Development & Alumni Relations Office 

YULETIDE GOOD CHEER FOR STUDENTS ON CAMPUS  Student Christmas Appeal with 3 logos Belfast Harbour, Henderson's and QGA

15 January 2021

Christmas certainly was a little different for most of us this year, with muted celebrations, restrictions on gatherings and everything else that COVID-19 brought – though this didn’t mean that students at Queen’s missed out on all the traditions.

Thanks to support from Belfast Harbour, Henderson Wholesale Ltd and the Queen’s Graduates’ Association – and to generous individual gifts from staff and friends of the University who supported the JustGiving appeal – students who were unable to return home over the holidays enjoyed some unexpected festive spirit. 

Commenting on the initiative Stephen O’Reilly, Regular Giving Manager in the Development and Alumni Relations Office at Queen’s said:  

“Coronavirus changed everything in 2020 with the result that around 500 Queen's students remained on campus over the Christmas holidays. 

"Many international students could not travel due to pandemic restrictions and some local students weren't able to return home because a loved one was shielding or at increased risk from the virus.

"Our mission, which was only made possible by the generosity of so many individuals and organisations, was to bring a little bit of Christmas kindness to students who this year, couldn't be with their families and friends."

Students were treated to a Christmas Lunch of cream of vegetable soup with wheaten bread, a choice of traditional roast turkey or roast beef with peppercorn sauce and all the trimmings – with vegetarian and vegan options – followed by either plum pudding with crème anglaise or salted caramel cream roulade for dessert, all beautifully packaged and collected from the University’s Great Hall, where strict socially distancing restrictions were in place.

Joe O’Neill, CEO, Belfast Harbour said:

“Government restrictions have had a significant impact on the student experience this year. For those who couldn’t spend their Christmas break with their families, it is even more difficult.

"By providing support, we hoped it would give those students a little taste of the traditional festive spirit despite this year’s unorthodox celebrations.”

Organised by Student Plus and the Development and Alumni Relations Office, bringing everything together was a major logistics exercise but thanks to staff from across the University and the Students’ Union who volunteered to pack and distribute the meals at the designated collection points, everything went to plan and on time. Brian Horgan, Head of Campus Food and Drink said he was: “So proud of the team from across the University who helped make this happen”.

Speaking last month, Yi Kang Choo, a final year Law student, said the Christmas Lunch would make a positive impact on the mental health of students:

“It has been a really challenging year and travelling home to Malaysia doesn’t seem to be a logical choice, considering the risks of air travel and the stringent restrictions in airports. Over Christmas I will catch up with my family and friends back home through a lot of video call sessions!

“If I were to receive a Christmas lunch, I think I would feel really touched and it would definitely help boost the morale and mood of students who are unable to go home this Christmas.”

The Student Christmas Appeal was just the latest demonstration of philanthropic generosity during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the height of the first lockdown, graduates, staff and members of the public supported the University’s Rapid Response Innovation Fund and its priority appeal to help fund research to rehabilitate survivors of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, almost 1,000 Queen’s students were supported over the Easter and May Bank Holidays thanks to a repurposing of funding from Santander Universities UK.

Further information on research and analysis carried out at Queen's in response to COVID-19, can be found at: If you would like to help the University in its efforts to tackle the pandemic, visit our Rapid Response Innovation Fund page.

For general enquiries about this story, or to submit a graduate news item, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast. 

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