Hospice Africa trustee Chris Merriman, students Abbie McHugh, Bethany Draper and Harriet Diver, and trustee Professor David Phipps stand together in a group and smile at the camera.
L-R: Hospice Africa trustee Chris Merriman, students Abbie McHugh, Bethany Draper and Harriet Diver, and trustee Professor David Phipps.

Three students from Edge Hill University are working tirelessly with Hospice Africa throughout the Covid-19 lockdown to support the charity’s vital work to help those suffering find dignity at the end of life.

Bethany Draper, Harriet Diver and Abbie McHugh have been able to work remotely, introducing new ideas to enhance the profile of Hospice Africa, whose fundraising activities have been hugely affected as a result of the pandemic.

The charity wanted to show their appreciation in Dying Matters Week (11-17 May) and sent heartfelt thanks for the impactful work the students are doing.

Dr Anne Merriman smiles at the camera while pushing her walking frame along her balcony. A ginger cat sits on the walker.
Hospice Africa founder Dr Anne Merriman doing a sponsored walk on her balcony.

Dr Anne Merriman, who founded Hospice Africa in 1992 and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Edge Hill in recognition of her selfless work, said: “Abbie, Bethany and Harriet have been working with us as part of their degree programmes to look at how Hospice Africa can widen its appeal and gain more supporters using social media.

“This work is now even more important as, like all other UK charities, Hospice Africa has been badly affected by the Covid-19 crisis; our charity shops are shut and other fundraising efforts have been greatly reduced.

“We can’t thank them enough for their support at a time when we need it most.”

Being able to support the charity despite lockdown has provided an employability cornerstone for all three students.

It has prepared them for the professional world of graduate employment by focussing on a real-life project and working with live data to enhance the profile of Hospice Africa.

Abbie, who is studying for a BSc (Hons) in Business and Management, said: “I have been able to develop my digital marketing and communication skills in a professional environment – this is what I want to go into when I graduate, and this has been the best experience to work in this field.

“I have been able to analyse the issues and problems Hospice Africa faces in this current climate, I have developed innovative solutions and been hands on.

“We have weekly team meetings remotely and we must write a reflection – this has helped me realise I have gained confidence to have my own ideas and to pitch them to the team.

“I am now looking to apply for the Edge Hill Excellence Scholarship so that after this opportunity and employability module has finished I can continue working with Hospice Africa in the future.”

The project has provided Abbie, Bethany and Harriet with exposure to an external opportunity with a recognised international charity where they have been able to apply their academic skills to a professional work setting.

BA (Hons) History student Bethany added: “The work the hospice carries out is very humbling, providing palliative care to terminally ill patients in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Myself, along with Abbie and Harriet, have undertaken the role of reviewing their social media platforms and understanding how they can utilise these outlets to grow their following, in turn increasing donations.

“This module has provided me with experience in a ‘real-life’ post-university job role.

“We had planned to visit Dr Anne in Uganda and see the Hospice first hand, but unfortunately, that cannot be the case.

“Despite this, I hope I can continue my work with them for years to come. I am so grateful for the chance to work with such a wonderful charity and I hope to see it prosper over the coming months and years.”

Since the lockdown, many students from Edge Hill University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences have continued to work remotely with businesses and organisations as part of their employability module or extra-curricular experience.

Many of these opportunities have been sourced for students by the Work-Related Learning team within the Employability, Enterprise, Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E3i) department.

The team’s aim is to provide students, academic experts and businesses with access to a range of initiatives and opportunities to optimise student employability and to develop the region’s most ambitious businesses.

The Hospice Africa logo depicts a yellow map of Africa on a green background. Inside the map is a drawing of a hut with two people holding hands.

Prior to the pandemic, the three students were offered an additional once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Uganda in the summer to work directly with Dr Merriman and once life returns to some normality, the students hope this can be reconsidered for 2021.

Dr Merriman is continuing to fundraise as much as possible and, despite recovering from cancer and a second heart attack, she has been doing a sponsored walk on her balcony at her home in Kampala, Uganda, walking 20 laps per day for 25 days, finishing on her 85th birthday on 13th May.

To offer her your support, make a donation or find out more about Hospice Africa.