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Battersea-based fashion design student thanks NHS with care packages

A fashion design student has shown her appreciation for NHS staff by gifting personalised care packages to vaccination centre workers in south west London.

Chimna Orji, a 22-year-old Nottingham Trent University student, founded her charity organisation the OGBU Collective in February after receiving funding from Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) earlier this year.

The collective creates care packages and gifts them to “collections” in the community – groups of people that it chooses to focus on and provide for each season.

BAC held the opportunity last year for members of The Agency – a programme which allows young people to develop their creative ideas for change in their communities, to receive £500 funding for a project to give back to a community in need.

As an agent herself, Orji was granted the funding after applying and decided to create care packages though OGBU to give back to NHS workers in her area.

She said: “I found the empty gestures from the government frustrating, with them turning Downing Street blue and clapping for the NHS.

“My mum is a cognitive behaviour therapist and my sister is and NHS staff member looking to become a junior doctor.

“I’ve got first-hand experience with them coming home tired from a long shift, and most NHS workers go above and beyond when providing care to patients.

“We’re still in the pandemic and I feel like the care packages were the perfect fit.”

Orji used the £500 funding to create care packages for 50 NHS workers in vaccination centres, which she and other volunteers packaged on May 20, in bags she designed and decorated herself.

The team delivered 10 of the packages to Hackney vaccination centre on May 23, 20 to the vaccination centre in BAC on May 26, and 20 to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital on the same day.

The packages included hand cream, lip balm, antibacterial hand wipes, compressed face masks, chewing gum, teabags, tissues and a note from a member of the public with kind words for the recipient.

Orji received messages from workers expressing how the care packages were what they needed after their shifts – something she was happy to hear after asking workers what they would appreciate in a care package.

She said: “I’d love for people to realise that the NHS is more than three letters – it’s hundreds of thousands of people that are working selflessly – there are actual people behind it and it’s the backbone of our country.

“Clapping isn’t enough; our appreciation and care needs to materialise.”

The operation was the first of many that Orji plans to carry out with the OGBU collective, which stands for “Only Giving Back Unconditionally.”

She added: “My uncle passed away and Ogbu was his surname – the collective is named in his legacy because he was such a caring person.

“It has re-activated my creative side, which was dormant during lockdown.”

Aside from continuing work in South West London, Orji’s future hopes for OGBU include impacting a collection in Nigeria.

She said: “In third world countries, there is a different type of struggle.”

As a fashion student, Orji specialises in street and menswear.

This interest showed itself in project she carried out with BAC before university, where she taught young people who were homeless or on the verge of homelessness, how to upcycle their garments to increase their longevity.

She further developed this idea into a project that created care packages for homeless women in particular, to tackle period poverty.

These projects led to the successful execution of the OGBU Collective’s personalised care packages.

BAC expressed that young people like Orji are what the city needs.

A spokesperson said: “We are so incredibly proud of Chimna and that she’s working within the community – we put our faith in her and she flew with it.

“She is part of the new generation of leaders within the community.”

You can keep up with the OGBU Collective and BAC’s The Agency here: The OGBU Collective (@theogbucollective) • Instagram photos and videos, The Agency | Battersea Arts Centre (bac.org.uk).

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