There is a lot of focus on the newly ratified Student Poverty Alliance in your manifesto, what are the most important issues and plans of action to prevent student poverty?
This originally started when a friend of mine, Kyle, had spoken to a number of students who hadn’t eaten in a few days, and we decided we had to start something to highlight this. A number of people got involved, and we decided we needed to set up a food bank. This was put to council, and is going to be the first plan of action for the charity.
One of the main things we’re trying to get students involved in is the cost of printing, because it’s something everyone can relate to, which is astronomical at Queen’s. At the minute, we have a full business plan awaiting approval by management at SU, which plans to set up printing costs at 1p. Also, talks at the minute have aimed at stopping cuts to tuition fees; we shouldn’t be trying to prevent higher tuition fees, we should be trying to eradicate fees altogether. We’re trying to start a massive student movement, getting students back on the streets fighting, as they were in 2010.
Could you define Time Banking for readers, and how students will get the most out of this?
Time banking is something I spotted a year ago, which has already taken off in the UK. Basically, people volunteer their skills, and in return they can redeem lessons or services from someone else. For example, if I volunteer teaching French for an hour, that student could volunteer to teach me Spanish. It basically removes the need for currency; a friend told me this would eradicate all the world’s problems!
One of the ideas for this would be student time banking in the community, say if a student volunteers in the local community, he or she can redeem a cost- free lunch as reward, which would in turn limit the need for currency and student poverty.
You’ve mentioned strong working relationships with other officers. Do you plan to initiate any larger projects with a number of officers?
Yes, I think this has perhaps been a trick missing in the past. While we all have our own remits, the role descriptions fit very well together. Seven officers on one project will ensure that project really takes off, as opposed to several personal projects.
You’ve mentioned a residential news letter in your manifesto, how will this serve to benefit students in the wider community?
I plan to highlight residential problems in these, say there is an extreme amount of litter in one area, this will be highlighted in the newsletter, and recruit volunteers to help out. In return the residents will see how students are enriching the area, the kinds of volunteering they are doing, and how they are making South Belfast a better place.
Given the fierce competition for VP Community, how do you stand out as a candidate?
I think if anyone looks at my CV, or manifesto, I have the most experience relevant to this post. I’ve co- founded a charity, I’ve been involved in and led several societies, fundraised thousands of pounds and have network contacts with non-profit organisations and political parties that could all get involved with the SU.