Mitigating the impacts of confinement and distancing due to COVID-19 through service learning in occupational therapy education: evaluation of the Build-A-Box campaign



In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, students, service users and community partners have had to adapt and reform the collaborative approach to service learning. In this paper, we describe the Build-A-Box Campaign, an innovative, pilot, service-learning project that endeavoured to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities. The partnership was between occupational therapy students from the National University of Ireland Galway, community partners and service users. The aim of this study was to explore the utility of the Build-A Box campaign with all stakeholders who participated in it. Student groups partnered with community organisations to develop custom-made boxes for “at risk” service-users. Once the boxes were delivered (n=103), a survey design was used to evaluate the impact of the campaign. Data were collected through postal and online questionnaires from 33 participants (10=students; 5-community partners; 18 service-users). Data were analysed using content analysis and describe the impact that the Build-a-Box campaign had on students, community partners, and service-users. Students and community partners acknowledge the challenges of virtual service learning and the effect of the loss of in-person meetings on relationship-building, the Box, and the student experience. The results indicate areas that should be addressed in planning a similar future project, and limitations of the research are acknowledged in the context of COVID-19.