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Stark Stories – an intern’s blog by Helen StarkHelen

Welcome to the first of my blogs for
St Columba’s Hospice, where you’ll find me blogging about my time as an intern in the fundraising team. I hope you will enjoy reading about my experience.

I joined the Hospice’s fundraising team in January 2016 as a fundraising assistant and already I have been soaked to the bone on the side of a hill, helped to organise the official opening of a shop, and learnt a lot about the realities of event management at a charity!

But first, a little context. I am currently an Edinburgh Napier University student, studying for a degree in Festival, Events and Hospitality Management. I also have a connection to the Hospice as my mum has volunteered her time as a chaplain for more than five years, and so I had already heard a lot about the Hospice before I started. I was always watching her get involved in the events that the Hospice was organising, from helping to hand out medals at A Walk to Remember, to saying grace at the Burns Supper. Seeing my mum being so involved and then being able to attend Stand Up for St Columba’s Hospice in 2014 got me thinking that the Hospice must be very special if she has dedicated so much time helping out.

In the past year or so I became more interested in event management within the charitable sector and this internship gives me the opportunity to learn about how charities manage events.

My first impressions

I have been part of the Hospice team for a few weeks now but I still find a 9-5 working day a shock to the system compared to university! So far I’m loving it, although maybe not the early mornings so much!

After being here only three weeks I feel I’m going to accomplish more than I could imagine and have realised what a good opportunity this is to develop my skills and understanding. I’m putting much of what I have learnt at University into practice. I am learning new and invaluable skills such as how to portray myself in a professional manner in email and telephone calls – which may sound very simple, but it can be quite daunting when you are representing an organisation which is so highly regarded!

Now I have had a little experience working with a charity, I can see there is more of a drive to create a really great event. The Hospice’s events are about raising awareness of what we do, who we are there for, and importantly – it’s about raising as much money as possible. Breaking even is not really an option, this is about doing the best for the Hospice’s patients and their families.

When I started with the team, I didn’t really know what to expect as it’s not your typical office environment! Even though I had heard wonderful things, I still had my pre-conceived ideas! These were dashed away as soon as I had been shown around the Hospice. The ward areas and spaces for patients are of such high standard after the rebuild and interior design project. I was fortunate enough to see the wards before and after being decorated and the Pentland ward had just had its revamp. The difference is amazing! It was great to see this change happening – a very obvious example of where the money raised by the fundraising team goes.

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Money raised by the fundraising team is spent on the interior design project, making sure the Hospice has rooms like this – the family room on Pentland Ward.

From hills to giant bows

My day-to day job is so varied, and I am already working on several different events. On my second day in the team I was taken out to the Pentland Hills in the pouring rain and wind to see where the new start point for The Push is going to be! Apart from the weather it was great to experience a meeting that doesn’t happen in a meeting room!

I also went along to the Hospice’s new charity shop at 74 Dalry road before it opened to help get photographs and chat through plans for the grand opening event. I have been organising all the goodies that we need including a giant bow to make the opening a special occasion!

I have started to work on the Giant Pub Quiz and have realised how much time and effort goes into creating an event. It’s not as simple as it first seems, and while the final event might be glamorous, there is a lot of hard work that goes into making it so. I am looking forward to being involved in an event from the very start to being present at the final result, finding about all the different aspects from sourcing prizes, getting sponsors and marketing the event in order to get as many people involved as possible.

I’m really looking forward to the rest of my time here at St Columba’s Hospice – learning new skills, meeting more of the staff and volunteers, and being able to do my bit for the Hospice that holds a special place in so many people’s hearts throughout Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for next month’s blog! 

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