My week of work experience with FaithAction
On this week’s blog, we’re delighted to hear from Eleanor, who joined the FaithAction team recently as part of her Year 12 Work Experience programme. We asked Eleanor to keep a diary of her week and reflect on her experiences.
Some people think of work experience with skepticism, of being tasked with photocopying and making cups of tea. FaithAction’s programme was far from this. LifeLine (FaithAction’s host organisation) and FaithAction are deeply rooted in the service of faith and what this can do for people. By being able to experience the key players behind this, not only do I feel like I have gained knowledge within a completely unique sector, but I have also seen people motivated by their compassion.
My first morning with FaithAction consisted of a debrief with the team; goals and motivators were discussed – this helped me to gain insight in the tight schedules of the team. However, what really stood out to me was the level of support mentioned. For example, within Jenny’s weekly schedule she included the fact she would be supporting Jeremy with tasks he needed to complete. This spoke loudly to me as it highlighted the ethos of this team and individuals. I then learned about the social media accounts that FaithAction uses. Social media is crucial for charity organisations, and Twitter allows communication with other partners and the sharing of news.
After this, I was able to sit in on a Zoom call and learn about FaithAction’s work with faith leaders in Barking & Dagenham. People on the call spoke of the cost-of-living funding they had been given, and the good work they have done with this. Moreover, this also helped me to understand the financial side to the project.
Finally, Matt, Jenny and Andrew talked me through the work that FaithAction does in providing the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society. I particularly took interest in this because of my own personal political interest and the fact that no funding is received for this work; another example of the passion behind FaithAction’s projects. I also found out about Faith in Partnership Week, planned for September.
Tuesday started with a research task to help identify people that may be interested in getting involved in Faith in Partnership Week. This included faith based organisations, council representatives and local faith forums in the East of England. This task started as a challenge as it was hard to find the target audience. However, by being able to access FaithAction’s database of existing contacts, I was able to enter a rabbit hole of people and forums who would be interested. I could then find their contact details and websites to allow Jenny and others to be able to communicate and arrange if they would be interested in attending. Faith in Partnership is a good opportunity for other organisations to be linked with a programme like this and it also allows FaithAction to highlight their work.
In the afternoon, I met with Jamie, who leads on LifeLine’s international work. He spoke about the history of this work and the legacy that it intends to leave. I was completely in awe and inspired by the charitable and generous work the team has done over the years. Specifically their work in Sierra Leone – Jamie told me about Richard Cole, who did work during the civil war saving child soldiers and allowing a sense of hope to spread round the community. Following his leadership, one of the boys he saved, Prince, now helps run the community and has a close relationship with Jamie and LifeLine. Being able to hear about the help LifeLine has provided in many places, including Sierra Leone, Peru and so many more were truly incredible. The drive and passion displayed is astounding.
My Wednesday experience that the FaithAction team organised allowed me to spend a day in Parliament and it was the absolute highlight of my week. I am so grateful to have been able to shadow Steve Double MP and his senior assistant Samuel Yung. I started my morning by joining a meeting with Elizabeth Speed, who represents the the arcade sector, which is an important sector in Steve Double’s Cornwall constituency. This allowed me to see first hand the work that he does for business and people within his constituency.
I then attended a meeting that Steve spoke at – a school group that were touring parliament asked if Steve could say a few words as he is their local MP; he answered their questions and spoke about the relevance of his work to them. I saw the importance for constituents and MP’s to build relationships, and Steve’s personal interest in giving part of his time to those who are not officials.
I was then very lucky to attend Prime Ministers Questions, and sat in the special enquiry seats. Getting to see the last PMQs before recess was such an honor and seeing MP’s speak about issues that truly matter to them was very exciting. I also was able to sit in the House of Lords.
I did some PA work for Steve allowing me to really witness the type of work in parliament. I was also able to sit in on a Select Committee meeting where the Business and Trade Council questioned the co-founder of Asda about their change in food and fuel prices to potential attempt to try and profit from the cost-of-living crisis. Seeing the MP’s forcefully question him was a unique and entertaining experience. My personal interest in politics and economics was enhanced by this whole experience.
Thursday was very different from the previous days, as it was much more practical, and allowed me to see the work of Healthwatch Barking and Dagenham first hand. I joined Ruby, Healthwatch’s Engagement and Policy Assistant, on an engagement visit to Queen’s Hospital in Romford. We had a target to survey 20 people on their experiences of receiving health care.
It was a very different experience to the start of the week, being on the front line of the work. I was able to speak to two men in the specialist medicine unit. Hearing their stories and experiences with the hospital was a very grounding and somewhat emotional experience. Although our aims were to get as many people completing the survey as possible, being able to provide companionship and a listening ear to people who may not experience much human interaction apart from hospital staff was so much more important to me. Through these informal conversations, we identified potential improvements that we then debriefed with Siobhan, one of the hospital’s Patient Experience Officers. Patients described problems with the hospital food, sleeping arrangements, and their struggles to communicate with nurses and doctors due to their hearing. What I gained from this day was really important to me; I feel that I got to help people in need, and I also physically got to see what Healthwatch does in the community. This has shown me the importance of volunteering and has inspired me to go back to the hospital and speak to older people who may not have constant family visits.
I spent my Friday reflecting on the week I had, and writing this blog. The experience I’ve gained through just observing the team and doing practical hands on work is incomparable and I owe this all to the FaithAction team. I feel very lucky to have taken part in this work experience programme that has been so diverse and unique.
Jenny and Andrew have played key parts in my week, and my experience would have not been able to happen without them. I hope to be able to harness some of these skills that they inhabit and I will bring those to future jobs.
Most memorably this week was my day in Parliament. It was so unique and special – I am so incredibly grateful. My biggest practical challenge of the week was my Faith in Partnership research task, however my trip on Thursday to the hospital was very emotionally challenging to see people who lack human contact.
My advice to any future work experience students would be, be open and willing to learn, the opportunities are only as much as you make it. My week has been active, exciting, and allowed me to understand the charity sector and the amazing people behind it.