This week heralded the arrival of our new Director, Susan Dolton, who arrives with a wealth of experience having been director at the Charity “Help Musicians UK”. Fortunately for me, she has shown a great interest in my interning at the Foundation, and has already suggested a number of new projects I could pursue whilst working here. I’ve also realised she’s a shrewd manager and extremely competent leader; it’s amazing the effect it can have on a team’s productivity when the person in charge displays a genuine interest in what you’re doing, an effect I’ve noticed first hand in myself. She gives praise where and when it’s due, yet is unafraid of criticising elements of the Foundation whilst always remaining assertive and constructive.
The Kensington & Chelsea Foundation is a charity which works to raise awareness of the harsh socio-economic contrasts that exist within the borough, and to help residents support local charities and community groups by championing the work of small charities. Essentially, the Foundation wants to make the borough a place where no one is held back by a lack of opportunity, a community where people and organisations work together to improve the lives of its most vulnerable members.
The foundation provides advice and guidance to residents, schools and businesses that want to become more engaged in their community. They also work to initiate campaigns to target specific needs.
This week started off with many crucial tasks, including finalizing the attendee list, printing and binding the conference packet, creating name tags for the participants, and filling the gift bags. We had a good assembly line going, though, so it wasn’t too tedious.
The programme for the conference was successfully uploaded to the INCA2015 website, which was safely accepting research abstracts and payment for participation as well.
As an intern directly responsible for the outcome of the conference, I was also in charge of catering. Because the conference was hosted by PCRF, we contacted many shops around the South Kensington area to see if they would want to contribute to our conference.
With two weeks to go to the big “Ion Channels in Cancer” (INCA) conference, the pressure has definitely been put on. This conference happens biannually and is hosted in a different place every time. This year, Professor Djamgoz and his PCRF team are the hosts. The topic of Ion channels is an exciting new development in cancer which holds promise to enable early, definitive diagnosis and non-toxic therapies of cancer. The conference will bring together scientists at the forefront of this field in order to advance novel solutions to cancer. The meeting will include over 30 invited speakers from all over the world, with around 100 people expected to attend.
Because the charity prides itself on having no administrative costs, logistical organization up till now was largely down to Mustafa alone. With an estimated overall cost of £16K, my colleague and I found the email addresses of multiple research charities, science and technology companies, and scientific societies, and sent them personalized emails asking whether they could help us meet our balance. Whilst we preferred receiving direct monetary support, we also welcomed any supporting materials such as pens, notepads, sweets, or any other souvenirs that the delegates would receive in their conference goody bags. In return, we offered to include any publicity material in the conference pack.
Over the course of my first week the plan for my project has changed slightly, I originally was going to make a website from scratch, design, text, and code. The only experience in coding that I have is from R, a language and data handling program that we use a lot in Biology for statistical computing and graphics. In the interest of continuity, my supervisor decided that it would be best to leave the designing and coding of the website to professionals who have had instruction and training in this field. When I was told, I was quite disappointed because I was very excited to learn a new skill and be responsible for something so big. Last week, my original pressure of building the website was already lifting, as I was getting the hang of the procedure from tons of information that is available on the internet, which is also all conveniently free.
Pro-cancer research fund (PCRF) is a registered UK charity that has three main prongs of activity: research, outreach, and patient care. The research side is an integral part of the charity, and is led by Imperial professor Mustafa Djamgoz. Dr. Djamgoz is developing a non-toxic way of treating many different types of cancers, including Prostate, Breast, Colon, and Pancreas. The internationally acclaimed and peer-reviewed research is integral to PCRF’s mission as it gives them the necessary authority, professionalism and trust-worthiness for a supportive drop-in advice centre. PCRF offers a direct link between cutting-edge research and the patients that the research is ultimately meant to help. PCRF engages in multiple outreach talks and programs each year, such as the annual Orchid walk, aimed at making new information more accessible to the people actually affected by cancer. The patient care is delivered through the Amber Care Centre, a free drop in centre located in north London that offers professional help to cancer patients, as well as a free home nurse care program.
On Monday September 7th, I arrived at the Thulasi Centre in Kingston-upon-Thames home to the Centre for Community Development charity. Though I have been here before, this place never fails to amaze me. It is a small building nestled behind a take-away on the main road, and completely inconspicuous apart from an entrance set into a small side lane.
Yet when you walk inside, this place transforms. The receptionists, while looking at me a little quizzically (they don’t often see students here apart from for designated events), were very friendly and welcoming. When I mentioned the project coordinator’s name, they immediately directed me to the room in which we were to have our first meeting.
According to the project timetable we set ourselves, the first two weeks were dedicated to research and planning. As I’ve only ever visited sensory gardens my knowledge on them was limited, so before drawing up the plan I wanted to see other supported living facility gardens to see how they utilise their space. There was an issue as there weren’t other homes like ours within reach. Instead I contacted several sources which normally provide sensory gardens with the necessary equipment to gain insight on what’s more popular.
I organised several meetings with different gardening agencies to gather their perspective and used that as the foundation to the planning.
My last week at WildHearts was very much a case of pulling together the work of the past month and making sure that I had left no loose ends.
I was successful in contacting the schools that were signed up for the conference and collecting in the attendee names of the schools that confirmed attendance. With the numbers confirmed, school delegates will make roughly a quarter of the event’s expected attendance of around 280. There were a number of schools that were unable to take up their places for various reasons – therefore it is very pleasing that we managed to maintain a healthy proportion of school delegates.
In my final week I had the chance to assist in Forest Schooling, a session run by the Community Interest Company Nature Links, which operates in Hounslow and Surrey. This is just one of the fantastic sessions offered by Bedfont Lakes for children and families. Forest Schooling is typically run for children up to the age of eight and is all about encouraging creative play in an outdoor environment in order to build confidence and self-esteem.
Following a brief Health and Safety message at the park entrance, the session commenced by searching for ‘Base Camp’. Base Camp turned out to be a sheltered 30/40m2 section of one of the woody areas in the park, with a small clearing in the centre that contained a seating area made from logs.