional to add to a CV showing you can rise to the challenge of working in a team. UniCrew can help connect you with an appropriate job that will match the area you want to master. A good volunteering position can connect you with people at different stages of their career where you can prove your skills in a low pressure environment. You might find you have references coming out your ears! For those not so sure of your career path yet, volunteering can be a good opportunity to ‘try on’ a job before committing to it further.

Community: 

If 2016 left you feeling disillusioned, make like Gandhi in 2017 and be the change you wish to see in the world.  It’s easy as a student to get a shock when you see tiny humans tottering through the Botans or are reminded in Pack n’ Save that not all humans over 25 are lecturers. Yep, the student bubble is safe and comfortable, but the adult world is diverse and staying cooped up in the student quarter will prevent you from interacting with a wide array of people. Community focus groups were a staple of the past. Now, global and individualism based communities are increasing the transience and selfishness of our culture.

Churches used to moderate people’s connection to their communities, organising cross-age connection and assistance to the needy. Now that secular views are on the rise, people are less likely to feel connected to their community. Our capitalist society encourages individualism and promotes putting work and study above relationships. However, firm psychological evidence shows that our health and wellbeing is strongly linked to the meaningful connections we make with others, and how firmly we feel attached to our community.  UniCrew facilitates connecting Students with communities in ways that allow them to use their skills, connect and gain all the benefits of mutually improved wellbeing.

Whether for you volunteering is about socialising, degree enrichment or connecting with the community or all three, it’s important to know what you want to get out of volunteering. This post only scratches the surface when it comes to reasons you may want to volunteer. There are positions for those who have lots of time to spare, and those who are busy, there are those for those who like to be centre of attention and those who want to keep to themselves, those who want to develop skills and those who want to support a specific cause. The most important thing is to work out what you want to get out of volunteering. If you’re not sure, coming in to talk to us may help. UniCrew runs drop in sessions where our trained team can help match you with an appropriate position, whatever your needs. Many people think that volunteering stops at shaking buckets, but that is only just the beginning.

If you’re game, come and talk to us, email or even Facebook us! We hope to see you around 🙂

The Dunedin Sleep Out 2016!

The Dunedin Sleep Out 2016!

YOU CAN STILL DONATE TO THE CAMPAIGN!  DO IT NOWW!!

Last Friday, the UniCrew team helped organise a fantastic event: The Dunedin Sleep Out 2016!

The event is a fundraiser for the Dunedin Night Shelter, a service providing emergency housing to those in need.

Sleeping out in the Octagon in the middle of a Dunedin Winter may seem like a health and safety risk, but if anything, sub-zero temperatures help make this event all the more poignant.

We are showing solidarity with those who experience homelessness, and making this often invisible issue more visible by putting it right in the middle of town!

Just as it was last year, the Sleep Out was a great success!

We were so happy to have the team from TV3 Story there to show off our event on LIVE national tv!!

IMG_3572.JPGLive from the Sleep Out: TV3 Story!

The event had a fantastic media response this year, with NewsHub, The ODT, ScoopYahoo NZ  and Dunedin TV all picking up the event this year, in addition to The Star community newspaper putting us on their front page!!
Thanks for helping us raise awareness of this crucial issue!

The event opened with speeches from both Dunedin North MP David Clark, and Dunedin South MP Clare Curran. The wonderful chairman of the Night Shelter Trust Dave Brown also addressed the crowd, thanking the students and organising team for their efforts (we love you too Dave!).

IMG_3581Dave Brown, Chairman of the Night Shelter Trust

The event was well attended this year, and featured a huge number of talented performers to keep the crowd entertained. A huge thank you to all of the following:

Julion Wright
the INTERSECTIONists
The Acoustic Paintings
Otago Dance Association
Zumba with Tammy
Abby Wolfe
James Dignan – music, poetry, art
Simon Kingsley-Holmes
Annie Hayes
Wyeth Chalmers
Andrew Mekhail

IMG_3585.JPGOtago Dance crew lighting up the Octagon stage

This event also would not happen without the support of a HUGE number of businesses, sponsors, community groups and just general good sorts, so thank you all!

Plus I have one more thank you: The wonderful team at UniCrew for all their efforts putting this event together!

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Not all of you are pictured here so I’m going to pick on you all:

Sze-En + Sarah + Dave: For their overall amazingness and organisation of the chaos!
Briar: For the amazing soup and team organisation!
Kelsey: For the awesome health and safety plan and general excellence!
Fred: For the musician cajoling and technical/audio genius!
Lucy/Craig: For the stunning photos/video and your overall help!
Abigail: For the fundraising brilliance, and your constant good vibes!
Damon: For the man-in-a-box and your cardboard-wall skills!
Geena: For your marketing brain and helpful assistance!
Susie: For your fizzing attitude and hype skills!
Angus: For the heavy lifting and helpfulness!
Finn/Anastasia/Alyson: For the injection of energy and helping hands!

+ Our security peeps: Timothy and Luke = Legends!

The people behind this Sleep Out worked so so hard to bring this event to life! They all deserve some thank yous, so give them a mental round of applause!

Here are some more images of the amazing night, and thank you to all our participants!!

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UniCrew Visits: The United Nations

UniCrew Visits: The United Nations

Welcome back to the latest instalment of the UniCrew Visits, where we tell the stories of cool people going to cool places.

This week I sat down with Briar from the UniCrew Exec to chat about her experience at the Harvard National Model United Nations 2016 and discuss the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, and how they relate to UniCrew!

Jessie: Hello, hello, this is a bit weird eh.

Briar: Just a bit (laughs).

J: We pretty much just had this conversation and now we are going through it all again cause I didn’t record it (fail).
Anyways, tell me a little bit about the trip.

B: Basically, I was fortunate to be able to attend the Harvard Model UN in late January, early February. This is a conference with loads of students from all around the world coming together to learn more about the United Nations, and represent a given country as part of the model UN. The NZ delegates represented Norway, so we got to attend model committee meetings for the committees which Norway is actually on.

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J: You mentioned that you got to meet Helen Clark?

B: We got to ask her heaps about her role as head of the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), and she is just an amazing person to talk to in terms of the breadth of her knowledge.

J: She has an amazing background at this point eh?

B: Definitely, and it shows in the way she can approach situations, she is so pragmatic and neutral with her response to different issues. Its very inspiring.

J: So are you Team Helen all the way then? (Helen Clark is currently in the running to become the United Nations Secretary General)

B: Oh yeah, #helenforUNSG!

J: #helen4life (laughs).
So that was one of the highlights, you also mentioned that you got to do a lot of travelling around the United States during this trip, can you tell us a bit about that?

B: We started in San Francisco, and we biked to the Golden Gate Bridge, went to China Town. We walked the United Nations walkway, which is to signify where the United Nations Charter was signed. On the ground as you walk along is the pre-amble to the first Charter of the United Nations, so our group all walked along in the pouring rain, reading the ground like the political nerds that we are.

We then went to Washington DC, which is essentially the political capital of the United States. We went to Capitol Hill, got to see the Supreme Court, which as a law student was pretty cool. I wished we could have seen the notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsberg, one of the few female Supreme Court Justices). 

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J: It all sounds amazing, so jelly.

B: OH, we went to the White House as well-

J: I can’t believe you forgot a trip to the White House, just casually

B: Actually, while we were there, the Secret Service kind of came out of nowhere and ushered us all back.

J: Ooooo..

B: We figured out that the Columbian Ambassador was leaving, so they were letting him leave. But I loved how there was a Secret Service guy on a bicycle.

J: That’s great HA,

B: He would kind of just pull up, oh and there was also a squirrel.

J: (Laughing) So the key part of the White House, Secret Service guy on a bike, and SQUIRRELS.

B: (Also laughing) Pretty much yep. Anyways from Washington we were onto Boston, where the actual conference was being held. Representing Norway, we had prepared to speak at our committee on two different topics, but only one would be selected, which was the rights of female prisoners.

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The next four days were just more committee meetings, following that was another two days where we needed to go out to another area, and it was a -18 degree snow day. I was in open toed heels –

J: NO, oh dear,

B: Yeah, oops. We did also visit Harvard whilst there, which was awesome, and ate in the law school cafeteria, which again was awesome for me as a law student.

J: Setting your sights, love it!

B: From Boston, we went to New York –

J: (fake cries) so jealous!

B: So cool, jamming to Empire State of Mind, New York New York on the train there. Highlights were of course visiting the UN Headquarters, going to see 2 Broadway Shows, went to an NBA game. We spent the longest in New York, and it wasn’t nearly long enough.

J: Urgh, I am DYING to go there –

B: Everyone should go there, I can’t wait to go back eventually.

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So then we went onto Hawaii, and just relaxed for the end of our trip!

J: Nice, urgh take me with you.

But anyways, so the main reason we are talking about this trip, is because at UniCrew we are trying to incorporate the United Nations Global Goals into a lot of what we do. So can you tell us a little bit about those?

B: So the Global Goals for Sustainable Development replace the Millennium Development Goals which ended in 2015.

The Global Goals expand and build on the work of those original goals. The way they are laid out (as 17 goals relating to different areas of sustainable development) makes it easy for people to identify goals and work towards them.

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So at UniCrew, we are trying to identify what different goals relate to different volunteering opportunities, so like for example if someone is trying to end poverty, we can say hey-

J: Like here’s this organisation which is also passionate about ending poverty, and they have this role that would be great for you.

B: Exactly. One of the goals that I really like –

J: That was my next question, you are one step ahead of me haha,

B: Ha, I like them all, but one in particular is goal #11, Sustainable Cities and Communities.

J: Why do you identify with that goal then?

B: I really like the idea that the international community has recognised the importance of the community unit. And it feeds off a lot of the other goals as well –

J: Right, cause some are quite specific, and others are more broad.

B: Exactly, you’ve got things like zero hunger for example,

J: Which encompasses a lot of things,

B: And I like the idea of working with smaller units like a community, to achieve some of the bigger goals like that.

J: Awesome.

 

The Global Goals are becoming a big part of our work at UniCrew. We are excited to keep using the #globalgoals to make volunteering opportunities meaningful and accessible for everyone!

Right now you can apply for funding as part of Operation Global Goals, to get your community project funded! If you are a student club or group what are you waiting for? Apply here!

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Love Another Mother

Love Another Mother

This Mothers Day, UniCrew Volunteers was pumped to team up with the students from Te Rōpū Pūtaiao (Maori Science Students Association) to run the Love Another Mother campaign.

Love Another Mother is a response to the increasing number of women left in vulnerable circumstances in our community. While help is being given, we know that not enough donations are being made specifically for women. This lead to the founding of ‘Love Another Mother’.

The mission was to make up 100 ‘care packages’ for women and to donate them to the Dunedin Women’s Refuge in time for Mothers Day (Sunday 8 May). With $1000 of funds donated and a whopping load of physical donations (pads, tampons, lip balms, soaps, shampoos, deodorants, razors, creams), there will be SO MANY CARE PACKAGES. The response from University of Otago students and staff has been amazing!

Love Another Mother has touched more than a few hearts. A cheeky couple of mums and grandmothers of the girls from TRP nominated the campaign to be covered by Seven  Sharp. Keep an eye out on the tele this Thursday!

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Continue reading “Love Another Mother”