Poppy's Volunteer Story

When I started my PhD, I decided to take a break from the person-centred voluntary work I’d been involved in to focus on my next career step. As rewarding as my PhD is, I do miss volunteering my time to help others. So, when it came to the 3-month internship part of my PhD programme I decided to use it as an opportunity to volunteer again.  

As my PhD is within the field of neurology, I wished to volunteer for a neurological charity to make the most of my skills. But I also wished to be somewhere I had a personal connection to. When my mum was diagnosed with Chiari malformation, I remember reading the Brain & Spine Foundation’s information on the condition to help me understand what she was going through. After emailing and speaking to the Information Manager and Professional Services Manager and hearing how the charity sought to empower those living with a neurological condition to improve their quality of life, I knew the Brain & Spine Foundation would be a good fit for me.   

Whilst with the Brain & Spine Foundation my duties were to review and update the health information booklets and factsheets available on their website, ensuring they were written in a supportive and accessible way, evidenced by the latest guidelines and research, and met the needs of the people living with these conditions. As part of this, I worked on the Chiari malformation booklet which gave me a humble sense of accomplishment; I’d come full circle, from a young teenager wanting to learn about their mum’s condition to a PhD researcher writing an updated version of the very same booklet.  

Another high point of my internship was building the link between the Brain & Spine Foundation and the UCL Centre for Nerve Engineering to raise awareness and better support those living with nerve injuries, a group dubbed the Nerve Injury Community, who are too often underserved by national organising bodies and charities. This alliance started when I mentioned I’d like to use the skills I developed during my internship to boost the profile of the Nerve Injury Community. And before long I was talking to the CEO, with supportive enthusiasm and concrete actions coming from all directions. This exemplifies the nature of the Brain & Spine Foundation team, their work is much more than a job, it embodies their wholehearted belief that no one should feel alone but instead have their voice heard. It was both a pleasure and a privilege to contribute to the work they do.  

I look forward to staying on with the Brain & Spine Foundation as a Neuro Changemaker, starting a self-help group for those with nerve injuries and growing the Nerve Injury Community.