Pembroke People: Amaani Ahmed and Lucy Fairweather

In this edition, Catherine Lally chats to JPC Welfare Officers past and present

Image credits to Shefta Shifa on Unsplash

The JPC welfare officer, along with the specific men’s and women’s welfare officers, plays a crucial role at the heart of student life, supporting students and bringing welfare concerns to College.

Amaani Ahmed and Lucy Fairweather view the role from different vantage points and experiences: with Lucy taking up the role last term, and Amaani holding it for a year before then.

No Pembroke student is a stranger to the plethora of events that fall under the welfare officer’s remit (with many enjoying a particularly nice Headstart massage in the NCR last term for £5). Amaani organised weekly Zumba classes, and “tried to organise another event per week or fortnight, be that a picnic, alternative study session, puppy therapy.”

JPC duties also come with the inevitable bop set-up and clear-up twice a term, with Lucy having learnt that “drunk people love cheese sandwiches” and upping the welfare-room catering accordingly.

Both are keen to introduce students who may not be aware of College and University-level welfare services.

Lucy tells readers to look out for “welfare posters coming to a communal area near you soon!” Meanwhile, Amaani recommends checking out the ‘Little Welfare Guide’ – a booklet designed by the welfare officers “over the summer vacation last year,” as “a good source for signposting relevant help.”

Working on the JPC comes with its own perks, with both Amaani and Lucy stressing the camaraderie that comes from working with other students. Lucy said she likes “the sense of community there is within the JP, and the inter-year mixing, which isn't something I'd experienced much of before,” while Amaani feels “it’s such a great way to feel more connected to the college and meet new people!”

Through working on the JPC, they also meet with Pembroke’s Senior Tutor and the other welfare officers every fortnight.

Amaani adds that her favourite thing about the JP “is probably the fact that it gives the students a real chance to

make their voices heard in college.”

“There have been a few occasions in which we’ve brought issues to senior of college that they’d been completely unaware of, so it’s nice to know that we’re initiating changes that probably wouldn’t have been otherwise.”

Reflecting on her time on the JPC, Amaani said that “one thing that has stood out the most to me is how difficult it is to actually make any substantial changes within the college,” and added that while she looked to improve “the college’s provisions for pastoral support (i.e. counselling and the tutor system)” and some improvements were made, “progress was much slower that I expected.” She adds, however, that “other members of the JP and most of the senior members of college were generally really receptive to any new ideas we may put forward”.

In addition to events that build up a sense of College community, Amaani and Lucy both point out structural changes that could address welfare issues a m o n g Cambridge students on a larger scale. Lucy says that if she were able to make any changes, she would “try and increase UCS (University Counselling Service) provision, because at the moment the waits can be in excess of several weeks, which isn't helpful if you've got an issue that's significantly affecting your life.” This is echoed by Amaani, who adds that “people might have to wait over half a term to be seen, by which time their issue may have got a lot worse."

The photo above is of Lucy, and the photo below is of Amaani

A Cambridge term can no doubt be filled with enough pressures to make individual student welfare an urgent concern. Away from family, many turn to their close friends – who in turn may become a surrogate Pembroke family. Amaani and Lucy leave us with some valuable advice, with Amaani highlighting that, “the most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t think that you need to support your friend by yourself.”

“There are so many provisions that can be accessed, like the college nurse, UCS, college counselling, JP welfare officers etc. that someone should not feel as though they are the only means of support for a friend with certain welfare issues. In the case of serious welfare concerns, I think it’s much better to try and signpost your friend to relevant support, rather than feel as though you have to manage it all on your own.”