On the 18th October the University of Manchester hosted JustFest, a social justice festival centred on encouraging students to engage with community projects both in Manchester and abroad. A range of representative charities were present, from University led organisation RAG to more local charities operating in Manchester.
Manchester University prides itself on social responsibility, with several active schemes in place to make sure that students are as engaged as possible with projects promoting social justice in and around the university. The Executive Team in the SU spoke out about the importance of such an event, each stating their own social justice pledge. Wellbeing Officer, Izzy Gurbez, expressed her wishes to “fight the stigma and discrimination against mental health” acting in a particularly timely fashion after the establishment of the MIND society at the SU and, more recently, in light of Mental Health Awareness Week.
After speaking to a selection of the charities present at JustFest it became clear how important such an event was for encouraging students to give back to the community. For example, representatives from Greater Manchester Youth Network (GMYN) spoke of their need for students to help in their plight to inspire disadvantaged youths in Manchester. This year GMYN are recruiting for students to help in their ‘Boots and Beats’ campaign, aimed at building young people’s confidence and life skills through participation in sport and drama. They emphasized the great necessity of student support in order for their projects to continue, with volunteers both facilitating projects and fundraising on behalf of the charity.
Additionally, there were more internationally focused projects present, such as Travelteer Impact. They are a Sri Lankan based organisation improving local communities, environments, educating people, and generally striving to create a better lifestyle for those living in poverty. Travelteer work on a range of schemes from wildlife conservation to teaching, and running afterschool clubs. With such a vast variety of opportunities available to students it is safe to say that JustFest triumphed in supplying those interested with all the necessary means to make a real, positive impact through volunteering.
However, JustFest was not just the promotion of charities and projects, with performance teams such as the Mustard Tree drama group making appearances, as well as My Manchester photo exhibitions and two short films as part of the Homeless Film Festival. Organisers of the event stated that they wanted JustFest to promote the keen interest of the University in diversity and social engagement, as with 40,000 students currently studying at UoM they have a social responsibility to encourage students to become social justice ambassadors, both in Manchester and beyond.