Taking Action

York alumni Ellie Evans and Georgia Paton speak to about what it’s like to be involved with a major medical research charity in the UK

Alfie cerebral palsy

Images: Ellie Evans

Action Medical Research is one of the UK’s leading charities in the pioneering search for new medical breakthroughs in order to save countless lives on a daily basis. Founded in 1952 by Duncan Guthrie, the charity initially aimed to find a cure for polio which, at the time, was rife among children including Guthrie’s own daughter, Janet. Thanks to this early work, polio has now been eliminated in the UK. And this was just the beginning.
Since its inception, those at Action Medical Research have worked tirelessly and it is easy to see how the hard work continues to pay off. They have been responsible for numerous life-changing and life-saving discoveries including ultrasound in pregnancy, the rubella vaccine, and realising the importance of taking folic acid during pregnancy in order to prevent spine bifida. To date the charity has spent a staggering £110m, which is facilitated by their commitment to fundraising events and the selfless work of thousands of volunteers

To date the charity has spent a staggering £110m

Lots of famous names are involved in and support Action Medical Research, including Davina McCall, Tony Hadley, Mark Cavendish MBE and even Paddington Bear. But the people who really ‘make the magic happen’ are those behind the scenes. Ellie Evans is the Fundraising Communications Officer. She is responsible for publicising all of the fantastic fundraising initiatives and opportunities taking place across the country – no mean feat.

Ellie had been a journalist for a period exceeding 10 years, but the desire to work for Action Medical Research came with the will for greater job satisfaction, wanting to “put [her] energy into a more worthwhile cause.” Her role sounds truly fulfilling, as she describes the volunteers who dedicate themselves to raising money and promoting the charity. An example close to home was her moving tale of Matt Westcott (also known as ‘Wheezy Rider’) who partook in the York 100 ride to honour the memory of his niece Jasmine who tragically died of a brain tumour.

But this was one of many moving stories, and across the UK there are hundreds of thousands of children who rely on the work of charities such as Action Medical Research. Two profound examples include baby Samuel who was born two and a half months early weighing less than 4lbs, and Alfie who suffered brain damage at birth which has left him with cerebral palsy.

We asked Ellie what the public could do to help children such as Samuel and Alfie, and many others like them, be it by simply raising awareness of the charity or participating in events such as charity runs, team challenges and sporting events. For students in particular though, Ellie stresses the multitude of opportunities on offer that can “help build a great CV and make you stand out.” Action Medical Research recruit student volunteers at events, and they also provide opportunities for ambassadors in schools and local areas who can help to spread the word and inspire others to get involved.
One such example is University of York Politics and International Relations graduate Georgia Paton. Georgia was able to give us an insight into how it feels to be part of such a worthwhile cause.
Georgia Paton + Paddington
Despite initially wanting to pursue a career in the diplomatic service, her repeated involvement with RAG during her time at  York meant Georgia soon realised that her heart truly lay in helping people. Georgia was RAG Officer in 2014/15 and it was her work in this role which first opened her eyes to the work of Action Medical Research. Not long after, Georgia received an email offering work experience with the charity and “jumped at the chance”. Although she admits this was not the route she envisaged her career path would follow, she is “very glad things turned out the way they have.”

Within her role as a volunteer with Action Medical Research, Georgia has been granted chances for involvement with numerous events across the UK, gaining new skills and experiences throughout the process. She tells of her involvement with Trossachs PLOD and the Trossachs Ton, two intense outdoor challenges based in Scotland, as well as her help with the ‘Gig in the Garden’ in Suffolk and the aforementioned York 100 ride (held from our very own University Sports Centre). Georgia’s experiences don’t end there, and recently she helped to represent Action Medical Research in the nationwide 2015 RAG Conference in Leeds. Georgia speaks extremely highly of her time spent volunteering with Action Medical Research, describing the rewards she has reaped as “numerous and valuable.” Her experiences have helped her to cement her love for work within the charity sector and she reports her whole time to have been truly “eye-opening.”

With regard to her future prospects beyond Action Medical Research, Georgia now stands in extremely good stead. Thanks to her work with the charity, Georgia has been offered a job as a Community fundraiser for Marie Curie. She thanks Action Medical Research for providing her with the opportunity and skills repertoire that it has gifted her, and says that “without a doubt I could not have achieved this without [their] help.”

Action Medical Research could not do what they do on a day-in-day-out basis without the assistance and support of students like me and you. As Ellie herself said “this year for every fantastic project we fund, there’s another which we have to turn down, so every single penny counts.”

For more information on Action Medical Research click here.

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