Students Attempting to Have Social Impact during the Pandemic
Students from different undergraduate programs carry out health, sustainability, and education initiatives to contribute to the external community with their knowledge and concrete actions. And the pandemic didn't stop them.
They are united by common interests and their desire to contribute to society.
These are the social projects designed by UC Chile students who, through volunteering, have managed to help the community even during the pandemic.
They have covered areas as diverse as health, wellness, sustainability, education, and academic support.
A Marine Animal Stranding Registry
The Marine Stranding Project (VAMAR, Spanish acronym) started in 2021 with a group of students from the veterinary medicine, marine biology, and biology education programs.
To create a database of stranded marine animals on the beach or the seashore along the entire Chilean coast. Considering that 40% of the world's cetaceans swim through Chilean waters, this is a great effort.
To generate this valuable information, they rely on citizen records and the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service's (Sernapesca, Spanish acronym) databases. Its 20 members, including two professors, also focus on environmental education and the dissemination of scientific information.
"We work every day. We want to have a complete list of all marine stranding and determine the cause, the place, the date, and other relevant data. We are creating the first and only citizen-based stranding monitoring and notification network in Chile," explained Octavia Velásquez, a veterinary medicine student and leader of the group.
VAMAR has just obtained an "Impulsa tu idea" (Boost your idea) fund from the Office of Student Affairs (DAE, Spanish acronym).
For more information on this initiative, check out the group's fan page.
Reducing Waiting Lists at Family Health Centers
The "Muévete por la Salud" (Move for Health) project started in 2015 with a group of medical students who needed an outlet for their motivation for service. Especially during the first years of the program, where they do not see many patients.
Today there are almost 90 volunteers, and the work is divided into eight committees.
The pandemic challenged the work. "The main difficulty has been to find and create spaces where provide education and health remotely. So far, we have succeeded thanks to the fact that since 2020 we have been accompanying families," explained Catalina Mora, one of its coordinators.
The pandemic has also allowed this group to rethink the project and create new activities. During this semester, for the first time, they will execute an operation to reduce waiting lists at Family Health Centers (CESFAM, Spanish acronym) in rural communities such as María Pinto.
"Muévete por la Salud" has had to seek various forms of financing throughout its development.
Last year, it obtained for the first time the Institutional Development Fund from the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC, Spanish acronym), which made it possible to finance almost all of 2021.
"We have managed to impact both the people we have served and the students who have participated. And also the doctors, who are the professors that accompany us. We are very proud," said Catalina Mora.
A Socially Inclusive University Admission Exam Preparation Program
The initiative of this pre-college program began 15 years ago at the School of Engineering. A group of students wanted to reduce the educational and socioeconomic gap, so they started offering free classes to students in difficult situations.
Since 2020, they have begun to do it online due to the pandemic.
Today they work with young communities near the San Joaquín campus who are in high school or have graduated and need support to take the university selection tests.
"We also teach them how to enter university. We show them that there are scholarships. And explain them about the special admission tracks not only at UC Chile but also in other universities," explained Catalina Lizard, one of the coordinators.
To finance the project, they have obtained the annual Social Action Fund from DAE and one from the Engineering Alumni Center. In addition to this, a small tuition fee of almost $10,000 is charged.
Sports Beyond Campus
"Tu Deporte UC" (Your sport at UC) is a community of UC Chile students that since 2015 has been committed to creating sports meetups with girls and boys. The idea is to educate them on values and guide them towards a healthy lifestyle.
Before the pandemic, they carried out weekly sports campaigns and workshops in the courts of the San Joaquin campus.
At the end of 2019, they paused due to the social outbreak. In 2020 the group had to reconsider how to continue amid the pandemic.
This year, five UC students and five foreign exchange volunteers have worked in healthy eating campaigns and remote activities.
It involves the delivery of packs with fruit, cereal bars, brochures with sports information, and some sports gifts related to the physical challenges every week.
According to the organizers, the great challenge for 2021 has been to keep the children in the program motivated. They have achieved this through activities presented as alternatives to cope with the mandatory lockdown.
"As general coordinator, I am thrilled with the program. We achieved what mattered most to us: keeping the kids motivated. We make them feel accompanied, and they know we are there for them," said Fernando Mir, a business administration student.
Although communication has been difficult, they have built the necessary bridges to carry out all the campaigns.
"We are already looking forward to returning to face-to-face workshops because they are the essence of the project," added Mir.
Check out Tu Deporte UC website.
This initiative started in 2017 with a group of Engineering students.
They wanted to level out the knowledge of first-year students from the Talent and Inclusion program (special admission for academically outstanding students from public schools). Thanks to their excellent results, in 2018, they added massive events, software workshops, and the leveling was expanded to the basic plan of the program.
Due to the social outburst at the end of 2019, they started to deliver online support to students. By 2020 they were already more adapted to the use of digital platforms.
"One of the most serious difficulties has been to motivate students to be more involved so that mass events are less lecture-based and more collaborative. Let them ask their questions without feeling ashamed," said Martina Gallegos, its general coordinator.
A Ministry of Education Institutional Development Fund finances them. "The impact we are having in engineering is significant. It is especially true for newcomers who enter the program and do not have a support network beyond teacher assistants, classes, and friends. We want to continue growing to help other scientific-mathematical programs."