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Virtual Welfare at John’s

In recent weeks, there has been significant concern about the potential consequences of the coronavirus outbreak upon our physical health and the economy. However, self-isolation can also have huge impacts on mental health, with loneliness, fear, and sadness affecting many. As the newly elected Welfare Events Officer at St John’s College, I feel motivated to help my fellow students through these tough times as best as I can. Keeping myself busy looking after student welfare is also proving a valuable way to avoid my own self-isolation boredom! With my wonderful Welfare Events Team, I have been planning and putting into action several exciting projects to help maintain the wellbeing of St John’s College students.

Virtual Movie Nights – Netflix Party

Every week, on Welfare Wednesdays, we are hosting a Netflix Party Movie Night. On Tuesdays, we release a voting poll for Johnians to vote for their favourite movie option. The movie with the most votes gets played that Wednesday! Netflix Party allows everyone with Netflix and our shared link to watch the chosen movie at the same time, and chat with each other via the messages feature. Last week, our Welfare Events Team member Faye hosted ‘Spirited Away’, an animated Japanese fantasy film. I’m looking forward to seeing what our students vote for next week!

Happy Mail Project

Welfare Events Team members, Abi and I, have created a penpal scheme for St John’s, entitled The Happy Mail Project. We’re so pleased to have had so many students sign up for this, with Johnians from all years and common rooms, including alumni. Abi and I are currently pairing people up based on their interests. We hope the students in each pair will exchange letters and potentially small gifts, such as puzzles and artwork, via post to lift each other’s spirits.

Virtual Open Mic

The Welfare Events Team are working with JMS, John’s Music Society, to organise a virtual choir! Students will send in videos of themselves singing or playing instruments to our college song, Country Roads. Our resident tech wiz Michael will piece these together. I can’t wait to see the finished product!  

Dance-Fit Livestream

During term-time, I run weekly hour-long dance fitness sessions in college, where any John’s student can come along for a boogie. On Sunday, I hosted a half-hour Dance-Fit Facebook Livestream for Johnians to follow along. This was a bit of fun for everyone, with upbeat music and easy-to-follow routines. I hope the live stream proved that it is easy to exercise from home during the lockdown and we don’t just have to be sat watching TV all day! I got some amazing feedback this week, and I hope to continue hosting regular sessions in the coming weeks.

Self-Care Stories

On our daily Facebook and Instagram stories, we are currently sharing self-care tips from the Welfare Events Team members. We hope this will give our students some new ideas about how to maintain their wellbeing during these strange times. Our Events Team member Holly has been kindly designing and uploading these, (see cover image).

Learn in Lockdown

Georgina from our Events Team and Gabriel from our Peer Support Team are running our ‘Learn in Lockdown’ project. They will be pairing up students who have volunteered to teach certain skills with Johnians who want to learn something new whilst in isolation. Currently, students have offered to teach all sorts, from Dutch to singing, and programming to knitting.

Learning sign language

As well as receiving wonderful responses to our ideas, we have had lots of lovely contributions from other John’s students too on John’s Beyond Covid Facebook page. Imogen has started ‘a blind date with a book’ scheme for people to exchange surprise books via post. I have been helping Benedict to organise an online poetry session via Zoom, where students can read and share their favourite poems or ones they have written. Gabriel has established a virtual board and video games group. Augustine and Lewis are planning a weekly virtual pub quiz via Facebook Live. Michael’s virtual pet show has been especially popular, with over 100 Johnians and friends sending in photos and videos of their pets for various categories, including ‘Dog with the waggiest tail’. Several other students and alumni have offered to film short videos of nature walks, fitness, art and baking to inspire our students to keep busy with fun hobbies during isolation. I’m excited to see what other projects our John’s students come up with over the coming weeks.

The cutest pets

Brilliant peer support

Our Peer Support Team are running Skype drop-in sessions during the holidays. They are offering the same confidentiality and kindness as usual but through an accessible virtual setting. It is wonderful to know this service is there for whenever anyone is feeling overwhelmed, upset or lonely during these troubling times.  

I’m so proud of all the amazing work St John’s College students are currently doing. Despite our own worries, we are all pulling together to help each other, showing true college spirit! Current students, alumni and friends of St John’s College can access our virtual resources through our Facebook page, St John’s College- Welfare Events, or our corona virus community group: John’s Beyond Covid. If our ideas inspire any other colleges to start up similar schemes, we’d love to hear from you via Instagram messages @johnscollegewelfare.

Check out this weeks timetable below

Lizzie English


Hi! I’m a third-year student at St. John’s, studying for an Integrated Masters in Biosciences. You can often find me trying to take artsy photos of Durham, moaning about walking up Cardiac Hill, or dreaming up new choreography for St. John’s College Dance Troupe. Follow me on Instagram @imsobaesic


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