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Ellen Sowerby is a final year BA History with a Year Abroad Student, based in the School of Slavonic and East European Studies. She volunteered as a part-time Policy and Influencing Intern at CLIC Sargent. CLIC Sargent support children and young people with cancer and their families with the social implications that a cancer diagnosis brings. CLIC Sargent campaigned for policy change ahead of the Government’s Autumn Financial Statement.

She came into the office and spoke to Nick Batley and Jenny Murphy about her role.

Talk us through your role – what did you do for the charity?

I was a policy and influencing intern, and part of the policy and influencing internship team within the charity. Their role is to do research in areas that are related to their aim, and for the benefit of service users (children and young people with cancer and their families). They then look at how this ties in with the current government policy and look for potential stakeholders, and I was just doing different tasks to assist with that. They’d be helping with events, I’d be helping with liaising with MP’s and generally assisting the team.

How often did you volunteer?

I was an intern for four months, and I’d be there once a week for definite, and sometimes twice a week depending on my availability!

What inspired you to volunteer in this specific area?

The year before, I’d been on my year abroad, and did a masters course in public policy, which I really enjoyed, and I was looking for more policy experience. I am signed up to get the Volunteering Service and receive newsletters to my email inbox, but hadn’t volunteered yet. I saw the opportunity for the CLIC Sargent opportunity listed and it looked cool, so I looked further at what the charity did. I particularly liked them because they talked about the social aspect of cancer.That appealed to me personally; my sister was ill, and though she didn’t have cancer, a lot of things my family went through were very similar so I understood the aim.

In terms of the workload, how do you find working with stakeholder’s part of it, and balancing it with the other duties?

It wasn’t so bad – I was very nervous to go into it as it was something quite new. My supervisor that said you will ring up the first MP and get nervous, and then you’d get an assistant answer the phone. I went to Parliament twice, once to an event, and once as a representative. It was very cool, I’d never been to Parliament before, and it was daunting but I realised after I’d done it once I’d done it, the MPs were just people after all, so not that daunting.

Has this led you to go into other volunteering opportunities or a career path?

Yes – I think so! I knew policy work was what I wanted to do – I don’t know quite yet if I want to work in the charity sector, but this summer, I’m looking for policy experience, particularly in a think tank, so it’s been a great stepping stone for my future.

What do you think the best skill or experience was in the volunteering placement?

I think just an awareness of Parliament which is great; I’ve been doing a lot more work, working with stakeholders and the research element was good; for my degree, I have to research, so I was doing it for something. It was a pretty much a good way to build on my skills.

What do you think the biggest challenge was for you?

I wanted to be at the charity more really, and with a full-time degree, it’s hard to be there as much as I’d like to. I also had to work on the side, although I was lucky as I arranged my modules so I’d have more in the final term and therefore was freer in the first term. I was also living with my parents in Zone 6; I was commuting regularly, but this was a little further than my usual commute, as I was travelling to Hammersmith (where CLIC Sargent is based); but this wouldn’t really be a problem for future students coming from Camden.

Would you recommend this opportunity to others?

I think what I liked about it was that I got a lot out of it. Friends of mine who did internships were really used for small tasks and they didn’t have much autonomy, but I had a really great experience. The team looked after me and wanted me to get a lot out of it, which made all the difference. The team were really lovely, they really wanted to make me feel really welcomed. At the end, I did a presentation on my work as an intern and people from the head office came and watched, who were lovely too. I think the charity was just a really welcoming one and a well organised one, and I think I was really lucky with my placement.

If Ellen’s experience with CLIC Sargent has inspired you to get involved, check out their other opportunities, along with other social policy volunteering opportunities!  Or if something else strikes your fancy, please visit our online directory to view all the current roles we have on offer with our 400+ London-based partners!