UCD Equality Diversity and Inclusion Blog "Inclusion Never Stops"

UCD EDI are launching a new EDI Blog "Inclusion Never Stops" to keep colleagues engaged and connected whilst working remotely during the period of Covid-19. Scroll down to see our entries to date, including tips on mental wellbeing, our colleagues' perspective on working on the front line and on working from home with children, and much more.

We welcome all types of entries from all our colleagues with an inclusion and diversity theme. Some entries may relate to Covid-19 and our current situation - for instance you may wish to describe the "new normal" during Covid-19 and the activities you are engaging in to mind your mental health and wellbeing. Alternatively, you may wish to celebrate a diversity day in the EDI calendar with a thought, observation or poem.

Please note: the views and opinions expressed in EDI blog entries below are those of the contributors and do not represent the views of UCD or UCD Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

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Ideas for blog entries include:

  • Your experience as an international UCD employee
  • A new recipe from a cuisine common in a different continent that you've tried out
  • Tips to overcome the challenge of working from home while balancing caring responsibilities
  • A favourite book or poem you'd like to recommend that reminds you of inclusiveness or belonging
  • Tips on minding your mental health and wellbeing during Covid-19
  • What is the "new normal" for you? What is a day in the life at work during Covid-19?

We would like to hear them all so please get in touch.

How to Submit an Entry

Submitting an entry is easy. See guidelines below and submit your entry via email to edi@ucd.ie.

  • Entries should be 100-400 words
  • Photographs can be attached as long as people's faces are not visible, due to GDPR
  • Entries can be anonymous or named, depending on your wishes
  • Entries will be published weekly on this webpage and shared on the Cutlure & Engagement e-zine and EDI Twitter page
  • Entries should ideally have an equality & diversity related theme

 

 

EDI Blog Entries #30: Unseen effects... Caring is never wasted effort...

I got an email this week from a student who had just completed one of my modules. Reading it made me feel relieved, happy, and thankful, but not because the student had mastered project management - that wasn’t in any way the most important thing here.

Here’s the email:

I just wanted to leave you a quick personal thank you for the personal journey that your module has brought me on this semester. Apart from the academic learning, I really felt this module has been amazing for my outlook in the world, my self-belief and my mental health.
Since taking your class I have begun reading more, looking after myself physically and mentally and am now beginning work with a therapist in the coming weeks to help me further and deal with some issues I have been having. No doubt for the rest of my career and life, I will look back to you and your class as a key milestone along my life journey.

In normal circumstances, I'd love to buy you a pint and spin a few yarns but this will have to do for now! Many thanks again Joe, you really have had a positive influence on my life and my trajectory which will not be forgotten. If you ever need anything in return or favour in the future, you know where to find me.

I stopped using the term lecturer a good while ago, and now when asked what I do I describe myself as an educator. And as an educator, I firmly believe that my primary goal is to help those who I have a chance to work with for a while the chance to grow, develop and explore new ways of being. We couch these journeys in module descriptors, assessment criteria, and subject definitions, and yes, the knowledge gained in these areas has value. But the real, deep, intrinsic value of the teacher/student relationship goes far deeper than this.

Another educator I admire is Dr Lollie Mancey. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Lollie for my Plus One podcast (the episode is available here ), and she had a wonderful description of the outcome from her programme in creative entrepreneurship - “the students … come out with a different version of themselves - more confident…

I often open up my courses by saying that “… my job is to re-wire your head. If you are thinking and processing situations the same at the end of this programme as now, I will have failed.” The students look at me blankly, not really “getting” it - then. But it’s amazing how many of them bring that phrase back up months or even years later in the conversation, as they look back over the transformative nature of their educational journey. It stuck with them, and after the fact, they have connected those dots - their brains have been re-wired and they know it.

I’m sometimes flummoxed when talking with other “academic” colleagues - not many, but some - who proclaim that they are not there to offer pastoral care to their students, that they don’t have time to be dealing with “all that stuff”. I feel that this approach loses sight of what is actually really important - far more than any specific discipline-related knowledge. Our primary task is the need to see each other as people, with hopes, fears, challenges, and insecurities. And education is a place where such insecurities are often surfaced, opened up in a crucible of public challenge, competition, and measurement. If we are not careful, the aim of positive development and transformation can very easily be turned into a toxic scenario of self-doubt, feelings of not being “good enough”, and spiral down into outcomes far less positive than the ones we seek to accomplish.

In the past year, our students and educators have all been put under hitherto never before experienced levels of change, stress, and challenge.

Never before has it been so critical for educators to share, openly, that “it’s OK NOT to be OK”.

Never before have we as educators needed to give our students the time, and safe spaces to express their feelings of challenge, insecurity, and doubt.

Never before has it been so important for educators to be flexible in delivery, expectations, and assessment as everyone weathers this global pandemic storm which has negatively affected so many lives, families, communities, and societies.

But if we do empathize, reach out, and care, then it will have an effect. And if just one of my classes has a positive effect on a student’s self-belief, mental health, and outlook on life, then I consider my job has been done, whatever grades they get…

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this - please leave a comment here

Thanks for reading this far - do have a look at my summer 2021 project at the Plus One project website, and hopefully give the podcast a listen- there are already some great episodes with more to come on a weekly basis.

The Plus One Project

My new Plus One Podcast

 

Joe Houghton

Asst. Professor & Director, MSc Project Management programmes, UCD Smurfit Graduate School of Business

 

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EDI Blog Entries #29: Focus on Your Dreams

The pandemic stopped us all in our tracks and has been a difficult experience for many who have suffered terrible losses and grief. You might now find yourself at a crossroads? You might have evaluated your life over the last year, and discovered there is more to life than you realized was possible before the pandemic? You may now be seeking to access more purpose and meaning from life, than the routine we accepted pre-Covid, which prioritized hustle, and overly busy lifestyles. You may now wish to explore new ways of being, but you don’t know where to start? Never before have we had such an opportunity to step back, press the pause button, and envisage possibilities for doing things a little differently, and living life in the moment, at a slower pace.

I certainly have experienced this longing for greater purpose, throughout this time and long before it. I always seek to discover new ways of being creative to keep my dreams and aspirations close to my heart, so I don’t lose sight of what is important to me. So, focus on your dreams, feel the feelings of gratitude, appreciation, and fulfillment ahead of time, manifest your dreams in advance, and make them happen for you!

So, what holds us back?

Many aspects of our lives can hold us back. Some decisions that we made may no longer serve us, and we may desire more meaning from life. It helps me to believe that wherever you are in your life, and whatever decisions you have made in the past, trust that these were the right decisions at that time, and this is where you are meant to be right now. Once we realise that life is happening for us, rather than to us, we can shift into the energy of manifestation. The now is your starting point. Poor self-esteem, fear, anxiety, or lack of confidence can hold us back from manifesting our dreams and dreaming big. Whatever aspect of your life you wish to change, you can apply some creative tools to explore your feelings about the situation. It might be worth engaging with and investing in life coaching to develop the inner resources, and wisdom to construct this better, and more authentic version of yourself. You might wish to seek support from a counsellor/psychotherapist who will work with you on unresolved challenges, e.g., lose, fear, relationship difficulties, stress/anxiety etc. UCD offer many well-being supports to staff.

For further information on these supports please click here.

You will know which support you may need to engage with to start your journey of growth and discovery. Just know that if you are thinking of making changes, and feel it strongly in your heart that change is required, but you also feel paralyzed by the fear of the unknown and maybe the feeling that ‘I don’t deserve to be happy, loved, etc.’ Try to make small steps, seek help from friends/family or a qualified counsellor/ psychotherapist. Remember that You do deserve to be happy, and to fully living the life where you can authentically live your values, while accessing your true meaning and contribution to society.

Be open to finding new ways of being creative. You might already be motivated and on a journey to manifesting your dreams? if so, that is wonderful, continue on that journey, as there are so many pathways and avenues that will open right in front of you, as you embrace the change.

Here are a few reliable tools and techniques that I use in maintaining a focus on my dreams:

Morning Pages Journal

A good way to start exploring your emotions and thoughts is to try the Morning Pages Journal, (Cameron, 2016). This is a simple and effective tool used by many to boost creative thinking, and to process feelings and thoughts. Journaling is a reflective writing exercise, which stimulates your creativity, and is also very beneficial for processing emotions and unhelpful thoughts, in order to become more emotionally healthy. When you read back on a piece of reflective writing, it can answer some questions that you may not have been able to process at the time. For example, it might allow you to see what you learned from a situation? What would you do differently the next time? It may highlight necessary changes that you need to make in life. It can help you process how these changes can be implemented, supported, and truly lived. Purchase a writing journal and dedicate to your morning pages, and begin writing your thoughts, feelings, aspirations, and emotions.

  • Try not to censor your writing. Just BE! Your writing may be fragmented, self-pitying, repetitive, childish, angry, sad, trying to be happy, silly, etc. Just let your hand glide across the page or your fingers across the keyboard and keep on going. Don’t think about sentence structures or spellings in this exercise. You are in a creative process!
  • Ask for answers in the evening and listen to you answers in the morning, through your writing. List areas where you need guidance before you go to sleep. Write on these topics the following day. In the morning you may find yourself being able to see what you were not able to see the night before. Be open to all that comes out of the writing process.
  • If you don’t know what to write, and nothing comes to mind, that is where you start – write just that! Let the pen guide you. All you need to do is spend 10 minutes each morning for 1 week and see where your pages go. You can spend more time as the pen takes hold of your mind. If you can, allow yourself to draw, doodle or sketch during the writing process. Engaging in this process early in the morning can be a good energizer. If the thoughts/feelings are negative in the morning, write about that, allow that time to be negative and let the negativity go and be released.
  • If you have a difficult situation, perhaps a relationship difficulty or challenging work situation write about your feelings in this situation, and see if it helps you to process, and release what is going on.
  • If you are using the exercise as a means of Letting Go of a particular situation, you could do a ritual where you write the piece and tear it up/burn it afterwards. Notice that with letting go of situations, your energy will also change and try to tune into this awareness.

I would highly recommend reading and participating in the 12-week creative programme outlined in The Artist’s Way (Cameron, 2016). If you are at a stage where you want more from life, but feel stuck, this delightful book can help discover who you are, and who you want to be. You might even find a meetup group (https://www.meetup.com/) in your area with a host who will facilitate and guide a group of participants through the programme. I followed the 12-week course and also participated in a group to share learning and seek encouragement from others. It was a such a great investment and motivated me to do further training. 

Dreams/Visions Board

What are your dreams/aspirations?

Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years from now?

Some of us have difficulty focusing our minds on our dreams. We don’t give it time, perhaps now is the time to try and see how you envision your life in 5 or 10 years from now. A Dreams Board is a handy tool to keep sight of your dreams. I purchased a lightweight cork board several years ago (60cms x 45cms) and continue to post images, photographs, words, and phrases on it. It contains images of places I dream of going to, 5-year and 10-year plans, pictures of exercises/activities, spiritual aspects of my life, etc. A Dreams Board can help you see pictures representing your many dreams/plans, your dreams will be witnessed by you regularly, and they can also play a part in your dreams at night. It can include sketches, pictures, words, drawings etc. that present your dreams around relationships, family, animals/pets, work, travel, study, home, and include all the physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological aspects of You. Keep your board close so that before you go to bed at night, or when you get up in the morning, you can see how close you are to manifesting your dreams. Review what is on the board periodically, some may need to be revised/new images added. It can give your life focus and you have control over it.

Spend time looking at your board, use your imagination and go into some of the images on the board. If you have a destination on the board, e.g., a picture of the Taj Mahal, see yourself at the Taj Mahal and try and explore what it would be like to be there? What would the atmosphere be like? Who is with you? What time of year is it? Is it am/pm? How do you feel? What are the different smells, the sounds, sights, feelings, and the energy of the place? Capture those feelings and you can combine the Dreams Board with your Morning Pages Journal. The more you engage in the process, the more you are closer to manifesting your dreams.

Other Creative Tools

  • Be mindful – practice meditation and mindfulness.
  • Seek out opportunities to be grateful everyday by practicing an attitude of gratitude.
  • Feel abundance in all aspects of your life.
  • Find ways of releasing your emotions creatively through music, reading, poetry, drama, drawing/sketching, writing, dance, sports activities, and cooking/sewing etc.). There are so many ways to feed your creative spirit.
  • Invest time in seeking help from a counsellor/psychotherapist if you need to work through difficult issues from your past.
  • Consider partnering with a life coach, if you have mainly resolved any issues from your past, and you are more focused on becoming high performing, and setting concrete goals for the future.
  • Use affirmations – if affirmations help to set up your day, keep a short list of them at the side of your mirror or somewhere visible and easily accessible.
  • Be gentle and compassionate with yourself during difficult times. Keep at your own pace and avoid comparing your life to others. Ask yourself, does it help to compare?
  • Allow yourself to practice self-love. Talk to yourself as you would a loving child or dear friend.
  • Practice daily gestures of kindness towards family and friends.  
  • Smile at and say hello to at least one person that you meet during the day.
  • Sit for 5 minutes each day, visualise all that you wish for in your life, and see them become alive in your imagination.
  • There are many tools out there for managing and coping with stress. The one reliable tool that helps me endlessly is to breathe and know that whatever is causing the stress will pass in time.  
    • Tip: Place a few small sticky-coloured dots in locations in your home (on a mirror, fridge, cupboard/wardrobe). The association with the dots once you see it, is to take a deep breathe if you feel stressed/anxious. Only you need to know what these dots represent. Every now and then when I spot one of them, it makes me pause as I make the association with it. Try it out, it is easy, and you would be surprised by the effect of a little red/yellow dot.
  • Maintain physical exercise daily. Take a walk, jog, or run at lunchtime to take a conscious break away from work. While you are exercising you can listen to songs, podcasts or meditations related to improving your mental and emotional health. There are so many free resources to access to help us on our personal and emotional development journey.
  • At night, our thoughts can grab hold of us, and the fear monster can take over resulting in anxiety and sleeping difficulties. At bedtime, scan through your day and feel grateful for getting through the day, and for all its formative experiences. If it was a bad day, try to find a blessing in all of it. If you start to become more aware of seeing the good, it will shift your energy and you will start to look more for the good.
  • GO DREAM BIG…

Anne Hallinan, School Manager, School of Music (Mental Health First Aid Peer)

EDI Blog Entries #28: Tips for working from home while balancing caring responsibilities

Caring for a parent with dementia at home can be very rewarding. Having them stay at home, in the home and community that they have built up for themselves, creates comfort and stability for them. They also get to regain a sense of independence.

Unfortunately for many, the pandemic has prevented them from visiting loved ones in nursing homes.  Working from home provides choice, your parent can remain with you for as long as is possible, you can maintain a relationship and support them throughout their journey. Working from home has allowed me to be very successful at my job and to provide a caring environment for my mother.

Here is my journey… My mother is now 90yrs old (9 March 2021). The whole neighbourhood came to celebrate her birthday. It was an amazing sight, people arrived wearing masks armed with flowers and gifts. Mother was always a generous fun-loving, free spirited woman. She was very creative and picked up arts and crafts very easily. She values her independence and loves to live in her little house. I lived with her for some years before the pandemic. I would make her breakfast, light the fire and go to work.

 When I began working from home, March 2020, I was initially confused and frustrated. I did not understand why my mother was changing so much. Hospital tests told us she is now in the early-mid stages of Alzheimer’s Dementia. This was a shock. We had a burglary at our home in July 2020. I received a broken wrist. As a result, I turned to the Employee Assistance Service. This was so helpful; not only did I deal with my concerns about being burgled again but I got to discuss the wider issues about my role as a carer, and how to manage my work/carer routine.

I then enrolled in an online course with Alzheimers Ireland: Home based care – home based education. This course is aimed at supporting carers who are looking after a member of their own family who has been diagnosed with dementia. I have enrolled for a second course, dealing with later stages of Dementia. The course taught me a lot and provided so much support.

 Tips I have learnt:

  • Take care of yourself. You will be a better carer if you take care or your physical and mental health
  • Reach out to the many different supports/groups/societies
  • Educate yourself. Understand your loved one’s type of dementia.
  • Understand your loved one. What they like to eat and do nowadays.
  • Think “safety first”
  • Be prepared. Be flexible. There will be days when they cannot make decisions. You will have to do this for them
  • Communication is approximately 55% Visual, 38% Vocal, and 7% Verbal, so watch the tone of your voice
  • People with dementia can be sensitive to emotions, so keep everything calm
  • As the short term memory goes they rely on long term memories. Be aware of triggers to good and painful events/traumas
  • Increase your positivity. I do tango, meditation and Feldenkrais. (https://relaxation-guru.com/).
  • Create routines that work for you and your loved one. (My mother likes to watch programmes on YouTube while I work on my laptop)
  • Write out your daily schedule. It always looks much better when it is written down.
  • Tell yourself that you are doing your best, and that you are doing a good job.

I feel very lucky that I can successfully work from home. I am grateful to have this time with my mother, and to be with her for as long as I can. My mother is not demanding and is easy to manage. I receive support from the HomeInstead Agency and my brother. Life is good.

Dr. Mary Bushe, Assessment & Logistics Officer, UCD Registry - Assessment  (Mental Health First Aid Peer)

EDI Blog Entries #27: Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at UCD Library

UCD Library is a hub on campus where all members of the UCD Community, from undergraduates to alumni, researchers and staff, interact with our services. The Library takes its commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion very seriously, as recognised by our vision of providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for learning, collaboration, knowledge creation and community and our values of treating all with dignity and respect and with consistency and impartiality, assuring equity of access to services and facilities.

As librarians we have chosen to highlight just a few titles available through the Library which can support members of the UCD community on their own journeys to awareness and understanding of equality, diversity and inclusion issues. We particularly want to focus in this blog post on titles that give voice to individuals from a variety of communities. 

The James Joyce Library opened its door in 1973 at the heart of the relatively new Belfield campus and all five branches of UCD Library remain at the heart of the University to this day. The Library is more than just a collection of books -  we aim to inspire engagement and learning, while connecting people and ideas. While we realise that reading primary source materials, books and journal articles alone will not change the world, as librarians these are the tools most familiar and accessible to us. Because of the current pandemic and limited access to our physical collections we have chosen to also focus on resources that can be accessed online.

 

Bécares L, Kapadia D, Nazroo J. ‘Neglect of older ethnic minority people in UK research and policy,’ BMJ 2020, 368 doi:https://doi-org.ucd.idm.oclc.org/10.1136/bmj.m212

This editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ)’s special issue on racism in medicine discusses how “exclusion from population studies is a form of institutional racism”. It identifies the fact that members of ethnic minority communities aged over 65 are disproportionately under-represented in surveys such as the UK Household Longitudinal Study, leading to insufficient data to understand ethnic health inequalities for this group. This is a timely reminder that invisibility in the data is a form of discrimination.

Burch, S. & Rembis, M. (2014) Disability histories. University of Illinois Press. ProQuest Ebook Central: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucd/detail.action?docID=3414453 

This is an edited anthology collecting nineteen articles by leading experts on disability studies. It adopts an intersectional approach to exploring the lives of disabled people in various countries and historical periods, making their voices heard and their contributions to society visible and exploring the changing definitions of disability. The writing is engaging and accessible, and the use of primary sources such as letters, diaries, and legal documents make the circumstances of the individuals included in the studies and their families come alive.

Dabiri, E. (2019). Don't touch my hair. Allen Lane.

Emma Dabiri combines her personal experience of growing up mixed-race in Ireland with the history, politics and culture of Black hair. While Dabiri’s debut book is available only in hard copy in UCD Library, the Journal of African Cultural Studies (Volume 33, Issue 1) features a roundtable on Don't Touch My Hair in the form of a series of reviews of and a response to the book. 

Douglass, F. (2014) Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass : An American Slave. Minneapolis: Lerner Publishing Group, . [Original work published 1845].Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucd/detail.action?docID=5446283

Frederick Douglass (ca. 1817-1895) was an American abolitionist, writer, newspaper editor and statesman, born a slave in a Maryland plantation. His first autobiographical narrative is a harrowing account of conditions in slave plantations in 19th century America and the corrupting effects of absolute power over other human beings. Between 1845 and 1847 Douglass went on a lecture tour of Ireland, Scotland and England, which had a lasting impact on his life, documented in Tom Chaffin’s Giant's Causeway: Frederick Douglass's Irish odyssey and the making of an American visionary. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucd/detail.action?docID=3444188

 

Eddo-Lodge, R. (2017) Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race, Bloomsbury. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/UCD/detail.action?docID=5246807.

Through her book Reni Eddo-Lodge explores the structural and institutional racism that exists in Britain and across the globe and challenges White readers to recognise that racism is a White problem. 

Gale Archives of Sexuality and Gender 

This title is a collection of digitised archives from LGBT+ communities in North America and the U.K., documenting many aspects of the history of LGBT+ activism. There are personal diaries, newsletters, posters, photographs, oral histories, government reports, and much more. The material is at times very moving, challenging  and always enlightening. The archives cover a vast array of topics, from the AIDS crisis to the FBI’s surveillance of the LGBT+ community.

Guyan, K. (2021) ‘Constructing a queer population? Asking about sexual orientation in Scotland’s 2022 census,’ Journal of Gender Studies, DOI: 10.1080/09589236.2020.1866513

For the first time, Scotland’s 2022 census will ask a question about sexual orientation. This article critically examines decisions made about the design of the question and considers the work done by various groups involved in the process.

O’Toole, B., Joseph, E., & Nyaluke, D. (Eds.). (2019). Challenging Perceptions of Africa in Schools: Critical Approaches to Global Justice Education (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi-org.ucd.idm.oclc.org/10.4324/9780429467127

This book  explores  ways of changing negative stereotypes of Africa via changes in educational practices at all levels. Two of the book’s co-editors and several of the contributors are UCD authors, and each chapter introduces new understandings about Africa using a global justice education lens.

Saad, L. F. (2020). Me and white supremacy : Combat racism, change the world, and become a good ancestorhttps://ebookcentral.proquest.com

In this book the author leads the reader through ‘the work’ of exploring their relationship with white supremacy and unpacking their biases in relation to anti-Blackness, racial stereotypes, and cultural appropriation.

 

Wong, W. & Hamamoto, D. (2001) Yellow journalist: Dispatches from Asian America. Temple University Press, Mapping Racism Series. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucd/detail.action?docID=534278

In this collection of newspaper columns and other writings exploring the Asian American experience, William Wong writes as an insider with warmth, humour and poignancy about language barriers, cultural misunderstandings, anti-Asian racism and a multitude of identity issues faced by Asian communities. Although Wong’s stories are U.S.-centred, the experiences he narrates are relevant to many other multi-cultural societies across the world.

Not all of the resources that we wanted to include here are available online, so below are some physical books available to borrow from UCD Library. Alternatively check your local library (www.librariesireland.ie), who may have audio or ebook versions available to borrow.

  • Adichie, C. N. (2015). We should all be feminists. Anchor Books.
  • Criado-Perez, C. (2019). Invisible women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men. Vintage Digital.
  • DiAngelo, R. J. (2019). White fragility: Why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism. Allen Lane.
  • Evaristo, B. (2019). Girl, woman, other. Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Books.
  • Heneghan, J. (. t., Moriarty, M., & O ́hAodha, M. (2012). Travellers and the settled community: A shared future. Liffey Press.
  • Joyce, N., & Farmar, A. (2000). My life on the road: An autobiography ([New]. ed.). A. & A. Farmer.
  • Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an antiracist. The Bodley Head.
  • Kendi, I. X. (2017). Stamped from the beginning: The definitive history of racist ideas in America. The Bodley Head.
  • Obama, M. (2018). Becoming. Viking, an imprint of Penguin Books.
  • Oluo, I. (2018). So you want to talk about race. Seal Press.
  • Sissay, L. (2019). My name is why. Canongate.

If you can think of any other books and resources that we could add to this list please get in touch and we may do a follow up post.

Dr Marta Bustillo, College Liaison Librarian, UCD Library

Dr Marta Bustillo is Liaison Librarian for the College of Social Science and Law and represents UCD Library as a member of the university’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee.

Jenny O’Neill, Data Manager, Research Services Unit, UCD Library

Jenny O'Neill

 

EDI Blog Entries #26: Ramadan - The fasting month

It starts with the moon sighting in the evening of the 29th or the 30th of Sha’baan, the end of the month before Ramadan.  The actual physical sighting of the moon, was the only tool of marking the beginning of Ramadan before the modern era of science and technology. Where Muslim families would walk to their balconies or outside of their homes to look for the perfect shining crescent in the darkening clear sky. Cheers and shouts would fill the air as the moon is sighted marking the beginning of Ramadan, the fasting month from the next morning.

However, unlike what one might expect, the convenience of technology and a global world united by the internet, did not only make moon sighting easy, but also gave rise to the moon sighting dilemma; as various moon sighting bodies and authorities of different countries around the world try to figure out which method to follow, and confirming at different times and days; adding all the complexity and fun to the start of the month. With families now distributed all around the world, messages on whatsapp start flooding groups and chats to find out who is fasting when and whether the moon was sighted physically, or following authorities using telescopes or binoculars.  Sometimes even two cities of the same country end up marking the start of Ramadan on different days. There are memes and tweets about this, and if you know, you know how funny it can be, and with that; the start of Ramadan we millennials, mark.

 

Apart from; the uncalled funny beginning of Ramadan of the modern era, the root of this month serves as a month of reflection, compassion and empathy for Muslims.  Ramadan is the 9th month of the 12-Month Islamic Lunar Calendar. Muslims observe this month through fasting from dawn to dusk, Prayers, and service to humanity; which lasts 29-30 days depending on the next moon sighting (with the moon fighting again); ending with the celebration of Eid.

Growing up in Malaysia, a tropical country, fasting of 12-13 hours wasn’t a big challenge, I would wake up before dawn at 5:00am, for Suhoor/Sehri (The breakfast of Ramadan before dawn) to eat something to fill me up for the day. Ideally something whole and slow energy releasing food to take the body without food or water (Yes, that’s right, Not even water!) till dusk around 7:00pm, making up a 12-13 hours of fasting everyday for a month. My challenge was rather; waking up that early and eating something filling at that odd hour, in race with time before the, Azan (the call of the first prayer of the day) is made marking the start of the fast. The Azan for prayers would be in nearby mosques, live and loud on speakers covering a large area, that everyone could hear easily in their homes.

Suhoor/Sehri Meals

Traffic would be different in this month as routines of most would change, with some going to and back from work earlier. Life at work would naturally take a relaxed and easy approach as everyone would be fasting and quiet. Restaurants and cafeteria; closed during the day to open in the evening; so there was less temptations around, less stress and everyone could focus on fasting and reflection and make it easy to just get on with one day at a time. Some would even take their annual leaves in this month to spend it with family and observing the month in its due purpose.

In the evening, the kitchen of every home would become busy in preparations of the ‘Breaking the fast meal’ known as Iftar. Which would comprise of anything of dinner menu or some very special Iftar menu items unique to different cultures such as, soups, samosas, savory snacks, dumplings, Pakoras, Fruit platters, Lassis (Milkshakes), juices and not to forget the most important item, the Dates.

Iftar Meals

As the city becomes busy, restaurants open and everyone would rush to be home before Iftar, traffic in the evening would get worst. Especially if you are caught up close to Iftar time.

Iftar time would be the most celebrated, exciting meal of the day in Ramadan as families gather for prayers and blessings around a table filled with delicacies in anticipation of the Azan of the Maghrib prayer (4th prayer of the day), at which everyone would pick a date and break their fast with it. After having a good meal, families would pray, individually or in groups, followed by a break before the last prayer and the special Ramadan prayer (Taraweeh) and sleep, marking the end of one day of fast. And the cycle repeats everyday for the rest of the month.  

I have also experienced Ramadan in the UAE, where this routine was pretty much the same, with the length of days and hence the length of fast being the same, for about 12-14 hours. It was also helpful that in consideration of this fasting month, work would officially finish earlier to let employees go back home and rest before Iftar if they wished. And with countless restaurants and beautiful mosques to celebrate the month in its essence of worship, reflections and purification of the soul and balanced nicely with rest, Ramadan is worth spending there.  

 It was when I moved to Ireland, was the first time I found fasting to be a real challenge! As back in 2013 Ramadan would fall in July in the solar year, when Dawn is at about 2:30am and Dusk at 10:00pm; making up about 20-21 hours of fasting a day. That was the first time I learned something about myself, that I am a foodie, and don’t take hunger that well!

Fasting in Ireland presented me with challenges I didn’t face before, for instance, in Ireland I would be following routines not natural to the place where I am and so it took a bit more responsibility and effort at a personal level on my part. And consequently, it was when I truly started to reflect on the true essence of Ramadan. However, with the solar year being longer than the Lunar year, the month of Ramadan is getting further away from the summer with shorter hours of fasting every year, which gives me hope that by the time my kids will fast, it should fall in winter, hopefully getting to 8-10 hours of fast.

Every year, Ramadan is the month when, Muslims practice re-aligning, self-reflections, empathy and compassion.  It is by starving the body and feeding the soul, a deeper spiritual connection is forged. Food is just one component of fasting; there is a huge emphasis on all the other aspects of abstinence that is established. Abstinence from unhealthy habits for the soul. Through which one learns to be humble, abstaining from pride and greed. By abstaining from food and drink, one is stretched thin, tired and weak. You realize your dependency on food and water, on sleep and rest. And how vulnerable and dependent we are as humans.

Fasting by its very nature, teaches self-discipline and control. You have to muster reserves of patience to help you bear not only the hunger and thirst but to refrain from bad habits that have managed to pollute your life over the past year. It takes 21 days to change a habit, and this month gives that timeframe to reflect and make resolutions to change habits you choose, carving away at your character: a goal towards a better you. It is a time that allows for introspection, to listen with quiet attention to your inner self, to what really calls your soul – a break from the constant noise of your normal world. For many, Ramadan in its essence, helps create a momentum of good habits, reflections and spirituality that lasts the whole year round.

This is the time to grow spiritually and get back to basics with life and what’s really important; Family, humanity, spirituality, charity - goodness in every sphere of life. This is the month to let go of grudges, to re-establish ties, to practice empathy and compassion and to serve the community by giving to those whose fasts begin well before dawn and carry on well after sunset - the perpetual fasts of the poor, homeless and hungry, who’s fast have no time frame, who depend only on the help of others in charity. 

End of Ramadan - Celebration of Eid:

Eid marks the end of Ramadan when the new crescent moon of the month of Shawwal; is sighted. 

The most important ritual on Eid is the Eid prayer at the mosque, when everyone dresses in new clothes and heads to the mosque to pray and meet and greet friends, family and the rest of the community.

Back in Malaysia and UAE, this day would be marked as a national bank holiday. But in Ireland, I only wish it falls on a weekend, or take a few days off from work otherwise. Many travel back home to celebrate the month of Ramadan or at least Eid with their families and relatives.

Different sweets and food is prepared for this occasion. Children get presents in the form of cash or toys and new clothes to wear, so this is one festival we look forward to. And since it is right after the Fasting month, food is definitely a part of this celebration.

So here we are in Ramadan of this year, which started on the 13th of April 2021, and it is going to be another year we spend this month in COVID-19 quarantine restrictions. The work from home has been a tremendous help in spending Ramadan at home, its been an opportunity to spend the month in its essence of reflections and more time with family. But at the same time, with closed mosques and gathering restrictions, the social aspect and community service is truly missed.  

Being the lone cultural representative most of the time in my groups of friendships and professional life in Ireland, I tend to be the ‘Ramadan 101’ host for questions which I love to answer. Growing up in a multicultural environment, I have always loved and welcomed inter-cultural questions as compared to silent judgements, as it gives me a chance to explain my part of the story. It also gives me an insight into the thought process of others, and mostly, Ramadan 101 questions have left me feeling proud of myself for being able to do something that most would find challenging. So here are 10 most commonly asked questions about Ramadan; that I have compiled:

Ramadan 10 Questions:

1. What is Ramadan about?

It is about realigning the self for a better you, practicing self-control and discipline, spirituality – a better connection with God, and community service. It is a month of reflections and empathy for the perpetual fast of the poor and consequently for compassion and serving the community with charity.

2. So, you don’t eat for 30 days?

No, fasting is only from Dawn to Dusk every day for 29/30 days of Ramadan. We can eat between Dusk and Dawn.

3. Can you have water?

Not even a sip!!

4. Why can’t you have water?!!

Then it’s not really fasting. And the perpetual fast of the poor, has no guarantee of water or food. At least we are guaranteed food at the end of the day. Absolute fasting makes the reflection and empathy that much more impactful.

5. Why is it so cruel?

Well, cruel is whatever has created imbalances of power and prosperity and hence poverty in our world. The least we can do with fasting is reflect, empathize, and help. But its not that hard really. Humans are naturally adaptable to anything and you do get used to it. I surprised myself that I could manage fasting in Ireland 20-21 hours, never thought I could do it.

6. Can I eat in front of you?

Yes, you can. Back home, it is a considerate gesture not to eat in front of a fasting person, but here in Ireland, I don’t expect everyone to know I am fasting. Although, the smell of food around lunch time in the office, does make me count the hours to Iftar time! But then, that’s the powerful and reward earning bit of it, the patience.

7. What if you are sick?

People with chronic illnesses that does not allow fasting are exempted; including, children, pregnant ladies and breastfeeding mothers who are unable to fast for health reasons. However, the exemption for adults, is by either paying a certain amount of money in charity per day, of exempted fasts that is equivalent to feeding a certain amount of homeless group or practically feeding them through hosting a food festive for the same.  

8. What if you faint in the office, can we give you water?

Fast can be broken if you get sick during the day. Missed fasts are then made up later after Ramadan, by fasting the number of missed days, in the remaining non-Ramadan months of the Islamic Calendar.

9. Is it healthy? Will you lose weight?

That varies from person to person. I tend to lose weight in Ireland as the numbers of hours of eating vs fasting is very low and my sleep gets out of routine because of the demands of Ramadan, office and the long days in summer. But in the tropical countries, people tend to gain weight during Ramadan as they stay up at night eating, praying, and celebrating the month and sleep during the day so it kind of balances out the fast. Also depends on what and how much you can eat after dusk. 

10. Can you chew gum? Brush your teeth if you can’t drink water?

Technically no we can’t chew gum, as its usually flavoured and has other ingredients that tend to be swallowed. But yes, we can brush our teeth carefully not to swallow any water accidently.

I wish all Muslim UCD employees a very Ramadan Mubarak, may Allah accept our deeds. As we fast this holy month, may our souls fill with gratitude, compassion and enlightenment. Wishing you a happy, safe, and blessed Ramadan.

 

EDI Blog Entries #25: Becoming a Socially Distant Social Committee - UCD Global 

Remember how, back in March 2020, most of us thought we would be back to the office after two or three weeks? We took up new hobbies and explored ways to stay connected online. Our newsletters now included tips for free workout apps and High School Musical gifs saying “We’re all in this together”.

One year on, we are still working from home and missed oh so many chats, lunches, birthdays, farewell and welcome parties. We hosted many virtual activities to keep us all socially (distantly) connected and I hope that this list will help you find new ideas for staying in touch with your colleagues.

Friday Coffee Mornings

Our recurring zoom meeting is perfect to stay connected with colleagues we do not directly work with and we always (always) love to see home office dogs and cats. The best thing is that, now that it is online, our colleagues from the Global Centres can also join us.

Craft Along 

Following instructions from the National Gallery of Ireland, we had a super creative evening, recreating a portrait using scraps.

Cook Along 

Our in-office food blogger Alka (psst: check out her Instagram) sent a list of ingredients ahead of the event and then we all learned to cook delicious vegan Sheikh Mahshi (stuffed eggplant) together, admired the results and had a nice dinner with our colleagues.

Murder Mystery Party 

Using a free Murder Mystery kit, we had a virtual party with costumes, fake accents and dramatic accusations. Preparing the event took some time but it was definitely worth it.

Pancake Tuesday

We had a zoom meeting and everyone brought pancakes. Sounds simple, but it turned into a multicultural show and tell of pancakes, crêpes, Berliners and Poffertjes, favourite toppings, local traditions...

Game Nights / Lunches

Our favourite games to play on zoom are Kahoot quizzes (some preparation time but free), Jackbox Games (no preparation time but need to be purchased), GeoGuesserPictionary and Lip Reading.

While it is sometimes difficult to organise something new and to get our colleagues involved when our workloads tower above our heads, I found that everyone is still keen to meet and that a quick chat always lifts my spirits. And much like our Pancake Tuesday, a very simple theme can turn into a really nice event.

Anna John, International Mobility Assistant, UCD Global 

 

EDI Blog Entries #24: Coming together (even virtually) through song - The UCD Community Choir

The UCD Community Choir is now coming up on five years of singing together and an EDI initiative that was originally started as mechanism to promote wellbeing to our community has become so much more than that. Our choir has become a mechanism to bring colleagues from across our campus together to generate a sense of community and collective belonging through the joy of singing. Prior to COVID-19 we met each week on Tuesday lunchtimes to sing and practice for various events we are asked to sing at on campus. Under the wonderful guidance of our choir director Ms. Caoimhe O’Neill (now an honorary UCDer for life) we meet up, we form friendships, and we sing. Through all of that we have developed a wonderful cross community group bringing all aspects of UCD together, it doesn’t matter your background, whether you’re a professor or an executive assistant, a retired technician or a new postdoctoral researcher, as long as you can hold a tune, we are all in it together as one voice and boy do we have a lot of fun doing it.

Singing is a fantastic way to improve mental health, the endorphin rush from singing in a group is measured by the smiles and laughter as we all depart after our hour on Tuesday lunchtimes. So many friendships have developed because our choir brings people together from all across our UCD community. If positivity is infectious then surely our choir has created an epidemic of it in UCD…... see what I did there. 

COVID-19 kinda scuppered our big plans though, after the success we had at the OSKARs event in 2019 we planned to host our very first charity concert on March 23rd 2020 – boy was our timing bad with that one. Half a year of practice and preparation was halted just one week to go. To say we were sad and disappointed was to say the least (heartbroken and gutted would be more apt), but we pulled ourselves together and thought how can we keep our choir going during the pandemic, how can we bring joy into our homes at a time of so much uncertainty and fear. We began our online zoom choir sessions soon thereafter. Our director Caoimhe for an hour twice a week enthusiastically brings us together to practice a whole plethora of new songs and we’ve been doing that ever since the first lockdown began. We’ve practiced over twenty new songs and even managed to do some recordings for Christmas, the Choirs for Cancer event and LGBTQ History Month. So, while we cannot be together in person, we can keep our community going virtually with laughter and much joy. Our UCD Community Choir continues, and we look forward to the day when we can all be back together singing on the top floor of the Science Centre and getting ready for a new concert. In the meantime, we’ll just keep on singing.

Dr. Conor Buggy, UCD Centre for Safety and Health at Work.

 

EDI Blog Entries #23: "Celebrating Lunar New Year in Ireland" (Part II), 16 February 2021

This week we are delighted to publish Part II of the UCD students Lunar New Year celebrations and to include two blog entries from Chinese and Vietnamese students who had to celebrate remotely or more reservedly this year due to the current COVID-19 restrictions. wishing everyone a happy New Year of the Ox!

Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year is called "Tet" or “Tet Nguyen Dan” in Vietnamese, typically celebrated in China, Vietnam, Korean, Tibet, Mongolia, and other Asian communities that begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar. It is the most important and biggest holiday of the year in Vietnam. A traditional Tet festival often lasts for a month, however, the busy life makes it shorter, usually a week. It is considered an essential mark for changes, plans, and progress. Tet festival is also the most significant occasion for all family members to have happy moments together after a year of hard-working. This year, it falls on the 12th of February, celebrating the year of Ox. 

Before New Year’s Eve 

In the days leading up to Tet, people often gather and cook special holiday foods such as “Chung Cake” - the traditional cake that is the symbol of Earth as it combines all the unique ingredients of Vietnamese agriculture, served with “Gio Lua” (lean pork pie). Preparation for these foods is quite extensive, luckily, I got the from my friend as the new year gift. Another traditional food is “Mut” (candied fruits) – common snack to welcome guests on the Tet holiday as Vietnamese believe eating sweet things on Tet holiday will bring them luck; fat meat, pickled onions, “Mam ngu qua” (tray of five fruits) are other common foods.

Typically, on the last day of the lunar year, every member of different generations gathers around a grand banquet to enjoy the last meal of the year. In Vietnamese, to celebrate Tet also means to "eat", there is a traditional proverb denoting that you can be hungry all year except three days of the Tet Holiday because dozens of delicious dishes and desserts will be prepared on Lunar New Year in Vietnam to feast on the ancestors as well as every family member. That’s why I tried my best to keep this tradition when first celebrating Tet in Dublin. I spent 7 hours cooking year-end meal with loads of joy, wore “Ao Dai” – traditional costume, and enjoyed dinner with my Irish host family.

The New Year

Another interesting tradition which is most awaited by children or single people - "lucky money." Typically, the elderly will give the "lucky money" to their grandchildren; the adults will give it to their parents, children, niece, nephew, or friends. In exchange, they will be received New Year wishes and greetings; the most popular ones are “Chuc Mung Nam Moi” (Happy New Year), “Song Lau Tram Tuoi” (long life of 100 years), “An Khang Thinh Vuong” (security, good health, and prosperity), “Van Su Nhu Y” (may myriad things go according to your will).

After having dinner and sharing the new year's resolutions together, I gave lucky money to all Irish family members, along with a Vietnamese word standing for a specific meaning.

Besides, I also had a family video call to express my gratitude, wishes to all family members in the new year. We celebrated and enjoyed the Tet holiday full of laughs and talks, as saying that "physical distance, not emotional distance."

Since the Vietnamese believe that the very first visitor a family receives in the year determines their fortune for the entire year, a person of good temper, morality and success will be the lucky sign for the host family and be invited first into the house. This special activity is called “Xong dat” which is one of the most important rituals during Tet. Fortunately, I got my Vietnamese friend to do so, however, due to the current social distancing level 5 in Ireland, we met each other outside to ensure safety.

 

Celebrating Lunar New Year away from home under the Covid situation is such a once-in-a-lifetime experience to me. Thanks to this special circumstance, I have learned to cherish life more, as well as have the opportunity to participate in activities spreading joy and Vietnamese culture to international friends.

Above all, on this occasion, I would like to send all the best wishes to you, the readers, in the new year. I believe Tet is such an unforgettable experience of Vietnamese cultures, customs, and traditions. Let’s pack up your luggage and reserve a trip to Vietnam!

Tran Diem, Quan VuEducation in Ireland Vietnam

 

Virtual Lunar New Year Celebration

The 2021 Chinese New Year will be an unusual one due to the Covid-19 outbreak, with several restrictions imposed on us globally.  Unfortunately, many international students won’t be able to reunite with their families.  For Chinese students, the celebration of the lunar new year symbolizes a new start for us.  For this year, it’s particularly important to celebrate this holiday differently and safely.  I am going to introduce you to the view of the traditional celebration in China and the virtual celebration at the UCD community.

The Lunar New Year is also known as the ‘Spring Festival.’  It is the most important holiday on the Chinese calendar equivalent to the Christmas holiday for western countries.  People believe that the holiday represents a new start and it eliminates all the bad luck from the previous years.  In line with it, the color ‘Red’ plays a significant role in the celebration from different forms.  For example, people put up house decorations with red banners and signs. Everyone is encouraged to wear new clothing with at least one item in red, children will receive money / gifts wrapped in red envelopes, etc.’  The center of the celebration, with no exception, is creating joyful moments with families like the beautiful memories carried forward from my childhood to attend the family reunion dinner on New Year’s eve and visit relatives. 

As all of us went through the difficult and extraordinary year 2020, making the international students feel the support and caring from the UCD community becomes increasingly important.  The UCD Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) has organized a variety of shows and evening performances to celebrate the lunar new year from the previous years, and there is an upcoming virtual event aimed to connect all Chinese students wherever they are to be part of the celebration this year.  For those students who remain on campus from proby residence, the ‘virtual café ‘ is the best way for us to stay connected.  The celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year this year was inspired by the principle of ‘home’, our virtual event was accompanied by international students, including Chinese and other nationalities.  Through the group-chat students shared their experience of practicing dance through Tiktok, making dumplings from scratch, utilizing new technologies to improve learning, etc.  Although all of us are far away from our home countries, this year’s Chinese New Year presents a special opportunity for all international students to come together and celebrate all that we are grateful for.

Best wishes to everyone for a wonderful Chinese Lunar New Year filled with health, joy, luck and prosperity!

Yingting Jiang, Student in Human Resources Management, UCD Michael Smurfit. 

EDI Blog Entries #22: "Celebrating Lunar New Year in Ireland", 9 February 2021  

For Lunar New Year on 12 February 2021, EDI collected entries from UCD students from around Asia who are celebrating Lunar New Year in Ireland this year. Read the colourful two blog entries below from students from China and Malaysia. More entries will be published next week about how UCD students celebrated Lunar New Year virtually this year in view of COVID-19 restrictions. Make sure not to miss them, check back next week. Happy Lunar New Year to all!

"Chinese Spring Festival"

Spring Festival is a crucial festival in Chinese culture, similar to Christmas in the Western world. Spring Festival means a lot to many Chinese people. For years, my parents and I celebrated the Spring Festival together. Our family resided in Dublin since 2016, and I am going to introduce how we celebrate Chinese New Year in Ireland. We would clean up the house in the Lunar New Year’s Eve which means sweeping the bad luck of the past and welcoming the new year. I usually do Facetime with my relatives in China to communicate with those I did not get the chance to visit during Chinese New Year (Chinese New Year is China’s official holiday). In the evening, my parents and I have traditional Chinese cuisine together in which dumplings and hot pot has always become a popular choice in our family. Having a deluxe New Year dinner also means to imply a better new year! After dinner, we usually go watch the Spring Festival Gala on TV and count down the new year's arrival.

Photo taken at previous LNY events, before COVID-19

In the past, UCD Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) invited Chinese students or students who are fascinated by Chinese culture, we were invited to celebrate the Chinese Lunar Year together. UCD Chinese society organized a talent show last year and asked many Chinese students to show their talents, which seemed like a live Chinese New Year Gala in front of us. After that, we watched the broadcast of the Spring Festival Gala and made dumplings together. Hundreds of Chinese people gathered together to make dumplings as if it were a big family, an unprecedented warm feeling. The Spring Festival Gala of the society helps the students who can't go back to China to celebrate the Spring Festival feel the unity of the "bigger community". The event made many students who study in Ireland alone feel joyful and warmth of " the sense of Reunion" and are no longer so lonely.

This year has been challenging to many of us. Under the government regulations and strict restriction, our Chinese society decided to shift the on-Campus celebration to virtual one. The most popular social media in China is wechat, CSSA will invite many Chinese students who still stay in Ireland to join a groupchat. Participating and answering many of Chinese traditional couplets, riddles, anagrams etc. Our intention is to connect as many as Oversea Chinese students together to have a wonderful, amazing and enjoyable Chinese New Year online (Our hearts are always together.)

Wish everyone to have an Amazing, Happy and Healthy Lunar New Year!

Happy Year of Ox  

Daizy Liu, student in Social Policy & Sociology, UCD

 

 "Lunar New Year Celebration"

The timeline of ringing in the Lunar New Year (LNY) back in my home country, Malaysia, usually begins with a hearty meal on the Eve of the Lunar New Year. This reunion dinner is considered the most important meal during which the whole family, including my extended relatives, would travel for miles to make it for this celebratory meal. If a family member is unable to attend due to unfortunate circumstances, an empty seat is left to symbolize the family member’s presence.

The morning of the Lunar New Year brings a glorious sight with family members fully dolled up and young children eager to get their hands on the “red packets” given by the married elders. Throughout the day, it is common to hear new year greetings being thrown in every direction, along with words of wisdom from my grandmother, keeping herself on repeat with the few taboos of the celebration:

  • NO wearing black clothing
  • NO crying
  • NO washing hair
  • NO sweeping or mopping the floors
  • NO sharp instruments, such as knives and scissors (to be put away)
  • NO breaking objects

This is to avoid “sweeping”, “throwing” or “breaking” away the good luck for the rest of the year. Some may find this ridiculous - even I do - but I have always stayed on the safe side of tradition, and never dare to put this old folk’s tale to test.

It is my second year in Ireland, and my second year celebrating LNY away from family. Nevertheless, the celebration in Ireland last year which consisted of a get-together with the rest of the Malaysians here, perfectly replicated the feeling of LNY at home (albeit in a different setting and a colder climate). A wide array of food was prepared for us, just as how it would be during a typical LNY Eve dinner with “lou sang”* and pineapple tarts. The Mandarin oranges and “red packets” given as door gifts completed the whole celebration.

Photo taken at previous LNY event, before COVID-19

*”Lou sang” also known as Prosperity Toss, usually consists of strips of raw fish (sometimes salmon), mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments, among other ingredients. It is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity, and vigor

Being a part of the Malaysian Society committee for this year, in the middle of a pandemic, is certainly a trying time to be replicating the LNY event virtually. However, it is a challenge my committee and I have confidently taken up. Being stuck at home brings no excuse to not being able to indulge in good food; hence, we have spent the weekend perfecting the recipes for our upcoming LNY Bake Sale and the results are amazing! We have prepared a scrumptious selection of Lunar New Year cookies which will suit your taste buds and most importantly, not make a dent in your wallet!

A joyful sight of celebrating LNY last year amongst our peers from other races and cultures (Photo taken at previous LNY events, before COVID-19)

On top of that, we have organized a Movie Night in conjunction with our Lunar New Year celebration. However, a movie night is never complete without food or snacks! Hence, we have prepared a LNY Care Package containing comfort foods that will make this celebration even more meaningful.

Do not hesitate to email Malaysian Society @malaysian.society@ucd.ie or follow us on our Instagram page @ucdmsoc to get your hands on all the goodies we have to offer!

UCD Malaysian Society students

EDI Blog Entry #21: "Are You Looking for an International Coach?", 17 November 2020

According to Skiffington and Zeus (2000): ’Coaching is about change and transformation’. Bluckert, (2006) gave a much broader definition of coaching: ‘Coaching is the facilitation of learning and development with the purpose of improving performance and enhancing effective action, goal achievement and personal satisfaction. It invariably involves growth and change, whether that is in perspective, attitude or behaviour.’

I have worked in a postgraduate student support role that focuses on helping international students uncover ways to grow since joining UCD in 2007. Every day I explore the challenges they face and seek to uncover inhibitors to growth. Over the past three years I have increasingly used a ‘coaching approach’ in my work, continually seeking to get to the root cause of a problem. While managing coaching programmes in Smurfit Executive Education I became familiar with some of the concepts and I started to get to the root cause of students’ problems. This shift towards a structured coaching approach with graduate students led me to undertake Diploma in Business and Executive Coaching in Smurfit Executive Education. As an Internal Coach at UCD People Development and Organisation Effectiveness I work closely with UCD staff, however my passion is working with international colleagues.

The internal coaching panel is a voluntary service provided by one colleague who is professionally trained to another colleague who is seeking a coaching relationship. Coaching ordinarily involves approximately 4 or 5, sixty-minute meetings, once every 3-6 weeks, arranged at a mutually convenient time for the coach and coachee. The meetings are usually completed within 6 months.  

If you are interested in working with an international coach to develop new skills, deeper self-belief or confidence, obtaining closure on some unfinished business in the workplace or finding greater meaning, satisfaction and balance in your life and work please feel free to contact me on agnieszka.wisniewska@ucd.ie

To find more information on coaching and services available for you visit UCD People Development and Organisation Effectiveness webpage internal coaching panel.

Agnieszka Wisniewska, UCD School of Business

EDI Blog Entry #20: "Hidden Stories: Living With an Invisible Disability", 20 October 2020

To mark Invisible Disabilities Week (18-24 October 2020), the EDI Disabililty Sub-Group undertook a podcast in collaboration with UCD’s MoLI and chaired by RTE’s Ailbhe Conneely, which you can listen to here. Our panel of UCD colleagues (Clare Hayes-Brady, Blanaid Gavin, Veronica Keegan, Deirdre O’ Connor and Colin Scott) discussed their lived experience of invisible disabilities (Deirdre and Veronica), how best to support our colleagues, how literature helps us make sense of it all and lots more.

In advance of recording the podcast, and as a way of inviting contributing to it, we asked UCD staff to share their thoughts about invisible disabilities with the panel via an anonymous suggestion box.  We got lots of really interesting responses, both from those who are living with such conditions and those who want to support them. A number of themes came up repeatedly.  These included:

  • The “Iceberg” analogy that is often used to describe Invisible Disabilities is true for many people.  So much of what our colleagues with hidden disabilities experience goes on under the surface and is invisible to the onlooker. 
  • Disclosing an invisible disability to colleagues can be a difficult and sensitive decision.  More than one contributor likened it to stepping off a cliff! 
  • Awareness of this issue is currently low.  Many contributors said it was the first time they had been asked about, or had considered, the topic of Hidden or Invisible Disabilities. However, we got lots of responses expressing a strong desire to support colleagues and looking for guidance on how to do so.  

We wanted our podcast to serve as a starting point for raising awareness about the issue, enabling us to hear the stories of those who live with these conditions and reflecting on how we move forward to support our colleagues in a manner consistent with EDI values.  

I will be in conversation with Adam Harris from AsIAm, the national autism charity to further discuss autism and invisible disabilities, this Thursday 22nd October 11am-12:30. As part of this webinar we are inviting UCD staff to give feedback to the review of the UCD Code of Practice for the Employment of People with Disabilities. We welcome input from all staff, those who have experience of a disability, those who know someone with a disability and managers or colleagues who would like to learn more about how to make UCD more inclusive. Register here.

Dr Deirdre O'Connor, Chair of UCD EDI Disability Group

EDI Blog Entry #19: "Learning from Experience in Reviewing Dignity and Respect Policies/Procedures at UCD", 23 September 2020

Colin Scott, Vice President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, UCD

The experiences of sexual harassment of our colleague Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin at UCD were appalling. Our President Andrew Deeks subsequently issued a statement in which he said: "I apologise to Aoibhinn on behalf of UCD. I also apologise to other colleagues and students who have suffered such experiences while in our care." His public apology demonstrates an unequivocal denouncement of sexual harassment and violence and an intent to strengthen our policies to deal with these situations more effectively. It will fairly be said that the test of that commitment lies in the actions we take to understand what needs to be done and to effectively take those actions.

Sexual harassment and violence are a scourge in our society, adversely affecting safety, well-being, equality and attainment, in particular, of women. As the United Nations Development Programme notes, gender-based violence, physical and psychological, is neither acceptable nor inevitable.

Testimony about sexual harassment raises urgent and vital questions on how our society and, in particular, how our university can develop and sustain a culture which is respectful and safe for all and in which incidences of sexual harassment and violence can be prevented or otherwise called out and addressed swiftly and effectively, whether affecting staff or students. Courageous acts of public disclosure should empower others to speak out, both with respect to their own experience and to unacceptable behaviour that they are aware of or have witnessed. As a community we need to listen with empathy and without judgement to those who come forward and to learn from what has happened, how we have allowed sexual harassment and violence to creep into our culture, and how to stamp it out. 

As a university we are a community of learning and we have a culture both of strong internal critique of policies and measures, from staff and student communities, and also a real capacity for engaging through mechanisms of reflection to understand better what is working well and what is not, and how to define and attain key goals – in this case zero tolerance for sexual harassment and violence. 

It is widely recognised that a key element in addressing sexual harassment and sexual violence is through cultural change involving, amongst other things,  clarity of objectives and expectations,  strong leadership, deep and broad engagement with staff and student community, strong communication, effective staff/student development actions, mainstreaming of supports. accountability of, and reporting on, outcomes, and alignment to systems, structures, rewards and recognition. 

We are asking ourselves how our university should address key challenges including:

  • How can we better embed current positive measures and leadership to address zero tolerance culture, including campaigns, bystander intervention training, and staff development?
  • How should we effectively engage all parts of staff and student communities to identify and work towards shared objectives for eradicating sexual harassment and sexual violence?
  • How can all people affected by sexual harassment and sexual violence be empowered to disclose their experiences to secure support and effective action?
  • How can we ensure that those to whom disclosures are made are trained and supported to act effectively on those disclosures?
  • How can we empower bystanders to speak out and to support those who experience sexual harassment and violence?
  • How should we balance rights of all parties, respecting legal process, within formal Dignity and Respect procedures?
  • How can we further enhance both the development and accountability of those with roles at all levels of responsibility?
  • How should we include reporting of informal contacts and disclosures alongside anonymous reporting and formal complaints in new Dignity and Respect policies?
  • How should a culture of zero tolerance of sexual harassment and sexual violence feed into wider equality, diversity and inclusion objectives at UCD?
  • How can we develop, sustain and institutionalise the capacity both to act effectively, but also to learn and to enhance the mechanisms of communication. empowerment, disclosure, complaint, investigation and sanction to signal, deliver and sustain zero tolerance for sexual harassment and violence at UCD?

Many of these questions are not new but each requires attention, alongside the measures we take to address equality more broadly, not only with respect to gender, but also race, disability, sexual orientation and all the University equality grounds.

There was extensive consultation over the development of a new Dignity and Respect Policy at UCD in 2017 and this policy is currently under review. The Review Group is recommending that the Dignity and Respect Policy is split into two sets of policies and procedures, one addressing Bullying and Harassment and the second, for the first time, addressing distinctly Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct. 

This change, alongside many other proposed changes, is informed by UCD’s participation in the national ‘It Stops Now’ campaign (Ending Sexual Harassment and Violence in Third Level Education), led by the National Women’s Council of Ireland since 2017, and the Government Consent Framework Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions, published in 2019. UCD has been a key participant in implementation actions for the framework

 

  • learning from others with other key actions such as the introduction of Bystander Intervention Training for all new undergraduate and taught graduate students at UCD as part of orientation this year,  and

 

Following up on the message from the President, I encourage staff and students to participate in the current review of Dignity and Respect policy/procedures and the new draft Policy/Procedures on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Conduct (details on website). I have already learnt of a number of important new approaches that we might take to addressing some of the key challenges we face in developing and sustaining a zero tolerance culture and look forward to learning more as a result of this consultation and wider engagement.

Professor Colin Scott, Vice President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, UCD

 

EDI Blog Entry #18: "Purple Tomorrow", 1 September 2020

Purple Tomorrow

Tomorrow will be purple, yellow and brown 

today may look white 

pure, clean, bright 

but that’s soon to be over 

colours will guide us 

we will give in, follow 

 

while today looks white 

tomorrow, diversity will come  

no more racial prejudices 

separation, segregation, alienation 

tomorrow we will win 

 

in plurality lies the power 

embrace what’s unique 

forget about the grey, uniform 

make your day brighter 

spice up your life 

 

it might not stop the famine 

we may fight, the war among us 

death, disease, destruction 

they’re not going away 

but we are 

 

loud as the roaring storm 

let the peoples roll 

 

Anonymous

EDI Blog Entry #17: "W.A.Y.F.? The Question so Many ‘Non Typical’ Irish are Asked", 11 August 2020

Where are you from? A rather innocent question, isn’t it? Well… it depends. To many Irish, this question carries no emotional charge. At the same time, to many of my friends and colleagues who do not quite have the ‘typical Irish look’, this question evokes emotions, which can range from amusement to annoyance or frustration. So let’s unpack this a bit more, shall we?

What prompted me to write this piece is a 2018 YouTube video titled “What Does “Irishness” look like?” posted by a friend (you can see this poignant 6-minute video below and on YouTube.) Although I’m much older than the youth in that video, it resonated deeply with me and reflected many of my own experiences. The topic may be sensitive for some, which is why I think we should address and talk about it and, more than in any other place, in a university setting. No better place for starting such a conversation is UCD, the most internationally diverse university in Ireland. 

I’ve lived in Ireland nearly 17 years and for about 10 of them as an Irish citizen. Though I didn’t spend my formative years here, it’s the second longest place I’ve lived in. Though, ethnically, I’d be considered ‘white’ (or off-white...), I have experienced HUNDREDS of those mini exchanges and heard nearly every response quoted by the young ones in the video (I especially loved Karen’s re-enactments... so apt!). Many of the Irish people who asked me this question and didn’t get the ‘right’ answer (that is, what they expected, which was anything but “I’m from south Dublin”) were unhappy with me and, as mentioned in the video, displayed mini-aggressions, which often took the form of ‘why are you being difficult?’

I have chosen Ireland as my second home for many good reasons, the top one being its people. They are among the most humane, considerate and gentle I found in the world. I also think that, on average, they are less racist than most Europeans. At the same time, it has been an ethnically and religiously homogenous country for so long. And, as a relatively new modern nation, Ireland still deals with a lot of identity issues. The combination of these, coupled with a history of foreign invasion, leads to a commonly held narrow views on what ‘being Irish’ constitutes; the notion of most Irish on Irishness is still a generation or two back, before the strong changes in demographics its experienced in the past 20 years.

Curiosity is a most natural phenomenon and I’m sure have my share of it! As an avid traveller in far-away lands, I have been asked where I am from more times than I could ever recount. But here there is an additional element: it is the reluctance to accept one’s answer to this question. Most Irish I met are really nice people who do not want to see themselves as having ethnic or national prejudices or holding stereotypes; they feel that they are asking the ‘Where are you from?’ question from a well-intended place; I don’t want to argue that this isn’t so; however, for those who wish to be genuinely honest with themselves, they need to examine what presumptions exist in their mind when they ask this question. And, moreover, their reaction when one of us, the not typical-Irish looking folks, tells them: ‘I am from Dublin’. This will create a ground for much richer and genuine dialogue. 

Dr Jacob Eisenberg, Associate Professor, College of Business

EDI Blog Entry #16, "The Silver Lining of COVID-19 - Feeling more Connected to Colleagues than ever Before!", 27 July 2020

When Licia approached me to write an entry for the EDI blog, so many things came into my mind. I could write about the challenges of adapting to teaching online, or the hectic life of juggling doing full-time work in half days and evenings and home-schooling our five-year old daughter while keeping research going. Proudly sharing a photo of the garden crown I made for Pearl’s school project!

However, having thought about it further, I’d like to write about an unexpected achievement during this challenging time, and that’s what I call the Silver-Lining of COVID-19. Surprisingly, I feel much more connected to my colleagues in the College of Business. Some of them, I have never met before! Even more, I feel connected more to the wider UCD community.

Since the Ireland lockdown, all teaching had to be delivered online. The reality is, in universities like UCD delivering on-campus education, most of the faculty and staff have, if not much, little experience in delivering teaching and support on-line to students who chose on-campus education in the first place. This posed a great challenge for all of us.

During this challenging time, we had a common goal to adapt to online education fast and well to deliver our education to the highest standard possible. In College the of Business (COB), we have the College of Business Intercultural Forum (CBIF), which was set up in 2018 when I joined the COB as Intercultural Development and Support Officer.

CBIF is an open community of collegial learning and sharing. CBIF was set up with the idea of providing a safe and inclusive space for colleagues who have the desire to develop their skills and broaden their knowledge base. It provides a platform for colleagues to cooperatively solve problems and develop best practices through sharing and curation of existing and collaboratively innovated knowledge. The CBIF workgroup has both faculty and staff and is open to anyone who is willing to join.

As a quick response to the challenge and to help to make moving on-line as easy as possible, we organised a series of CBIF Bitesize webinars addressing specific topics relevant to teaching and supporting students on-line including Interactive Virtual Classroom, Recorded Materials, Going On-line with Assessment: Tips from Business Colleagues as well as Students’ Recommendations on Re-Opening.

The CBIF workgroup decided to open the webinars to ALL colleagues in UCD as what we talked about was beneficial to faculty and staff not only in COB but also in other colleges as well. Our webinars reached more than 300 colleagues across UCD. We were overwhelmed with the positive feedback from our colleagues, which showed that these webinars really resonated with people.

During this extraordinary time, to prepare for CBIF webinars, I have been working with colleagues in COB that I have never met before. For example, the Creative Joe Houghton, Next-Hollywood-Director Julie Schiro, Queen-Of-Statistics Annunziata Esposito Amideo. And I got to know some of my colleagues much better and discovered their amazing and unique qualities, such as CBIF-Anchor-Woman Kathy O’Reilly, Quirky-Musical-Academic Enrico Sacci, STEM-Tech-Savvy Alessia Paccagnini, Philosopher-in-the-Career-Team Michael McDonnell, Intelligent-Creative-Insightful Julia Backmann, Resourceful-Team-Player Valentina Paolucci and Super-Efficient-Diversity-Champion Beth Gormley. (By the way, this is the first time I unveil these nicknames! Lol)

We laughed together, shared and learned from each other on Zoom calls, via emails and on our WhatsApp group! It was easy for us to join a Zoom call while remaining comfortable at home and without the stress of finding a parking place in Belfield or Smurfit.  In a way, we got to know each other better than in person. I feel very connected to this online community, which goes across professions, disciplines, sectors and cultures in UCD.

If someone asks me, can we enhance our sense of community online? My answer is yes, definitely!

Higher education will be different from now on. The challenges do not end after this trimester finishes. In the 2021 academic year, with the uncertainties ahead, we will need to keep exploring ways of delivering our teaching and supporting our students to the highest standard as possible.

These are uncertain times, and I am a bit nervous but more excited about the journey ahead for 2021 academic year because I know I will not be working alone. I look forward to working with my colleagues in CBIF work group on this exciting initiative – a community of practice.

Access to recordings of all our webinars via link below.

https://qsblc.ucd.ie/channels/cbif-bitesize-webinar/

CBIF website

http://cbif.ucd.ie/

To join our mailing list

https://bit.ly/3fj0D3e

Linda Yang

Intercultural Development Programme (ICD) Leader
CBIF Convenor 
UCD College of Business
linda.yang@ucd.ie

Pearl with crown

EDI Blog Entry #13 - #15, "UCD employees on the meaning of Pride", 23 June 2020

As part of Pride 2020 celebrations, we asked LGBTI colleagues to share their thoughts. Find out more about Pride in UCD on our LGBTI Supports page. 

Be bold, Be brave, Be proud

The last time I came out as gay, I was lecturing on global health to a class of almost 200 students at University College Dublin. I had not planned to disclose my sexual orientation in this class. It suddenly struck me that my minority students needed to hear from someone “like them” that it was not only OK to be gay, but to hear that an LGBT+ person of color can flourish in academia. Across my professional life, I was fortunate to teach in several institutions in the USA, Philippines, Latin America and Ireland. In every place I taught, I had minority students who sent me moving emails thanking me for being a face in a white-heterosexual dominated institution. Their messages are a reminder that even in so-called progressive institutions, and in a modern post marriage equality/abortion referenda Ireland, minority students still face ‘symbolic violence’ i.e. the invisibilisation of faces like theirs in academia. What inspires me to come out is knowing that visibility is everything for my minority students. I love to tell my students: Be bold, be brave, be proud.

Dr. Ernesto Vasquez del Aguila, Peruvian, UCD Assistant professor

Pride 

I sat down to write this blog entry with just the blank page in front of me, wondering what I have to say that is worth hearing but wanting to say something that is meaningful. I’ve been working at UCD since 2014 and finished my PhD here before that. I love the campus and the community, and feel lucky to work every day as a student adviser to support the amazing students that UCD has.

Pride holds a special place in the UCD calendar. Last year in the Vet School (where I work), our Athena SWAN committee organised a Pride celebration for our College (of Health and Agricultural Sciences). The place was packed. In fairness, it might have been the amazing chocolate cake from Pi that brought everyone out but I prefer to think that it was the depth of support that epitomises the UCD community. I can’t describe adequately the feeling of the event. There was a crackle of energy in the air that would be hard to replicate. The place was bursting with love, joy and togetherness. I love Pride. I love to see the rainbow flags flying high along Dublin’s quays; I love to see the glimpses of rainbow as I scroll through social media and catch sight of friends’ Pride-framed profile pics; and I love it that UCD raises the Pride flag, a symbol of solidarity and welcome for all that come through its gates. 

Personally, I have a deep sense of pride in and love for my LGBTQ+ identity. That pride is a vital part of my life, not least because it forms the solid ground beneath my relationship with my fiancée, Orla, but because being a member of the LGTBQ+ community is at the core of who I am, and I wouldn’t be me otherwise. I place importance on being out and visible in all aspects of my life, both personal and professional, but some days that kind of work feels…well, like work. I’m 43 now and I still feel a little knot in my stomach when I ‘out’ myself to someone, worried that maybe, just maybe, they might feel discomfort, only to feel relief when I don’t see those signs of discomfort. When I reflect on it later, it feels ludicrous, but it’s a part of my experience.

Marriage Equality has made a huge difference to my life. I remember holding Orla’s hand in public the day after the result and feeling that the edges of the world were that little bit softer. There’s no place for complacency, though. I feel very concerned about what is happening in other parts of Europe and the world, with regressive political statements targeting the LGBTQ+ community. Solidarity with all marginalised groups is more important now than ever.   

This year, our Vet/CHAS Pride celebration will be a little different. There’ll unfortunately be no cake but there’ll be no lack of that love, joy and togetherness. Watch this space for an announcement about our upcoming Pride coffee-via-zoom morning. All are welcome. Happy Pride!

Dr Niamh Nestor, Student Adviser, UCD

pride cake

Frontline Workers as Pride Grand Marshalls

This year Dublin Pride selected the Frontline Workers during the COVID-19 crisis as their Grand Marshalls. One of those represented is John Gilmore-Kavanagh, Assistant Professor of Nursing at UCD. John also worked on ICU at Saint Vincent's University Hospital during the COVID-19 surge. 

These are his thoughts about Pride 2020

This Pride season is undoubtedly different; COVID-19 has meant that the parades, street parties and other gatherings where we meet with friends, family, and indeed many people we don’t even know aren’t possible in the same way. We should remember, however, that Pride is not just about celebration, indeed when we think about the origins of Pride festivals around the world, it has been less about celebration, and more about brining visibility to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer communities and to the issues and oppressive forces which impact on us.

This Pride is an opportunity for us to refocus, and to reflect on why it is important that we gather, and that we are visible. While in Ireland there has been much progress in the past few years on LGBTIQ+ rights, it would be naive for anyone to think that there aren’t significant issues, discrimination and oppression faced by people within our communities. Although the Gender Recognition Act was a huge step forward for Trans Rights in Ireland, access to healthcare remains a massive issue for Trans people. Young LGBTIQ+ people still face significant challenges around bullying and mental health, and discrimination and oppression still occur every day, in all of our lives, whether we are aware of it or not. We need to remember that LGBTIQ+ people live in direct provision, LGBTIQ+ people are people of colour who face racism every day, many LGBTIQ+ are disabled and don’t have their basic accessibility needs met, LGBTIQ+ are travellers, oppressed by the state for generations, LGBTIQ+ people are homeless, LGBTIQ+ people are sex workers punished by laws which should protect them.

These are things that should be on our mind when we think of Pride this year, and at the forefront of our campaigns and events. Unless all of our rights are realised, we are not liberated. Black Trans Lives Matter, Accessibility Always, Traveller Rights are Human Rights, Housing is a Human Right, Sex Work is Work.

Happy Pride.

John Gilmore, Assistant Professor, School of Midwifery, Nursing & Health Systems, UCD

EDI Blog Entry #12, "Things You Do Not Want to Have to Do During a Pandemic", 9 June 2020

First, I will give you a few pointers on myself: I am caring for my six-year old boy with complex needs when I am not at work as a Post-Doc. I also have a daughter.

Two parents in home office, “home-schooling” and full-time care is a juggling act we would not have succeeded in without our live-in childminder. This does not lift, though, the constant double burden and stress the situation puts on us. Still it is impressive how much work we got done with a child in our laps.

If I were to list one point that made all the difference, then it would be this: To arrange all our schedules around the fixed daily routines of our special boy. 

Lastly, I’d like to share my personal top five of things you do not want to have to do during a pandemic

  • Call in a washing machine technician - who ever thought about ensuring social distancing before?
  • Visit the emergency department
  • Order replacement parts for a special-needs buggy - there usually is only one place which can provide them, the producer was closed due to Covid-19 and could only ship the parts 2 months later
  • There was a close call but I am grateful to say we were spared the trip in the end
  • Choose between 1) a hospital-based therapy or 2) an immunosuppressive drug for your special needs child

These were the two options our consultant was weighing for us to go forward. The decision could not even be made during a clinic appointment but had to be made on the phone.

I have read quite a few EDI blog entries since the pandemic started and found them mostly soothing and always interesting. I would be delighted to read more from fellow UCD staff and their experience of caring for loved ones.

Judith Evers, School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

EDI Blog Entry #11, "Volunteering in UCD Covid-19 Call Centre", 2 June 2020

This week on the EDI Blog we hear from UCD community members who have been volunteering in the NVRL Covid-19 call centre on UCD campus since March 2020. Read about their motivations to volunteers, what it’s been like to help out during this crisis and to be on campus during the lockdown. For a full list of contributors and more information on the Covid-19 call centre, scroll down to the bottom of the post.

“Hello, NVRL, Loretta speaking, how can I help you?”

On 31st December 2019 I retired from my position in UCD as an assistant professor/lecturer in nursing, midwifery, and health systems.  After 40 years working as a registered nurse and 30 of those as a registered nurse teacher I was looking forward to active retirement.  January and February involved a short holiday and learning to find new routines.  I was lucky to have part time work with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland.  As a result of the Government of Ireland lockdown measures, the 16th March 2020 was the last day that I physically went to a workplace.  Soon afterwards I heard that the HSE were seeking people to train as contact tracers.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the training at that time. Two weeks later I received an email seeking volunteers for the National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) to answer telephone calls to provide negative results for Sars-Covid 2 to telephone callers. 

Training was provided on Saturday 4th April and this involved explaining the confidential nature of the information and a responsibility to ensure that any positive results were quickly referred on to clinical personnel in order that individuals were appropriately counselled regarding isolation and contact tracing.

I volunteered on average 2 -3 afternoons a week on a designated team working on a shift basis. The team I was involved in consisted of 5-6 volunteers as well as the staff in the NVRL. The volunteers took approximately 60 phone calls each on busy days and 35 on weekends. The phone calls received were from Health care workers (HCW's) Community Public Health, General Practitioners, Directors of Nursing, Managers of residential care settings as well as individual members of the public. We provided a professional service that involved disseminating negative Sars-Covid 2 test results, explaining testing timeframes, who to contact when there were no result available, and importantly reassuring people when they are awaiting results.  At the beginning there was a backlog in testing and reporting results and people were very anxious. As the days and weeks progressed the turnaround time was quicker and on my most recent shift, we were providing negative results to people who had had their test 24 hours previously.

Volunteering in this role provided me with an understanding of the difficulties experienced by people. For example, the long delays impacted on individuals personal, emotional and professional lives as a many of them required a negative test result to resume work or re-join their family after self-isolation. For example, one father in self isolation had not been home to see his new baby and was devastated as he was still awaiting a result seven days later. He could not go home until he had a negative result. Thankfully when the testing capacity was increased these situations no longer happened.  Many times, on receiving the negative result people became emotionally upset as they were so fearful of the disease and its impact on their vulnerable family members.  The most difficult calls were those from staff in residential care setting phoning to obtain a result for their residents. It was lovely hearing the relief in their voices on receipt of the negative result and saying things like ‘oh that is fantastic’, ‘thank you’ and ‘stay safe’.

The best things about volunteering with UCD NVRL is that I have learned how individuals avail of a test, the different test centres, how samples are delivered to the laboratory, the number of testing laboratories and most importantly the audit trail that the NVRL have in place to ensure that the correct sample result is provided.. Support from the staff in the NVRL has been great, and the camaraderie amongst the team was exemplary.

All in all, I really benefit from this experience. I was delighted to ‘break out’ of lockdown and drive to UCD. I usually went over a half hour early to avail of the woodland walk. The trees were so lovely and the birdsong was heartening and all of this was in stark contrast to what the people of Ireland were going through at this difficult time.

“Good bye and thank you for your call “.

Loretta

More contributions from our colleagues:

 Q: What motivated you to volunteer?

  • I heard about volunteering in the NVRL Covid19 Centre while volunteering in the contact tracing centre on campus. As the NVRL was just starting out and contact tracing had quite a few volunteers I thought I would throw my hat in with the NVRL. The reason I volunteered was because I figured I was able to. I don't have kids or elderly family members to look after so I had the time to committee. (Meadhbh)
  • I found out about the opportunity through discussing with my line manager ways in which I could potentially contribute to the University's initiatives around COVID19. (Elaine)
  • Within my school, I received an email about this opportunity less than a week after the University closed. I chose to volunteer to contribute to the management of this disease in any way I can. (Sabine)
  • I wanted to volunteer to stay 'at work' because my normal job couldn't continue full time in lockdown. I also wanted to feel I was doing something of worth and with purpose while in lockdown and to feel I was doing something in a small way to help. (Jen)
  • I am a lecturer in the School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science. I got involved, as well as all of my colleagues, as we teach our students how important Public Health is. Also, as I am on my own (my housemates fled Dublin at the start and are now stuck where they are), I needed to get involved with something to get out of the house as I wouldn't have any social contacts. And finally, the main reason, helping is just the right thing to do and it makes me feel very useful that I can help people give some more clarity on the status of their swabs. (Mirjam)

Q: What have you enjoyed about this experience?

  • Through volunteering I became aware of the difficult challenges others in our community were and are still facing around COVID19. It provided an opportunity to contribute towards helping others to address the challenges they are facing.  It created greater appreciation for the many positives that I have in my own work and life.  It provided a sense of contributing to community and society at large. (Elaine)  
  • Our NVRL colleagues are so lovely and so helpful; the volunteers really bonded well and we are an amazing and great team; it's great to meet so many people from within UCD, but also outside UCD who just want to help. (Mirjam)
  • I feel I’m giving a little contribution to the big crisis and it was encouraging to meet other volunteers who thought the same. A lot of people are anxious to know about their COVID-19 test results because they want/have to go back to work. There are all sorts of reactions on the phone when people are told about their results. This sometimes needs a dose of patience, other times needs sympathy or simply being willing to listen to the person on the phone. I found this to be an interesting experience. (Massimiliano)  
  • I felt that by volunteering I got some sort of normality back, i.e. get up in the morning, go to UCD and work there for 4.5 hours a day for 7 days in a fortnight. (Sabine)
  • I was trained at the Covid centre but then went to work in NVRL immediately. It was great to have some semblance of going to work every day, interacting with others in the workplace and feeling I was helping in some small way. The NVRL call centre has been completely outside my skill set and comfort zone but has been very rewarding and grounding listening to people's calls and concerns. (Jen)
  • Our group of volunteers, Team 1 (aka The A-Team), recognised each other from before the pandemic so got on well straight away. We all helped and supported each other when there were tricky or challenging phone calls. In between calls we were able to make each other laugh and even swap recipes! (Meadhbh)
  • It was great to work in the UCD Covid19 Centre where the safety and support for volunteers was excellent - I have elderly parents and while I would have liked contribute in my local community, I chose not to partake in wider community-based initiatives as I needed to ensure I was readily available to provide support to my parents if and where needed. (Elaine)

 Q: Has volunteering helped you in your own response to Covid-19? 

  • I learned a lot about the virus and how people are living through this crisis. I have become more conscious of my daily actions to prevent the spread of the virus and have learnt to put up with the lockdown. (Massimiliano)
  • I think the volunteering experience has given me a more realistic view on the Covid crisis rather than listening to social media etc. It helped to make me feel realistic about my situation and feel like a part of the solution rather than on the outside. (Jen)
  • Having received all the Covid-19 contact tracing training, I certainly felt less afraid of the disease, while still having respect for it and the new rules it brought with it. (Sabine)
  • Returning to campus to work on COVID19 for a block of time followed by the exercise of coming and going helped to motivate me and enable me to focus and structure my own work from home better in terms of doing a block of work sitting at the computer followed by a break for physical exercise and ensuring to clear the head and provide distance between work and home life even when happening in the same space. I know I was not alone in finding such areas a real challenge - other colleagues in the MENU coffee mornings were great in coming up with suggestions around the challenges of suddenly finding ourselves working remotely from home (Elaine)
  • One of the main things that I have gained from the pandemic is the capability of being flexible. At the start, every day things changed, more knowledge was gained and we all had to take that on board every day. The control was very much gone, but I just rolled with it, which I was very bad at before all this. It gave me a lot less stress also in other parts of my life. (Mirjam)

Q: What was it like to be on UCD Campus during the lockdown? 

  • While it was very strange and a bit eerie to come onto campus and see all the buildings locked up and the cessation of normal UCD life, I could experience the beautiful grounds on-campus as we moved from Spring into Summer - coming in early mornings you literally felt you had the campus to yourself.  When coming and going in the afternoon, I got to see how the local community also were making use of the campus for their walks. Doing so, at a time when other members of our global community were restricted to staying within their house/apartment, highlights the many real benefits of having the opportunity of coming to work in our lovely campus. (Elaine)
  • It felt good to come back on campus, it was what I was used to and gave me back some structure that was lacking once my normal job couldn't continue as normal. I also ended up working with a lot of people I knew, which gave a sense of familiarity. (Jen)
  • Driving up the N11 to get to campus in the early weeks of the pandemic was very odd as there were no cars on the road. Campus itself was very eerie as there was the odd person walking their dog but at this time of year and with this nice weather usually every inch of grass has either students or staff sitting on it trying to soak up some sun! (Meadhbh)
  • I have never seen the campus so empty, not even in the weekends. We all got used very quickly to the new rules of cleaning spaces, phones, washing hands and keeping our social distance. (Mirjam)
  • For me it is a short cycle from home to the UCD campus. Obviously at the beginning there were very few people around and it felt a privilege to be able to cycle to UCD. After over two months life is slowly getting back to normal and so is the cycle to campus. (Massimiliano)

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to share?

  • I enjoyed volunteering but there were times I found it hard going especially if people were upset on the phone. But luckily that was't too often and by just listening and reassuring them, you were able to comfort them. Every single person in Ireland is playing a role in keeping each other safe and volunteering was my part to play. (Meadhbh)
  • I would like to thank our supervisors at the NVRL: Adrienne Garland, Valerie Brennan and Lisa Gregory. And all the other girls from the NVRL who all answer any queries we have and help us with anything we need. They are all brilliant and just the loveliest people to work with. (Mirjam)
  • This experience highlighted again the high level of collegiality within UCD, the willingness to step up and help and the benefits of pulling together as a team to address whatever challenges come our way. I would like in particular to acknowledge my fellow volunteers, the work of Mirjam Heinen in coordinating the volunteers and Lisa Gregory and her team in the NVRL - it was a pleasure to work with them and their substantive work and efforts over the past three months are appreciated and I must say are to be applauded. (Elaine)

Huge thanks to our contributors this week:

Elaine Cregg, Newman Building Project Manager

Jennifer Coughlan, Senior Technical Officer, School of Biological and Environmental Science

Dr Loretta Crawley retired lecturer UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems.

Dr Massimiliano Ditroilo, Assistant Professor/Lecturer, School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science

Meadhbh Murphy, Archivist, UCD Library

Dr Mirjam Heinen, Assistant Professor/Lecturer, School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science

Dr Sabine Harrison, Senior Technical Officer, School of Agriculture & Food Science

More information on the Covid-19 Call Centre in UCD:

The call centre at the NVRL is a shoot-off of the contact tracing centre at UCD. NVRL got inundated with phone calls when the pandemic started and reached out to the contact tracing centre at UCD for help.

The call centre operates 7 days a week and has two shifts a day, morning and afternoon. On busy shifts, each volunteer received 60+ phone calls.

Volunteers are contacted by HCWs, Community Public Health, GPs, Directors/managers of nursing or residential care settings as well as individual members of the public.

They explain testing timeframes, who to contact and what to expect when there is no result available or when the swab went to another lab, reassuring people and listening to them when they need to vent their frustration and emotions and also disseminate negative test results if available.

As the HSE is getting the results back to people quicker now, including the negative test results, the NVRL receives less phone calls, but that is only a very recent event and volunteers have been working really hard for almost 2 months now.

EDI Blog Entry #9 & #10, "A Message to my Fellow Fathers" & "Spag Bols & Zoom", 26 May 2020

Coming up to Parents' Day on 1 June, we asked UCD parents to reflect on their experiences during Covid-19. To read more musings from parents, visit the Supports for Parents webpage.

A message to my fellow fathers

I like to think of myself as a progressive father and husband. My wife and I try to share childcare responsibilities. When our first son was born, I took six months of parental leave. I pick our children up from school once or twice per week. Heck, I even take the children to winter holidays with my in-laws while my wife is on a 10-day meditation retreat.

On the other hand,… my wife took eight months of parental leave with our first son, and she took a year with the second, while I continued to work. She picks up the kids from school 2-3 times per week. Heck, when I started my job here in Ireland, she stayed back in Germany with two children for four months and worked on her PhD.

We never designed it to be that way. We never consciously made the decision that childcare should mainly be the duty of my wife. On the contrary, my wife and I see ourselves as equals, with shared responsibilities. Yet, the realities indicate we are not.

Why am I saying this? Because the fight for equality never stops. It takes constant effort, constant self-evaluation, and painful honesty to reach equality. Even if we men think we are doing enough, we probably do not. Sometimes we get applauded for our efforts, but this is not because we reached equality, but because we did so pitiful little in the past. 

There is a risk that the great pandemic makes all this worse. That it reinforces old role models and obliterates the little progress we have made. Fellow fathers let’s not fall into this trap. Let’s keep in mind that there are not only structural hurdles towards equality at work, but that we also need to live and practice equality and fairness at home. 

Don’t try to rationalize yourself out of the problem. Don’t argue why just now your career is more important than childcare duties. Why your partner is just better at home-schooling. Why you can’t organize the ever-changing Zoom schedule of the children.  Yes, equality comes through institutional change. But let’s not forget that it also must be a daily experience in our private lives. 

The great pandemic can also be an opportunity to renegotiate childcare duties, housework, career ambitions. If we do this right, we may come out as better, fairer families on the other side.

Rainer Melzer, Assistant Professor, School of Biology and Environmental Science

Rainer is part of the Parent Buddy Programme, an informal peer network for parents in UCD. For further details on Supports for Parents and the Parent Buddy Programme, visit https://www.ucd.ie/equality/support/supportsforparents/

Spag Bols and Zoom - Parenting during Covid-19

“Mammy you were meant to print out Busy at Maths page 139, not 140,” says the 10 year old.

“Is there anything to eat?” says the 11 year old.

“Mammy, pink and sparkly is not really my jam anymore,” says the 7 year old, whose wardrobe would blind you if you opened it without a pair of sunglasses on as there are SO.MANY.SPARKLY.CLOTHES.

“I have a Zoom in 2.5 minutes – just do your schoolwork, I’ll be back down in an hour,” I say. 

I then go upstairs to discover the husband has colonised the only acceptable room in the house to have a Zoom from (you know… the room without piles of dirty washing in the background, or stacks of unopened boxes from when you moved house seven years ago but still haven’t opened, or without constant passing child or animal traffic…). I listen tentatively at the door – ok he sounds like he’s saying goodbye. Excellent. Just then, my phone rings. 

It is my mother, who is cocooning alone in her own house. I answer and tell her I will need to call her back as I am working. 

“I thought you said work was closed?” She says. 

“I’m working at home mam. I’ll call you back in about an hour.” 

“I’ve run out of milk, do you think I can go up to the shop myself?” 

“No, mam, I’ll bring some up to you later.” 

“In about an hour?” 

“No, mam. Look I’ll call you back in an hour”.

When I hear the hubby finishing his Skype call, I barge in and kick him out of the Zoom-able room with a commitment that he can have the room back for his next Skype at 2pm, if he agrees to make the kids’ lunch.

The first couple of weeks of lockdown were pretty much complete chaos. I would give the kids a schedule of schoolwork to do each morning and scoot off upstairs to work. I would then be up and down the stairs like a yo-yo in between Zooms, telling the kids to be quiet and stop drawing poo emojis on each other’s homework, checking long multiplication, preparing endless snacks and trying to make mental notes in my head for my next Zoom meeting while chopping onions for the spag bol. A couple of evenings a week I would run up to Tesco, queue for 20 minutes to get in, then pick up shopping for my elderly mother and drop that to her. I quickly realised that everyone in the country seems to have started to read newspapers again, so most evenings I would be too late to pick up her Evening Herald and my poor mother would have to make do with the Leinster Leader or some other regional gem. 

The world of work and home blended into one. Instead of coming home from work in the evening and drawing a line in the sand, I ducked in and out of emails in between folding laundry and checking Irish sentences. An unintentional routine developed with 11pm emails becoming totally normal and, worryingly, people would reply to me at that hour! Then we would get up a few hours later and do it all again. At some point in the fourth week, I realised this was not sustainable. 

Thinking of all of the things that we were now NOT doing – no commuting to work, no hustling everyone out the door for school every morning; no travelling to sports activities seven days a week; no 9am Saturday GAA training; no playdates; no birthday parties – I couldn’t grasp why it all felt so stressful and hectic. It was one of those things that defies scientific laws. 

Thankfully, the universe apparently tends towards order rather than chaos (phew!) and roll on eight weeks and the house is feeling a lot less chaotic. Over the weeks we’ve tried several different ‘routines’ involving family walks or changing dinner time or having spelling tests etc. The two things which have stuck and which seem to help are:

  1. Spending about 30-45 minutes each morning before I start working with the kids looking at schoolwork 
  2. Doing online Zumba classes

Ok, so I don’t get around to checking most of the schoolwork, and I still can’t make it through a Zumba class without using several swear words. However, on the plus side, my kids have learned a whole new set of life lessons: how to use a hoover; how to bake the perfect sponge; how to chop an onion like a pro; the purpose of a toilet brush. Helping out at home more has made them more empathetic little humans (“Would you like me to bring you up a cup of tea mammy?” are the sweetest words to hear when you have been staring at a computer screen for hours!) The older ones go for a spin on their bikes on their own each day, loving their newfound independence. They even set up their own book club with their friends using zoom. They see their mammy and daddy working hard each day and have a new understanding of what it means to work (I think they secretly thought that when we disappear off to work each day, we are off having a big ole’ grown-ups party!). 

As with so many things to do with parenting, the key was to let go a bit. Trying to be a full-time teacher and do your day-job well and keep a house running all at the same time is not a recipe for happy or successful kids… it is a recipe for tired and stressed out parents. Something has to give and that is ok. I may have given up on correcting long multiplication, but I get to have dinner and walks every day with my favourite people. COVID has brought some terrible sadness to many families. I have a feeling that when we look back on this period, we may also see that COVID has brought us some much needed perspective and a few positives along with it.

Cathy Gibson, HR Partner

Cathy is part of the Parent Buddy Programme, an informal peer network for parents in UCD. For further details on Supports for Parents and the Parent Buddy Programme, visit https://www.ucd.ie/equality/support/supportsforparents/ 

EDI Blog Entry #8, "Watch Your Language!", 21 May 2020

When I was a child, I heard 'Watch your language!' probably a lot more often than anyone would have preferred. Usually, it was a stern teacher or an equally stern parent reprimanding the occasional slip of the tongue that crossed the line of what was allowed and what was not. You can imagine what words set off this response and we'll leave those to the imagination.
 
But for the children of immigrants, 'watch your language' isn't about swearing. For members of my family in America, it was Polish and Lithuanian that had to be avoided or omitted for the sake of assimilation. We even changed the spelling and pronunciation of our surname to fit in a bit better. In Ireland, it was speaking Irish that was banned by the Statutes of Kilkenny (originally) in 1366. When we look back through history, there are innumerable examples of attempts to purify populations, sometimes through the penalisation of heritage language use. Nevertheless, multilingualism persisted.

We might not always realise it, but our lives are far more multilingual than at any other point in recorded history. With easily accessible language learning and exposure to international entertainment content, learning and maintaining languages can happen anywhere. Our languages are vitally important to us. They can connect us to the past, enrich our lives, and show us the paths towards the future. So much of our cultural history is tied up with elements of different languages, sometimes ones that we don't (or no longer) speak. When young people are told to watch their language, this can sometimes be a rejection of the multilingualism that creates a huge amount of cultural diversity. 
 
This is why myself and Dr Mary Farrelly have started the 'Living Multilingually' project, of which UCDictionary plays a pivotal role. Funded by the Careers Network SPARC programme, the UCDictionary is a multilingual, multimedia crowd-sourced dictionary that celebrates the great and the mundane of living multilingually. Now you, too, can contribute your favourite words to the dictionary, increasing visibility of your own lived experiences. Contributions can be made at: https://forms.gle/h7vcqkvGxkax4KL2A.
 
Stephen Lucek, Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics
 

 

EDI Blog Entry #7, "An Introvert's Perspective on the 'New Normal", 12 May 2020

Although this is a difficult time for many, I have noticed over the last few weeks that there are unexpected benefits to this new way of working and I wanted to share my perspective with you. As an introvert, I find that working in an office five days a week can be exhausting and now that most of us are working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in some ways my work life has changed for the better.

It took me a while to realise this but being introverted is not “wrong.” Contrary to popular belief, introverts are not anti-social: we enjoy socialising but tend to prefer one-to-one meetings and get-togethers with small groups since being around other people for long periods of time drains our energy. We also tend to take our time to process thoughts and do not generally speak up until a thought or idea is fully formed. Extroverts, on the other hand, feel energised from being around other people and from bouncing new ideas around – they need social interaction.

Modern workplaces, particularly in the West, seem to favour extroverted workers with numerous (and at times unnecessary!) face-to-face meetings, networking events and open plan offices. Confidence and gregariousness are often valued so it follows that extroverts, to whom these qualities come naturally, are at an advantage.

Over the last few weeks, I did a bit of self-reflection (surprise surprise!) and also picked up on comments made by similar-minded colleagues about this new way of working. I cannot help but feel that now that all of us - including our colleagues, bosses and customers - are required to work from home, life is easier:

  • Most correspondence now takes place via email - no more face-to-face meetings or sudden walk-ins. Phone-calls are very rare which suits introverts who prefer a less direct way of communication. The pace has also slowed down because of this - we can now take our time to type our responses to ensure the tone is just right and the information correct, and we can manage our workloads better. 
  • A colleague notes how they love not having to constantly interact with others and finds that when they do chat to colleagues now, they are genuinely excited. Working from home “also means that when I get to the end of the day, I am far less tired, which allows me to have a healthier work/life balance.”
  • Another friend joyously proclaims on Whatsapp “no more forced small talk and no more office gossip!”
  • We have more control over our environment – we can play our favourite music or nature sounds in the background and “get in the zone”. No office noise and continuous distractions, which allows us to focus on our tasks more easily and makes us more efficient.
  • We have been given the gift of time – most of us are saving 1+ hour commuting time, which we can devote to whatever helps us to start the day in the best way – be it sleeping an extra hour, getting us and our family organised, doing a home workout, yoga or meditation session, going for a short walk in nature…
  • The stress of the morning rush, public transport, or what to wear has also disappeared. Mornings are gentler.
  • One colleague says “What I enjoy is the stillness, the feeling that I don't have to rush anywhere. I like that I don't have to be anxious about commuting and cycling in traffic, and I have more time to read
  • Zoom meetings and webinars make it easier for everyone to participate: as a small icon on a screen, we are all equal and people do not talk over one another. It feels less intimidating to speak up when you’re in your own home rather than in a boardroom surrounded by people.
  • Also, video calls and video meetings tend to be more intense, which means care is taken to schedule them with less frequency and keep them short and to-the-point - bliss!
  • The chat function is often used as a means to efficiently collect feedback during webinars (with comments often only visible to the host) – this gives introverts a way to express opinions comfortably and increases the chances of us contributing in real time.

Although extroverts may disagree, this new way of working feels more inclusive overall. I wonder if people are beginning to appreciate the slower pace and this time of self-reflection.

Anonymous (you didn't expect to find a name here, did you?!) 

 

You might enjoy some of these:

Books:

"Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking", Susan Cain

"Sorry I'm Late, I didn't Want to Come - An Introvert's Year of Living Dangerously", Jessica Pan

Ted TalkThe Power of Introverts, Susan Cain

Articles

Working from Home is Heaven 

An Introvert Guides an Extrovert through Self-Isolation

Coinfessions of a Black Introvert

Podcasts:

The Intronaut

The Traveling Introvert

Get in touchedi@ucd.ie. We want to hear form extroverts too!

EDI Blog Entry #6, "Working From Home", 6 May 2020

What's the plan, Stan

My name is Ulyana O'Neill, I am the Erasmus and International programme coordinator for UCD Law School.

When I was approached by EDI about a blog entry on my experience as a working mother and international staff member in UCD I was intrigued.

The COVID 19 pandemic has upset our lives and forced us to make different plans for work and home time. I have a wonderful husband, Shane, two teenage kids, Sasha and Brandon, two cats, Socks and Lucky and consider myself very fortunate that we all have got good health and are together during this difficult time. The plan we had going into this pandemic has changed, with every day being a challenge to keep motivated and juggle priorities with work and family.

Just to give you some background, I am Russian, my parents come from North and South Russia and met in Estonian Republic in USSR where I was born. As an 11 year old I remember the challenges we experienced as a family when “perestroika” happened. We had to queue for food and any money was devalued. I remember my mum and dad lost their jobs and we were poor and struggled for many months.

I applied for a job through an agency in Tallinn in 2001 to work and travel abroad and was accepted in Dublin Airport. When I moved to Ireland in 2001, I was a naive young girl with the plan to save and pay back my student loans. So nearly 20 years later my loans were paid long time ago and my home is in Ireland.

Moving to a new country, learning a new language and embracing a new culture makes you more adaptable to any new challenges, including Covid-19. I am sure a lot of my colleagues in UCD who have experienced the same can understand this.

The biggest challenge for our family were our kids, they are teenagers, 12 and 14 years old. Before COVID-19 they both had a lot of team sport (GAA, Rugby, Hockey etc) and played 7 days per week. Can you imagine all that energy need to go somewhere, oh boy it's a lot of energy?

When the kids have exercised, they are much calmer and pleasant to be around. We have planned daily exercises and walks, choose right or left, 2k this way or 2k the other way. They learned new things: how to clean dishes, cleaning windows, ironing Dad's shirts, hoovering every day and sewing facemasks for charity - helpful life skills that they can use in the future. We had a great "cooking competition" and my son learned how to cook pasta for the first time in his life; we had some discussions and arguments about dishes, and I was criticized a lot for most of my cooking as apparently it was too fancy and nowadays surprisingly kids don’t like stuffed peppers and homemade crab cakes.

I would like to wish all working parents to enjoy this time with their kids, they are growing up so fast and they need to see strong, positive and happy Mamas and Papas, even if it’s seemingly impossible.

Ulyana O'Neill, Sutherland School of Law

 

 

 

EDI Blog Entry #5, "Connecting Across Cultures", 28 April 2020

COVID-19 is a crisis affecting everyone on the planet in some way, shape or form, and while it is a powerful feeling to know that we’re all in this together, the experience of living in lockdown can make us feel detached from the world around us. In normal circumstances, many of us would have been planning summer holidays around now, participating in international conferences, preparing to welcome students from abroad, getting ready for volunteering or exchange experiences, and continuing to build on the global connections formed personally and professionally. Instead we are facing into an uncertain summer period, where plans are being reworked and travel is being put on hold.

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about the experiences which will be missed out on for students and staff currently in UCD, and for those who planned on making the journey to our beautiful island this year. The opportunities to broaden our horizons, submerge ourselves in other cultures and to share our own traditions and heritage have now been restricted. However, this crisis has forced us all to think creatively and to find new ways to connect with those closest to us and with those at the other side of the world. If anything, our recently enhanced skillset with all things virtual, presents us with unique opportunities to extend our cross-cultural interactions, even once the lock-down is lifted.

So how can we embrace new cultures, connect across continents and strengthen our global ties over the coming months? I’ve collated a list of resources which I hope you will find interesting and useful. I would love to hear your suggestions too, and maybe together, we can find new ways to increase our global engagement and expand our understanding of the myriad of cultures around the world.

  • Multicultural Employee Network at UCD (MENU): a vibrant social network of over 200 UCD staff members from 38 countries. Weekly coffee mornings are currently being held on Zoom. Email menu@ucd.ie if you’d like to get involved.
  • Virtual Vacations: Lonely Planet has done a stellar job on collating videos, podcasts, playlists and movie recommendations to share some cultural highlights from different locations around the world. Check out the virtual vacation for Ireland here and six international locations here (the Japan section is particularly interesting!).
  • Gaeltacht UCD 2020 Summer School, 29th June – 1st July: aimed at adults in Ireland and abroad who are interested in the Irish language and in Irish culture.
  • Diverse Voices: An intercultural awareness and student support training guide for staff working with international students, produced by the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS). UCD is an ICOS member organisation, therefore any UCD staff member can gain access to the Members Area and download a copy of this toolkit (available for a limited time only).
  • Internationalisation at Home: an excellent blog article by Elspeth Jones and Tanja Reiffenrath about ways to integrate global perspectives within programmes of study.
  • Online Indigenous Film Festival – Latin America and Caribbean countries together with UNESCO held an online film festival in 2019 to mark the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Over 80 films were released on a dedicated YouTube playlist for free viewing.
  • UN Online Volunteering Programme – participate in the global effort towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from anywhere in the world, on any device. To date, there have been over 12,000 online volunteers from 187 countries involved in this programme.

I hope the above links will help you discover something new and engaging during this period of change. I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes and I wish you all an enjoyable and interesting summer.

“There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met” W.B. Yeats

Caroline Mangan, Global Experience Manager, UCD Global, caroline.mangan@ucd.ie

Boats

EDI Blog Entry #4, "Five Things my Cat Taught Me about Mental Wellbeing", 21 April 2020

We got our cat a few years ago, at a time when the world around us didn’t seem to make sense anymore. Coming home to our cat every night helped me to ground myself. This being didn’t care about what was going on in the big world around it. Having her curl up in my lap every night and just seeming so utterly content with the world by having had a nice meal and now having me massage her belly helped me get from one day to the next.

Now we find ourselves again in a situation where the world around us is changing rapidly and the uncertainty is causing a kaleidoscope of feelings, from anxiety to fear to depression and everything in between. Many of the coping mechanisms I had developed in the past to get me through stressful times are not accessible to me anymore in this strange world, like seeking the company of family and friends. Even just following my daily routine of going to work in the morning is impossible now. We still have our cat though and watching her over the past weeks I learned a thing or two about taking care of my mental well-being:

  1. "Feed me now" - Follow a routine as much as possible. This may look very different to the routine you used to have, but just having some sort of structure in the day can be very helpful
  2. "Time for a nap" - Continue healthy eating and sleeping habits (for my cat that means sleeping around 20 hours of the day, I wouldn’t recommend that for humans though)
  3. "Play with me" - Stay connected with friends and family through phone calls/video chats/text messages, etc. Walking across their keyboard while they are trying to work is sure to grab their attention
  4. "Belly rub time" - Build in time for activities you enjoy (self care) like reading a book, listening to music, drawing/painting or other creative activities, exercising or going for a walk outside (observing social distancing and related rules of course). Even just a few minutes a day consciously spent on self care can make a big difference. Sometimes for me it is just that one moment to stop and take a deep breath that helps me to refocus my strength
  5. "I’m a cat and I don’t care" - Consider limiting your time on social media and/or consuming news

And for those of you who don’t have pets but would like to draw some strength from a content kitty, I am happy to share a picture of Myra basking in the afternoon sun.

Dr Elke Eichelmann, School of Biology and Environmental Science 

Myra cat

EDI Blog Entry #3, 14 April 2020: "Daffodils"

In leaving an event before COVID19 took hold, I had the Daffodil pinned to my coat. An Italian colleague who is new to Ireland admired the flower - as a newcomer to Ireland – I explained about Daffodil Day  –  the tradition of the Irish Cancer Society in normal circumstances holding Daffodil Day in March as an opportunity to raise funds and to give hope to those suffering with Cancer.

For me personally the Daffodil is a symbol that Irish Spring is here – it is one of the first flowers to bloom, bright and yellow, beautiful in itself and also in foretelling that summer and longer and brighter days will follow.  Daffodils remind me of childhood -  when they appeared sometime during February to March – a period marked at the beginning by St Brigid’s Day and the St Brigid’s Cross and drawing near an end with St Patrick’s Day and the family taking a ‘big day out’ into Dublin city centre (all of 4 miles) to see the parade and then GAA Club Finals in Croke Park.  Daffodils make me smile and symbolize family - my mother loves daffodils and growing up our garden was filled with daffodils in Spring.    Daffodils also form part of my earliest associations with Europe and the European Union – which at the time was accessible to me via very limited channels – one being the Eurovision song contest - Daffodils feature in Dana’s All Kinds of Everything winning entry in 1970 (which was regularly broadcast on TV when I was young - I’ll leave it to you to decide on whether that is something to best remember or forget!!!).   For those from Japan – the appearance of daffodils represents for me what I think Hanami may be for you. 

Finally daffodils remind me of poetry and the English poet William Wordsworth’s poem below which I learned at an early age and to this day stays with me always coming out again in Spring.  

Please share an entry from your culture and in the meantime I hope this brings a flash of pleasure to your heart and dancing with the Daffodils.

Elaine Cregg, Newman Building Project Manager 

Daffodils

 

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

EDI Blog Entries #1 & #2, 7 April 2020: "On the Frontline During COVID19"

Returning to the ‘frontline’ of the ICU this month, in efforts to care for those impacted by COVID19, I am reminded of the importance of community to our wellbeing. Day in day out, the physical, mental, and emotional labour put into our shifts in the ICU would be almost impossible if it wasn’t for the comradery, compassion and understanding of our ICU community. Nurses, Doctors, Physiotherapists and others coming together, not only with the shared goal of making our patients well again, but with the shared knowledge that in order to achieve that goal we must support each other. Working in academia can often be isolating, and demanding in ways not easily expressed. Whatever our role is, creating and sustaining communities of compassion and support is integral to our wellbeing and success.

John P. Gilmore RGN FHEA, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health System

Working as a student nurse I encounter a lot of new experiences everyday out on the wards. Some can be quite challenging yet some most rewarding as I perfect a new skill with a willing patient allowing me to do so! And this is no different during the covid-19 pandemic. Yes, it is a very stressful time, especially I feel for students as there is so much pressure to perform as best as we can right now. But this hasn’t gone unnoticed. I’m surprised at all the appreciation I’m getting from my patients. I’m working as a HCA, and all my patients give me nothing but thanks and understanding. Every night when I’m going home and doing my final checks, without fail most will tell me to stay safe and look out for my family. It’s this kindness which makes it easier to keep coming in everyday to try help these people get home to their families too.

A student nurse, April 2020, anonymous

 

 WHO nurses