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With students no longer on campus, Health Peer Advisors and Liaisons — a peer education group focused on student wellness — have turned to virtual platforms to continue to provide resources for students during the coronavirus pandemic.
HealthPALs serve as liaisons between students and Harvard University Health Services. The group typically organizes events including flu clinics and study breaks to build relationships with students and introduce them to the HUHS services available to them.
Patricia M. Fuentes ’21, president of HealthPALs, said the group has been in contact with HUHS staff since they began sending out emails about the coronavirus. Fuentes said that, at first, they would synthesize the information from HUHS emails and send it to students to make it more “digestible.”
Since leaving campus, HealthPALs have had to cancel some programming. But Fuentes said they are still trying to find ways to keep their organization strong and promote student wellness, albeit virtually.
“We're really trying to focus on that and trying to make sure that our membership and community is still very, very strong and that we're still visible within our houses as much as possible,” Fuentes said.
One project the group is working on involves making instructional videos about HUHS for students.
“We'd still like to continue doing HUHS instructional videos, which is something that we started doing beforehand, this past semester, to help people navigate HUHS and the different services that are available to them,” Fuentes said. “Now I guess we'll modify that in a way to fit the situation now.”
Fuentes also said they are also looking into creating fitness videos and making Instagram Live videos with a nutritionist.
“We'd have, for example, an Instagram Live where one of our board members would be with [HUHS nutritionist Margaret “Meg” Schrier] and we would go through our refrigerator and see if we can make a healthy meal out of what we have in our refrigerator,” Fuentes said.
Amanda J. Ayers, a HUHS educator who serves as the HealthPALs advisor, added that the Center for Wellness and Health Promotion is developing a website with virtual yoga, exercise, and meditation resources.
The Center for Wellness and Health Promotion usually hosts meditations on weekdays at lunchtime. Starting this week, these daily meditations will be streamed via Zoom.
Ayers said that, though the situation is difficult, she has been able to find a “silver lining” in developing virtual resources for students.
“Being more active with people online so that more people can access us has always been something we've been wanting to do,” Ayers said. “It's kind of been fun to be able to work on some of that and come up with a social media strategy and try to get more people involved.”
—Staff writer Fiona K. Brennan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @FionaBrennan23.
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