Arts for health charity widens audience through Keele Virtual Internships

An arts for health charity which changes vulnerable people’s lives through art recently gained new audiences and projects, thanks to Keele University’s internship programme.

Independent Arts encourages those who may be socially isolated, such as those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, to express themselves through other mediums, such as painting, dancing and singing.

The charity is based in the Isle of Wight which, with 3,000 cases in its 140,000 population, is the dementia capital of the UK.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Independent Arts has been unable to visit residents in care homes, so they decided to move their workshops online in order to continue and expand their programme of support to those isolated as a result of the pandemic, and approached Keele University for support in doing so.

Through the University’s virtual internship scheme, the charity hired two interns - Iva Semerdjieva and William Mirfin Bourkouris - for 100 hours each, with their wages fully-funded by Santander Universities.

Iva, a Law and Society postgraduate student, helped the charity to use their social media to promote the online workshops, as well as creating a bi-weekly newsletter for the charity. Commenting on her experience, she said:

“From day one I felt welcomed and inspired by Independent Arts’ ethos, the activities they run and their passion to help those in need.

“Learning to work remotely was one of the key skills which I developed throughout my internship. After two weeks of my internships, I was involved with weekly staff meetings over Zoom, learning meeting etiquette and communicating in a professional online environment.

“I also got to learn how to use new software such as Canva and MailChimp, and managing the organisation’s social media gave me a more in-depth understanding of different ways to engage and create a wider audience. This internship has altered my career plans as I am now looking at job roles in social media and marketing.”

Fellow intern William, a Keele medical student, focused on creating a training programme for the staff about health inequalities among Island school children, which has now put Independent Arts in the frame for future collaboration with the Isle of Wight NHS. He commented:

“Working for Independent Arts was really enjoyable. It gave me the chance to develop a great understanding of the impact of health inequality in the UK, how it is tied to everything else from education to race to income. It has really emphasised how in times of hardship, the poorest are always hit the worst.

“As a Medical student, the experience has enabled me to gain a greater experience in researching literature and public speaking, and has been a very formative experience. The challenge of working from home has been ultimately a good thing as it enabled me to choose my own hours. I couldn’t recommend interning for a non-profit organisation enough.”

Lisa Gagliani MBE, Chief Executive at Independent Arts, believes that Iva and William have helped to push the charity forward with its engagement and practices, saying:

“Iva has been a conduit for all the programme delivery team to be able to share their stories, to become more outward facing and embrace community engagement. The work William has done has enabled us to look beyond our current core audience, to early years and help those born with health inequalities. His work here will inform our programme development priorities for months and years to come.

“I would definitely recommend this scheme to other not-for-profit organisations. Not only do interns allow for the completion of projects that wouldn’t otherwise be carried out, but every intern hired has the potential to become an ambassador for the cause for life.”

Lisa has also hired another Keele University intern through her links with another charity, Genetic Disorders UK. Read more about this here

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