Representational Network Spotlights

Case Study 1 - Access, Disabled Students’ Network

Access Representational Network is a group which is made for those students in the University of Winchester who may suffer from disabilities, medical conditions and mental health complications. The group has a wide range of members as anybody is accepted, no matter who they are or what background they may have. To make our members feel comfortable and to cater to the diversity within the group, there are a few things which we do.  

Recently, we have teamed up with Winchester Hub to involve ourselves with the community of Winchester. Our most recent project is ‘Cards of Positivity’ which is aid of our semester theme, ‘an act of kindness’. The aim of this project is to make cards of positivity which are then distributed throughout the community through Winchester Hub. These cards are for the general public along with care home residents in Easter baskets. As we don’t wish to leave anybody out, this does involve people who are not members of Access. We believe this is one of the reasons we are important to the community as we are spreading positivity and letting people know we care which is something someone may need, especially during these times.  

Another way which we include our members is giving them a chance to lead our virtual meetings which take place every fortnight on teams. They can lead the meetings however they may like; they can choose to speak to the group about themselves or something general. These may include talking about their religion, hobbies or achievements or it may even be a quiz they would like to share; the doors are open. 

A third but not final way Access allows diversity is by giving members the option to fill in an online form which is only seen by the Chair and Vice Chair. These questions ask members what their preferred pronouns are so everyone is comfortable and general questions about hobbies or what they would like to add to the network. The aim of this form is to make sure we can make members feel comfortable and to involve everyone to the best abilities. They do not have to take this form.  

Overall, Access is a group which helps people for comfortable and understood. Somewhere that members can be themselves no matter their age, gender, religion, etc. Access hopes to continue being able to provide a ‘safe space’ in the years to come for current and future students.  

Meghan Cooper – Chair of Access, Disabled Students’ Network 

Case Study 2 - Action for Refugees Student Network 

The Action for Refugees Network is a new representational network which we have set up this academic year. We have developed a small community of people who are passionate about ensuring that refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK feel welcomed and of people who have lived experience themselves. We are affiliated with the Student Action for Refugees (STAR) charity and we are a network of universities and colleges who are trying to make a difference through campaigning, fundraising, volunteering, and educating.   

Our network at Winchester has held some reading group style events online this year which involve watching readings of Refugee Tales and having discussions about it. We have also been holding regular evening meeting, coffee mornings and afternoon teas (all virtual of course). We are very excited and hopeful about being able to do this in person in the future! 

We are currently working on setting up volunteering opportunities with the Southampton and Winchester Visitors group both virtual and in person when it is safe to do so. We are also in the process of working on materials for an online exhibition called Museums Without A Home which is linked to the Families Together campaign. In addition, we are continuing to raise awareness through social media posts including recommended readings, quotes, new stories and sharing events, campaigns and petitions. This included petitions and letters to MPs and the Prime Minister about issues such as the use of Yarl’s Wood as accommodation for people seeking asylum, the Equal Access campaign, the Digital Divide campaign and Families Together. We are looking forward to next year with the hope of being able to do more in person campaigns and fundraising whilst continuing to build our community of members as well as with local refugees and people seeking asylum and organisations in the area.   

Laura Watson – Chair of Action for Refugees Student Network 

Case Study 3 - International Students Network

International Students Network is a student group connecting international students from all around the world. It’s been quite a quiet year for the International Students Network, especially with so many of us being in our home countries. Last semester, we managed to host online events semi regularly and we hosted two in-person events when we still could, going bowling and out for a meal. It had been our hope that we could have done something more this semester, but with most of our members being away from Winchester, it has been difficult. We hope that we can do more next Semester and next year!