We spoke to Sorcha about Go Green and Manchester’s ongoing homelessness crisis
Sorcha has chosen two main focuses as Campaigns and Citizenship Officer. Firstly, tackling the ongoing homelessness crisis and secondly, Go Green, a campaign to increase sustainability and encourage healthier, greener lifestyles.
These two were chosen because Sorcha is “personally passionate about” them and she went on to explain that “homelessness around Manchester is just so visible and people are like ‘this is just awful, how can we help?’ so I think that’s quite a big one, and then with sustainability just because climate change is happening and students would like to act about it.”
Sorcha highlighted the lack of green campaigns prior to her taking office, saying that “before I came into post, in terms of what there was going on with green issues and sustainability issues there was [only] the Fossil Free campaign… but that is actually quite niche.”
She continued by claiming that for those who are “into talking and learning and activities and events related to sustainability and becoming more sustainable and encouraging others to there wasn’t really that much”.
Much of Sorcha’s work for Go Green so far this year has been tackling this lack of opportunities for students to campaign, and this was inspired by an event she attended over the summer. “There’s a national group called People and Planet and that’s student action on world poverty and the environment, and was a summer gathering thing over the summer which I attended, and there were people from different People and Planet societies at different universities working on green campaigns and green issues and I thought this would be great because it’s actually a group that gets people together. So, we set one up, and it’s going, so that’s great.”
According to Sorcha, this has been a major success. She told us she is “really pleased,” with the new society, “because I knew that people were interested and I was hoping that people would get involved”. This makes setting up new campaigns for environmental and sustainability issues much easier, as “now there’s a core group of people who are interested and if someone says ‘I want to do something on sustainability’ I can say ‘well that’s the best place to go’, and then we work from there, so at least you’ve got other likeminded people doing the same things.”
However, this has been the extent of Sorcha’s work for Go Green so far, beyond continuing work with the Fossil Free campaign, and she admits that she “was just getting that off the ground last semester really”.
Homelessness is a major issue, but it has also proven to be something of a challenge for Sorcha to tackle, as some student campaigns can actually be detrimental in the long term. “So basically, homelessness is a bit of a difficult one,” she told us, as “the idea is that lots of people give money or food to homeless people or, you know, street beggars and actually this isn’t necessarily the solution because whilst it helps in the interim it sometimes detracts from charities and services who are able to give long term actually sustainable support from doing their work properly”.
Clearly then, the issue needs careful managing, and part of this is increased collaboration between those who want to help: “So the idea is there’s something called Manchester Homelessness Partnership,” Sorcha explained, “and in the last year different charities who were working separately are now working together”.
In addition, Sorcha has also organised some events on campus. “So, I’ve done a few things, so last semester JustFest, the evening event was centred around homelessness. It was really great actually because we had The Mustard Tree which is a charity in Ancoats and they give services but through drama and songs, and people with lived experiences who Mustard Tree had helped with through therapy, arts and drama did a performance.”
However, Sorcha admits she did not do a huge amount last term, although she hopes to do more. “This semester we’re going to focus on that better,” she told us, “especially with the mayoral elections coming up, and sort of working with Greater Manchester housing people in terms of their bigger campaign to get homelessness on the agenda for the mayoral elections. And we’re also having a homelessness week centred around activities at the end of March, and that’s what we’re working towards… last semester was more getting the groundwork done.”
Finally, as applications are now open for students who want to stand as candidates for next year’s Exec team, why should people stand for Campaigns and Citizenship Officer? “Because you get to work on issues that you’re passionate about, you get to have influence, you get to work with students, it’s been a really great year, it’s been an eye-opening year, there’s actually lots of skills I’ve gained working at a university in a professional environment, alongside students on the ground. Also, being a trustee of a charity which is something I hadn’t really realised how it worked, and that’s been amazing to have that opportunity.”