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Swansea University students write the Urdd’s 2021 peace and goodwill message

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A group of Swansea University students has written this year’s Peace and Goodwill Message, which focuses on equality for women and girls. Now in its 99th year, this year’s message was launched in video form on Tuesday (18 May).

With the Covid-19 pandemic deepening pre-existing inequalities, the young people of Wales have decided to use the 2021 Urdd Peace and Goodwill Message as a platform to express their vision for a gender-equal generation. In a powerful message, they call on young people across the world to use the “new normal” to create a better future by ensuring equality for women and girls.

On 18 May for the past 99 years, the young people of Wales have shared a unique message of Peace and Goodwill, which has been received far and wide. The Urdd succeeded in getting 2020’s peace message, ‘Stop the Clock and Start Again’ further across the world than ever before. By translating the message into 57 languages and with a little help from their Welsh friends, such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Matthew Rhys and Michael Sheen, over 37 million people in over 40 countries were able to see the almost century-old Message of Peace and Goodwill.

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The 2021 Urdd Peace and Goodwill Message has been co-written by 21 Swansea University students after attending the organisation’s ‘Equality for Women and Girls’ workshop. It is available in more than 60 languages, which makes it the Urdd’s most translated Peace Message to date.

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Professor Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University, said: “We are extremely proud of the inspirational Peace and Goodwill Message created by Swansea University students this year. We are the first university to participate in drafting Urdd Gobaith Cymru’s annual message, and are delighted that our students have chosen to exemplify Swansea University’s global outlook and our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusivity. We hope that this international message, which has been translated into more than 60 languages, will bring together children and young people around the world, in shared optimism for a better future for us all.” 

The Peace and Goodwill Message is unique to Wales and has been relayed each year without fail since 1922, overcoming wars and major changes in methods of communication, from Morse Code to radio and television broadcast to the digital networks of today.

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Urdd Gobaith Cymru’s CEO, Siân Lewis, said: “The Urdd is leading by example and ensuring gender equality on all levels, proving that this year’s Peace Message is more than a hashtag. Gender equality and girls’ and women’s rights are all important to a future that delivers for everyone.

“We are very grateful to Academi Hywel Teifi, Swansea University for supporting the Message. It has been a privilege to work with the University given its clear commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusivity. The students’ enthusiasm and commitment to the Message and to making a difference is infectious – I am confident the Message will strike a chord across the world, and result in action.”

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Shannon Rowlands of Newcastle Emlyn, who contributed to writing this year’s Peace and Goodwill Message, said: “As a medical student, I’ve experienced and heard about instances of discrimination against women in medicine. Patients have taken for granted that I’m a student nurse instead of doctor because I’m a woman, and some of my female friends who aspire to be surgeons have unfortunately been told they should reconsider it as a career if they want children.

“I’ve been so fortunate to meet incredibly inspiring women while on work placements, proving that women can work in any area they want. Things are certainly improving, but there is still work to be done – and I am sure the same is true of other professions.”


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Film & TV

Documentary project unites University and community to put spotlight on Gower

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A unique film project which brought together Swansea University students, staff and the community to showcase the beauty of Gower will be officially launched next month.

The Gŵyr documentary series is a collection of films which each capture elements of local history, culture, ecosystems and natural resources.

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They have been created by a not-for-profit community-driven project which saw residents sharing their experiences while working with students and filmmakers.

The project has been led by media and communication lecturer Georgios Dimitropoulos and the films will all be available for free on YouTube following a special premiere at Taliesin Arts Centre on June 10.

The event will mark the end of a five-year-collaboration between 25 students and more than 40 contributors ranging from Gower residents, farmers, environmentalists, and scientists to academics, historians, and research scholars.

Georgios said: “It has allowed us to not only offer innovative teaching and practical learning experiences to students but also gave us a chance to engage with the community and private sector, collaborate with the third sector and forge partnerships with creative industries.

“Our films aim to present the harmonious blend and integration of Welsh culture over time. Our mission is to capture and document Gower’s natural beauty and cultural, historical, and environmental characteristics.”

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For the project, the team collaborated with award-winning actor and producer Vincent De Paul who took part in the films and represented them at film festivals around the world as well as private screenings with Hollywood executives. So far, the Gŵyr series has picked up 17 awards for Best Documentary, Best Film, and Best Cinematography.

Now Georgios is eager the films receive as wide an audience as possible.  He said: “The series has been five years in the making, and it has been a long and wonderful journey. We want our work to be available for everyone to see. But this is just the start, we plan to carry the project on and produce another season of films.”

Filming the Gŵyr documentary (Image: Swansea University)

Associate Professor Richard Thomas, head of the Department of Media and Communication, said: “Georgios’s work is a great example of how our students are integrated into professional projects – the work experience they get is invaluable for them. A key element of our department’s success is that our teaching is always relevant for the sorts of jobs that our graduates might be moving into after their degrees.”

One of the students who took part said being involved had been very exciting: “It exposed us to professional standards.

Another said: “The University’s Film Hub has amazing facilities and the shoot was an opportunity for us to really get to know the business better,” while another described the experience as an adventure and a challenge. “I would definitely do it again,” she added.

Head of the School of Culture & Communication Professor Sian Rees added: “This is a great example of the way that staff and students within the School are connecting with our local environment and culture, positioning ourselves at the heart of our local and wider community in Wales.  It has also provided our students with an invaluable opportunity to understand and experience professional creative media production in practice.”

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Guests at the Taliesin premiere will include project collaborators, representatives of the Gower Society as well as Welsh Finance Minister Rebecca Evans, who represents Gower in the Senedd, and Swansea Lord Mayor Mike Day who will both take part in the panel discussion.

Proceeds from ticket sales will go to The DPJ Foundation, a mental health charity which supports the agricultural community across Wales and was chosen by the film-makers after they  spent time with Gower’s farming community.

Georgios added: “We often think farmers are tough due to their physically demanding jobs but because of those tough conditions, hard-working farmers need support and recognition for their efforts and contribution to society.

“I believe that documentary films offer different perspectives, share knowledge and experiences, promote specific themes, regions, history, and nature, and raise awareness of emerging problems and possible solutions. Farming is one of the areas that we document, and present in our documentary films as we explore how important it is for a sustainable future.”

Tickets are available in advance or at the venue at the premiere.

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(Lead image: Swansea University)

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Health

Swansea scientists develop new method to detect viruses in a pinprick

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Scientists at Swansea University, Biovici Ltd and the National Physical Laboratory have developed a method to detect viruses in very small volumes.

The work, published in Advanced NanoBiomed Research, follows a successful Innovate UK project developing graphene for use in biosensors – devices that can detect tiny levels of disease markers.

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For many parts of the world that do not have access to high-tech labs found in hospitals, detecting viruses such as hepatitis C (HCV) – could save millions of preventable deaths worldwide. In addition, biosensors such as this could be used at the point-of-care – opening effective healthcare in difficult-to-reach settings.

What makes the detection of viruses in such small volumes possible is the use of a material called graphene. Graphene is extremely thin – only one atom thick – making it very sensitive to anything that attaches to it.

By carefully controlling its surface, scientists at Swansea University were able to make the surface of graphene sensitive to the HCV virus. These measurements were done with graphene specialists at the National Physical Laboratory.

In the future, it is hoped that multiple biosensors can be developed onto a single chip – this could be used to detect different types of dangerous viruses or disease markers from a single measurement.  

Ffion Walters, Innovation Technologist at Swansea University’s Healthcare Technology Centre said: “Highly sensitive and simplistic sensors have never been more in demand with regards point-of-care applications. 

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“This collaborative project has allowed us to realise proof-of-concept real-time sensors for HCV,  which could be especially beneficial in resource-limited settings or for difficult-to-reach populations.”

Professor Owen Guy, Head of Chemistry at Swansea University, said: “At Swansea University, we have now developed graphene-based biosensors for both Hepatitis B and C. This is a major step forward to a future single point of care test”

Dr Olga Kazakova, NPL Fellow Quantum Materials & Sensors added: “NPL was delighted to be part of this multidisciplinary team. Participation in this project allowed us to further develop our metrological validation facilities and apply them to the characterisation of graphene biosensors and aid in solving an important challenge in the health sector.”

Lead image: Graphene device chip attached to an electrical connector, with two 5 μL HCVcAg samples (one applied on each graphene resistor). (Image: Swansea University)

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Science

Public health professor becomes Fellow of Academy of Medical Sciences

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A Swansea University public health expert has been honoured by the prestigious Academy of Medical Sciences

Professor Ronan Lyons, Clinical Professor of Public Health at Swansea University Medical School and one of the two Directors at Population Data Science, is one of 60 outstanding biomedical and health scientists admitted to the Academy’s influential Fellowship.

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The new Fellows have all been recognised for their remarkable contributions to biomedical and health science and their ability to generate new knowledge and improve the health of people everywhere.

Professor Lyons’s research focuses on the use of health information to support the targeting and evaluation of health and non-health service interventions to improve prevention, care and rehabilitation.

During the pandemic, his team have used insights from the rich health data in SAIL Databank to support policy decisions to protect the public, including providing intelligence to the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Group and subsequently feeding into the UK’s SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies).

Professor Lyons said: “I am delighted and honoured to be selected as a Fellow by the Academy of Medical Sciences.

“This undoubtedly reflects the widespread appreciation of the contribution research conducted using the SAIL Databank make to individuals and society. 

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“It is also recognition of the fantastic team science approach in Population Data Science at Swansea University and our dedication to the advancement of health research through our many collaborations across the UK and around the world.”

The Academy of Medical Sciences is the independent body in the UK representing the diversity of medical science. Selected from 366 candidates from across the UK, the 60 scientists chosen marks the highest number of new Fellows ever elected.

Academy President Professor Dame Anne Johnson said: “It gives me great pleasure to welcome these 60 experts to the Fellowship to help to address the major health challenges facing society.

“The diversity of biomedical and health expertise within our Fellowship is a formidable asset that in the past year has informed our work on critical issues such as tackling the Covid19 pandemic, understanding the health impacts of climate change, addressing health inequalities, and making the case for funding science. The new Fellows of 2022 will be critical to helping us deliver our ambitious 10-year strategy that we will launch later this year.”

The new Fellows will be formally admitted to the Academy next month.

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(Lead image: Swansea University)

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