hey, I'm ANA-MARIA BICHIR

VICE PRESIDENT WELFARE AND COMMUNITY

I'm the elected student voice for mental health and wellbeing, student communities and general welfare.

I wanted to represent students at Essex because helping my close circle of friends brought a positive change to their lives (and mine!), and I wanted to be in a position in which my empathy and passion for mental health could help a wider audience! I want students to trust their Student’s Union and believe that we are fighting for what they feel strongly about. I hope that I will achieve this by being open about the limitations of my role, but also take a stand and fight for what our members want during key meetings with the University!

If you've got a question, you can drop me an email below.

Send me an email

Here I was thinking that Freshers’ was hectic!

I have kicked off my first week back after my holiday with two very important meetings which have already had a positive impact on the Students With Disabilities community! Students have flagged up an issue with the accessibility of Language For All scheme. After getting in contact with Bryn and the Accessibility team, they have met with the Languages for All and have proposed appropriate adjustments to the scheme to make it more accessible!

Quiet Hour will become a weekly project and so every Wednesday between 10-11AM, all SU Venues will be making adjustments to make them more inclusive. Lights will be dimmed, and screens and music will be off. It may take a couple of weeks for our staff to deliver it in the appropriate form, as our student staff will be in charge of ensuring that the adjustments are made, but we are so happy that this can be rolled up this term.

We have been making a lot of progress with the Mental Health Big Plan around improving the communication of the services available to students. An online interactive flowchart will be published which both students and staff will be able to use in order to be signposted to the relevant service. Hopefully this will clear up some of the confusion which students face when presented with the option of SU Advice, the Student Wellbeing team and other university services. Moreover, I hope this will save students having to be constantly signposted between the different services and making them feel that they are being passed around. I have also been meeting with students as they wanted to share their experience with me, and I collected feedback about the Conduct Team and the Student Wellbeing Team which I have sharing with them in order to improve these services.

Lastly, I have offered signposting training to our Wellbeing Ambassadors for the past two days and it was received very well! The volunteers seemed engaged, asked me questions around the services we have and offered me a few scenarios they themselves have encountered and asked me which path would be best to take based on the signposting training I had just offered. I really hope this will be helpful for them and for the students they may be in contact with, friends and coursemates!

There is a lot more work to be done, but I am enjoying the challenge.

Stay kind,

Ana x

Catching our breath after Freshers’ Fortnight

As VP Community and Welfare, for the rest of this term I wanted to focus more on the “community” aspect of my role! I was very happy to have Samira, our Black Students’ Officer so involved with her community and celebrating Black History Month and even happier when I found out that we have a full team of Student Community officer! This has not happened for years and students engaging so much in their community will hopefully have a bigger impact on our members experience at this University!

I had a fantastic meeting with Oscar, Maxine, Sam and Jonathan (SCOs) and Ines (Women’s Student Rep) and they’ve brought forward a beautiful idea about creating a safe space for their community. I am in the process of creating a proposal for that space and presenting it to the Directors and the rest of the Sabbatical team, and I am still in contact with the SCOs regarding this! Although it could potentially be a long term project, I am more than happy to work towards achieving this!

Moreover, we have been working on our “Shaping Relevant Membership” project and are coming up with ideas of how we can move this forward! We have so many diverse and beautiful communities on our campus and we are hoping that this project will open our eyes to the support we can offer these communities!

Lastly, I had a beautiful week off which was well needed and I got to see my favourite band live in Oxford so that’s a massive win for my productivity moving into the second part of Term 1!

Much love,

Ana, VP Community and Welfare x

Consent training

Hey everyone,

Fresher's Fortnight has passed and so have the compulsory consent training sessions that we have asked the university to put on. As part of our demand for change campaign, consent training was one of the key points that students were keen to see implemented at this university. The sessions themselves ran smoothly and around 7000 students have attended. Unfortunately, the communications around this project have disappointed our students and I am disheartened that it affected some of our members so deeply. It is something that both us and the university have a lot to learn from and it is only with your feedback that we continue to grow. 

A lot of students approached me afterwards and were very positive about the sessions. From students saying that they feel safer knowing that so many of our members were taught what behaviour we expect from them, to some that are glad to have learnt about report and stupport and when to use it. 

There is a lot more we can improve on and this change was one of many that we have worked on over the summer break. 

Please do email me for any concerns or feedback you may have!

Much love,

Your VP Community and Welfare x


Much love,


Ana Bichir
VP Community and Welfare

STatement on demand for change

 At the end of the 2018/19 academic year, our students demanded for the University (Uni) to take a stand against sexual harassment and violence.

The Students’ Union (SU) and the student body created a list of demands to ensure students are treated fairly during the process, to build a better culture on our campuses and to restore confidence in the process we delivered these demands to the Uni. Following on from this, the SU set up a Demand For Change petition, which had over 1,100 signatures.

The SU petition demanded that the Uni make urgent and fundamental changes to the way that complaints of sexual harassment are dealt with, and has continued to actively drive the work of the Uni during the summer to make sure that these demands are met.

The SU website has been updated with the progress made, but I wanted to give you a heads up and the top lines about what’s been going on, the work involved and where we are now.

The Uni has pledged that it will take less time for them to deal with cases and that they will have more staff in place to meet the demand. A new Conduct Investigator will be appointed and I will be part of the interview panel. The Uni will regularly report to students the number of cases, length of time these have taken and summaries of actions taken.

In order for people to feel confident in the process and to embed a new culture across our community, all students are expected to attend compulsory consent training. Also, Uni and SU staff will be completing bystander, consent and first responder training.

The Uni is currently in the process of overhauling the webpages in relation to conduct, report and support and health and wellbeing. As part of this they’re making sure that it’s user friendly, has flowcharts, explanations and helps people to understand what happens and when. A new student code of conduct is being published imminently, which should help students understand what behaviour is expected from them..

They’ve also set up systems so students are better linked with SU Advice. When students report issues, they can chose where it goes to, conduct or wellbeing, and will be kept in the loop by the Uni throughout the process. They will know what is happening, who does what, when and how they will be contacted. Plus, cases of sexual harassment will be prioritised.

The Uni is working towards delivering on our demands, but there is always room for improvement. The SU will continue to monitor and follow what is happening and represent you at every step, to ensure that the Uni will be meeting all of your demands.

I understand that there is more work to be done, and the SU needs your feedback throughout the year whilst the new processes are being embedded, to ensure that they work. If you want to know more, have a look at the website, www.essex.su/demandchange. It has been updated regularly during the summer and these updates will continue throughout the year.


Much love,


Ana Bichir
VP Community and Welfare

Busy, busy, busy 

 

September has been a hectic month, not gonna lie. Between the many formal meetings with Uni staff and running around campus like a headless chicken, I’ve also been working on a few exciting projects!! Passion can only take me so far, and the stress levels have been at an all time high. Just to be candid, there have been moments where frustration and tiredness were my only two emotions during the working hours, but i’m all good now! 

I have been trying to organise a charity comedy show for World Mental Health Day, and we’re about to put the final touches on it! I’m looking forward to this as all the ticket proceedings will be donated to Mid and North Essex Mind, a branch of the national charity Mind. This is a dear charity to me and SU members, as a lot of students have accessed their services and for that we are all very grateful.

More projects are underway, but they will be kept a secret for a bit longer! 

 

Much love,

Ana Bichir x 

 

Mental health first aid training

One of the many exciting things about my role as a Sabb is to attend copious amounts of training. Amongst all of them, the one I most looked forward to was Mental Health First Aid. Not to knock down manual handling training, but there’s only so much passion you can have for that subject.

Mental Health First Aid was a two day intensive course which taught us how to help a person who is developing a mental health problem (including a substance use problem), experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. More so than anything, it taught us how to listen to people and how to encourage a conversation and offer support. In no way does this training means that we can now diagnose, and much like Physical First aid it is about helping in a moment of crisis until a qualified person arrives!

Mental Health is something that I feel passionate about and the main reason I ran for this Sabbatical position. Raising awareness and reducing stigma is at the forefront of my work and I’ve been open about how mental health, ill or not, has had both an effect on my experience as a student and on my family and loved ones. 

 

Stay kind and listen to each other,

Your VP Community and Welfare x

 

Code of student conduct review

My first proper update, yay! 

Part of my role as VP Community and Welfare is to attend meetings with university staff. The Uni has been reviewing the Code of Student Conduct prior to my taking over the previous Sabb. However, due to our Demand For Change, the University has expedited the review and we are now meeting fortnightly to ensure that the work is progressing. This is my first big piece of work that I’ve been part of since starting my position and although nerve racking, it’s been exciting meeting our Registrar and sharing your student feedback with him.  

Demand for Change is a project which needed to happen in order to support our members and their safety, and more updates about how this is going will be given on our www.essex.su/demandchange .

 

Much love,

Your VP Community and Welfare 

 

MY FIRST BLOG POST

 

Hello everyone!

I’m happy to finally write to you as the new VP Community and Welfare! This will be my first blog post, with the rest following soon.  The main aim of this blog is to keep YOU (the students) up to date with the projects that I am running, important meetings that I’ve attended and might interest you and maybe some Q&A’s that come up regularly!

A big thank you to everyone that has voted for me and I hope that I will make you proud; July has been a very good month and some exciting projects are brewing!

There is strength in numbers, so never stop holding us and the university accountable when we mess up! It’s your right to do so!

Have a lovely summer,

Ana – VP Community and Welfare.