Published on 07 December 2021
Last year staff, students and friends of the University raised over £10,000 to support families like Ryan’s over Christmas.
We Care at Christmas 2021 will support care experienced and estranged students at our Sunderland and London campuses. University staff and supporter are proving once again how much we value our students, with over £7,000 pledged so far.
Ryan, 30, graduated in July 2021 with PGCE in Post Compulsory Education and Training Specialising in SEND. He now works as a specialist SEND Lecturer at Northumberland College.
Ryan said: “I'm teaching young adults with autism and other SEMH and SEND needs and also many care experienced folk like myself.
“I'm motivated by giving them the support I needed but never had when I was their age. I look forward to going to work every day, which is a huge thing to have in life. It makes a massive difference.”
Between the ages of 14 and 16 Ryan spent time in social care. He was failed by social services, which resulted in periods of homelessness.
Ryan turned his life around when he met his wife Erin, and has now settled into family life with step daughter Ellen (11), step son Fionn (8) and their son Gabriel, aged 3. With their support he returned to university to retrain and is now fulfilling his long-held teaching ambition.
“Having the extra funding from the We Care Bursary made a big difference to my family’s wellbeing whilst I was studying,” says Ryan. “But the best part was having the We Care Team rooting for us in the background.
“They were there whenever we needed them, and the kind gestures and little touches made my educational journey not only much more manageable but wonderful in many ways. As a result, my time studying for my PGCE PCET at Sunderland was one of the best years of my life, in spite of the fact that it was 2020 and 2021.
“Through all the Pandemic madness there were kind people like the We Care Team giving us all a reason to fight for a brighter future for ourselves and others.
“Now I know have a career and ultimately my life purpose is to help others to cope with the struggles of life. What more worthwhile cause is there?”
Ryan will be spending Christmas with his wife's extended family in Northern Ireland.
“We're looking forward to having a couple of weeks off and enjoying the company of family at Christmas which is something we've not been able to do for more than half a decade.”
It is not too late to donate to the University’s We Care at Christmas campaign. For many students Christmas will be a time they will spend alone, perhaps without a card, gift, festive meal or companionship. For those students with children, it is a particularly difficult time trying to provide for their children, while making Christmas special.
University of Sunderland Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Bell, has backed the campaign and is asking staff to donate. He says: “Our care-experienced and estranged students are a valued and important part of our University community and now is our opportunity to remind them, in a very practical way, of how much they mean to us.”
If you would like to find out more about the appeal go to the We Care at Christmas Go Fund Me page.