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UEL students use virtual reality to bring the reality of the Nepal earthquake to campus

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International Development student society raise awareness of poor sanitation across the globe

Virtual reality headsets brought the sad reality of the 2015 Nepal earthquake to University of East London (UEL) students as part of a celebration to mark International World Toilet Day.

The event was organised by the UEL International Development student society at the University’s Docklands campus in partnership with international charity Water Aid, who provided the headsets

“We had virtual reality headsets that students could put on and watch the film, which showed the impact of the earthquake in Nepal and the effects it had on water and sanitation,” explained Naomi Tomlinson, president of the society. 

“The film was powerful and got a lot of students involved in the event. As a result of the film, a number of students signed up to volunteer with Water Aid.” 

Naomi, who studies International Development with NGO Management at UEL, said World Toilet Day raised awareness about the fact that one in three people do not have access to adequate sanitation, while one in ten people do not have access to clean water. 

“The day sounds like it's a bit of a joke, and some students we spoke to thought it was, but it's actually a serious issue and one that could be solved with a bit more intervention and support from governments worldwide,” she said.

The day also included competitions for students to guess the distance a woman had to walk from a water source to her home carrying heavy containers of clean water.

Another competition asked students to guess how much the lack of sanitation costs the African economy per year ($28.4 billion). 

“The feedback from students was very positive and the majority said they thought there should be more awareness campaigns in held in UEL,” said Naomi. 

“Some students said they had never realised what an issue sanitation was in the world and that they would personally be more careful in their use of water.  Lecturers who came by were also very positive about the event.”

Next year, the student society have planned a film screening about efforts to oppose UK austerity measures using political activism, and another event to support Pump Aid, who run social enterprises in Malawi. 

A conference is also expected in March 2017 looking at the United Nations’ sustainable development goals and the role of developing countries