Keele intern helps to grow Jeans for Genes Day

A genetic disorder charity grew their connections and promotional reach when a fully-funded Keele virtual intern became part of the team.

Genetic Disorders UK is a charity that supports children born with genetic disorders and their families. Research suggests that there are currently around 6,000 genetic disorders, with many so rare that they do not have a name. Some of these disorders remain one of the biggest killers of children up to the age of 14.

The charity’s annual fundraising campaign - Jeans for Genes Day - is taking place during 14-20 September 2020. In previous years, the event has seen Genetic Disorders UK inviting workplaces and schools to donate £1 to wear jeans for the day. However, with the pandemic resulting in a significant number of people working from home and a level of uncertainty around children returning to school, the charity has had to amend its plans for this year’s event – to encourage a virtual approach.

To help them reach this new audience, Genetic Disorders UK hired a Keele University student, James Chalk, via the University’s virtual internship scheme. James’ role was to contact universities and talk to them about ‘Jeans for Genes Day’, as well as bridging the link between school and workplaces by researching interest among university student unions. James secured the support of a number of institutions as a result.

James commented: “It was a great opportunity to have an internship during lockdown. Though challenging at times, it was 100% worth it. I feel like I have made a real positive contribution to those who need it and it has made me appreciate the hard work carried out by not for profit organisations and charities.”

Virtual internships are designed to give charities access to Keele students and graduates, who then work remotely on specific projects to help the organisation develop.

Speaking about his experience of working from home, James added: “Working remotely was seamless, having weekly meetings with Lisa Gagliani, the charity’s CEO, to plot the overall direction of recruiting University Raising and Giving organisations to raise money for Jeans for Genes Days. Over the six weeks, I felt like I was fully integrated into the team.

“I was also able to carry out most of the project independently which was refreshing. I found I could take skills I had learnt in my course modules and apply them to a working environment. I also picked up completely new skills such as using WordPress to optimise the charity website for search engines.” 

“Working at Genetic Disorders UK widened my career path beyond my degree, and I am proud that I have been able to bring skills I’ve learnt during my degree to a charitable organisation.”

Genetic Disorders UK is made up of a small team, so having an extra resource dedicated to marketing activities has been vital for the charity, especially in these uncertain times.

Lisa Gagliani, Chief Executive of Genetic Disorders UK, commented: “James joining our team as an intern, has allowed us to investigate areas that we would not have been able to before. We were able to explore a new market without financial risk to the organisation. I’d like to give a huge credit to the interns for settling in to working remotely and experiencing internships in a way they did not expect to.

“Additionally, an unexpected outcome of this internship was, due to Keele’s marketing, we were able to connect with a Keele Alumni who is a carrier of a genetic condition. We were able to offer support to him and he connected James to those in his network. This has also led to them being a possible speaker at our events.

“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.”

You can find more information about Jeans for Genes Day and how to take part here:

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