Students to the rescue
It’s great to see how our students are doing their bit and trying to help one another and others during this time of crisis. We previously shared an initiative by students who set up a babysitting service for healthcare workers with young children at home. Here we focus on two new initiatives: law students who are providing free legal advice to small-business owners and employees on the consequences of the corona crisis, and Connect & Support, a platform for connecting people online.
This article is part of 'We're Open', a series of stories about the UM community’s many activities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Free legal advice from students
Anne Coppelmans – a third-year law student at Maastricht University (UM) – has set up a platform where small-business owners and employees can ask law students for free legal advice on the consequences of the coronavirus. “The law student is here for you!”
The corona crisis will have major consequences for many entrepreneurs and employees in the Netherlands. Many of them are already struggling with legal questions on how the repercussions of the corona crisis and the new government measurements will affect them. “I wanted to do my part in combatting this crisis too”, Coppelmans says. “So I decided to set up a platform where law students provide small-business owners and employees with free, personalised legal advice on the consequences of the coronavirus.”
The team currently consists of 33 law students, not only from UM, but from different universities from all over the country. Together, they attempt to provide entrepreneurs and employees with sound legal advice. “It gives me so much energy to see these students, who have never seen or spoken to one another before, brainstorming together and writing until the middle of the night”, Coppelmans says. On her experience as the organiser of the project: “Motivating and managing an incredibly hardworking team, that’s what I love to do!”
There is no shortage of interest in the platform: within a few days, the students received 85 requests for help. “It may not sound like a lot, but they’re complex issues and our advice sometimes spans two to three pages.” The type of questions varies enormously. “Employees mainly ask about their entitlements in case of dismissal, fewer working hours and 0-hour contracts. Business owners tend to have more diverse questions: an entrepreneur who doesn’t want to lay anyone off but needs to stay afloat financially; a freelancer who’s lost his livelihood. The questions we receive and the stories we hear are often sad to read and pervaded by feelings of powerlessness. Fortunately, thanks to the government's emergency package, we’re able to reassure a lot of people in the advice we give.”
Initiator Anne Coppelmans: “The great thing is that we can really help people. With every question we receive, there’s always a compliment about the initiative or grateful words. That's why we do it!”
For more information about this initiative, visit the website
Connect & Support: platform for online contact
During the corona crisis, it is more important than ever for people to stay in touch with one another. The quarantine measures do not make this any easier. To bring people together online, Match Maastricht has set up the Facebook group Connect & Support.
The Connect & Support group is for anybody who feels the need for some extra support during this period. People can share news, talk about their feelings and experiences and respond to others. They can also turn to the group for tips on how to deal with the current situation. “Clearly, this is not an easy period”, says co-founder Jacoline Tanis. “We wanted to create something that would contribute to people’s mental health.”
Myriad activities are organised through the platform, such as online games, study sessions and even an online campfire. The group’s founders also have some tips on how to deal with this crisis, which essentially boil down to tips for self-care: “Try to stick to a routine—who knows, maybe this daily schedule will help you!” Book recommendations and podcast tips are shared, and there is room for philosophical ideas and positive thoughts. “So it’s a place for positive inspiration and a boost for people’s psychological wellbeing”, Tanis says.
Prefer a real-time conversation?
If you’d prefer to have a real-time conversation, you can become a member of the discord server. Discord is a software platform commonly used by gamers to chat with one another (both speech and writing). Conversations run much more smoothly than via Facebook. Maastricht students have set up a discord server with different channels, each with its own theme. One channel is specifically dedicated to coronavirus; others include ‘mental health’ and ‘study buddies’. Anyone can post a message about a theme and discuss it with others.
Match is a foundation for the promotion of social engagement by Maastricht students. It offers students opportunities for volunteer work or participation in social projects in and around Maastricht.
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