A nineteen-year-old university student from Chester le Street has pledged to help others while doing her degree.

Northumbria University psychology student Courtney Smith has recently started volunteering with The People’s Kitchen in Newcastle and she is already putting her academic theory into practice.

Courtney is studying forensic psychology and a major part of her course looks at human behaviour and mental health issues. With mental health being a major issue for many homeless and vulnerable people, her education is helping her to help others.

“Studying how the brain works and how people behave has helped me to empathise with certain situations that I come across and it has also helped me to listen to those who may simply want to talk to someone.”

Courtney holds a role at The Kitchen within the Welfare Team where she liaises with local councils to help place vulnerable people into safe accommodation. She also spends a lot of her time listening and helping by allocating essential clothing and sleeping bags to those in need.

“My friends think it is unusual that I help out when many of them have other hobbies, but I get a great deal of satisfaction helping others and making a difference to a lot of people’s lives,” she said.

Trustee Jackie Boardman was delighted that Courtney had volunteered her time:

“We provide up to 300 meals every day and we couldn’t do it without the help of volunteers like Courtney. Volunteers have supported our “friends” for more than 35 years and we are run entirely by volunteers, no government funding is received, and no one is paid for their work. It’s a breath of fresh air to have young people taking an active and caring interest in their community especially at Christmas time,” she said.

The People’s Kitchen has started offering placement opportunities for a range of North East undergraduates to gain practical experience. As well as Courtney, they have welcomed other students from Northumbria, Newcastle and Sunderland Universities studying psychology, medicine, food, and nutrition.

The People’s Kitchen has launched its annual “Feed a Friend for a Fiver” campaign and is appealing to people across the region to give a £5 donation which will go towards someone in need having a hot three course meal during the winter and festive periods. Donations can be made on The People’s Kitchen website www.peopleskitchen.co.uk/donate/

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