Students have been one of the most neglected groups during the pandemic, given little support and resources to carry out a year of online learning. Many have struggled with the same workload as previous years, but without being able to access in-person support. As a result, mental health and wellbeing issues have been at an all-time high throughout the pandemic.
In response, I was able to run for a full-time officer role within the university for the position of Welfare Officer. There was certainly a lot to discuss within the campaign for this role: students have had a difficult time this year, with very little social interaction and an experience that bears no resemblance to a typical year at university. In running for this position, I was able to set up campaign policies that mirrored the experience of students during the pandemic, with a particular focus on increasing support for the mental health and wellbeing of students.
A key reason I chose to run for this position was that it was a full-time role that would essentially be committed to the welfare of others. As Christians, our day-to-day lives should include some form of commitment to others, and to those around us who are in need. Galatians 6:2 says 'Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ'. The gospel calls us to love others before ourselves and to ensure their well-being is at the heart of our decision-making.
Through running this campaign, I have been able to listen to students who have been struggling with their time at university this year. I believe God cares for each and every one of them, and campaigning for the welfare of students was a key way that I could display this, and put it into action.
The Bible also reminds us that we are advocates for Christ: that everything we do is on display for others to see Christ in us. This means we should aim to use everything we have, including our time, our conversations, our career, and our future, to glorify Him and be a witness to His love and care for the people around us. For me, taking the next step after my time at university to run for this position was a way to be an advocate for Christ and a witness to other students.
I started campaigning a number of weeks before the election to give students enough time to become familiar with my policies and decide if they wanted to vote for me. This left about three, full weeks of interacting with students in the form of answering questions and addressing misunderstandings students may have had concerning my policies.
In-person campaigning was banned to guarantee every candidate had an equal chance of winning despite being in different places across the country due to lockdown restrictions. Therefore, most of the campaign was done through social media posts. I also used the student life page to interact with students and persuade them to vote for me.
It was important to engage with the concerns of students and ensure my campaign brought the struggles they face to the attention of the university. One key policy area that I was able to address was the poor communication and support offered to students throughout their studies.
Students have been required to produce the same level of work, whilst being under immense pressure and with decreased levels of teaching support. Through interacting with others during the campaign, it was evident that across the board students from different subject areas experienced similar issues.
Running a social media campaign required a lot of time and organisation, especially given I was also writing a dissertation and completing essays myself. The period before the election really stretched my ability to organise myself well.
However, throughout this campaign, I was able to rest in God. When times got very stressful, and I was required to interact with lots of students, I was able to pray for wisdom in my answers and conversations. Being a student, not only was I dealing with the pressure to complete my work on time to a high standard I was now also spending my time taking on the concerns of others.
Although there were moments of stress, and doubts that I would be able to uphold both of these responsibilities, I was able to lean on God and find peace in his presence during a stressful time. A key Bible verse that reminds me of God’s presence during moments of stress is Philippians 4:13: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’.
While our struggles today may be incomparable to Paul being imprisoned in Rome, we are still able to hold on to the comfort of Christ being in control. Whether the outcome is good or bad, we know that it is in His hands when it is for His glory.
Campaigns are often stressful, but the Bible reminds us that the burden of a great workload doesn’t have to sit on our shoulders, but instead, we can receive the peace of Christ throughout everything we do. Jesus says in John 14:27 ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you… Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’.
Large-scale interactions trying to get to know lots of people can seem incredibly challenging and can lead to the common fear of messing up, but when we turn to Jesus, He allows us to come to him with our fears and worries and does the great work of replacing them with peace.
To finalise, the university experience of many students during the pandemic has been incredibly difficult, students have really struggled with both mental and physical health, and some haven't had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the community.
I would like to ask for prayer for the Keele student community where the campus is very isolated from the town, and overall prayer for students who have struggled as a result of the pandemic and may be feeling alone. Thank you so much.