Whether it’s a career change into the world of Cordon Bleu food, completing a medical elective in the Philippines or making a move into teaching with a PGCE certificate, our Old Seniors have used their DHSA Grants to change their lives. Find out about just some of our Old Seniors who have used their grants to re-write their own stories.
Grant recipient Alice Fane (2010) left her job in a creative agency, travelling to the Millenium Forest in Japan to work as a student gardener and to gain insight into the horticultural world.Read More
The Millenium Forest sits at the base of the Hidaka Mountain range of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. The landscape is beautiful; snow peaked mountains make way to cascading waterfalls which meander into rivers where native wildflowers grow along the banks. Mitsushige Hayashi-san, an entrepreneur, bought the land, which covered mountains and farmed land, with the idea of offsetting his business’ carbon footprint and turning part of it into a public green space. I worked as a student gardener in this magical place for eight months, or as Head Gardener Midori Shintani put, “from snow to snow”.
My motivations for going, aside from the incredible insight into Japanese culture and chance to do something completely different, was to have hands-on experience with plants. I was previously working as a strategist for a creative agency, but wanted to have experience in the horticultural world. I knew plant knowledge was the foundation for any success, so hands on experience appealed much more than a second degree.
The Meadow Garden, designed by English garden designer Dan Pearson, was where most of my physical gardening experience took place. Our main role was to keep the balance within each mix, ensuring that plants didn’t become too competitive, and encouraging those that struggled. When we first arrived there was still so much snow there were hardly any signs of the plants, and it was an incredible experience to watch the cycle of the garden and see its changes up close.
Indeed, throughout the year Midori and the gardening team created experiences for us to connect deeper to the cycles of the forest. A favourite memory was harvesting the Itadori (Japanese knotweed) in the woods with Deputy Head Gardener Shintaro in May. Dandelion seeds floated across dappled light as we cut bucketfuls of the jurassic looking weed for the cafe. Later as we peeled them, Midori would tell us about ‘ten-pi-hoshi’ translating as ‘sky-sun-dried’, leaving the stalks out in the sun to dry and make easier to peel. It was in these moments that the gardening team often found the time to inform us about Japanese culture, making even the smallest task feel like part of a bigger picture and deeper history. Under Midori’s thoughtful, educational and experimental leadership; Dan’s world class design; an amazing team and dramatic setting of the Hidaka Mountain range I have had a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Grant recipient Francesca Green (2005) decided to take on a career change to align her passion for complementary medicine with her day job, in the form of undertaking a BSc in Acupuncture.Read More
It seems to have been set in stone from early on that I would never commit to just once discipline in life, and always attempted to juggle unrelated interests. At A Levels, I hedged my bets, what with a science subject, a couple of languages and a social science subject. This theme perpetuated at university where I decide to study Combined Studies to satisfy the duality I seemed to enjoy, ending up with a degree in German with Psychology. Finally, around 7 years later, having been among other things, a personal tutor, an employee at Legoland, a Spanish delicatessen market trader, and having worked in financial technology sales and for a large online retailer, I ended up in sales and marketing for an asset manager for the last 5 years; I realised I still hadn’t found my absolute passion.
I had always been interested in health, biology (thank you Miss Hicks!), psychology and fitness, and slowly my mind had come to realise that Chinese Medicine (of which acupuncture is a strand) embodied these disciplines as main tenets to promoting health and reducing, where possible, the likelihood of disease, the severity thereof or alleviate associated symptoms relating to the illness. Having come to the conclusion that I was going to become an acupuncturist, I was fortuitously able to move to a job within the same firm that would be three days a week whilst undertaking a full time BSc in Acupuncture.
What with the aforementioned 3 days a week in my usual job, 2 days at university per week and 2 days of self-study to complete all the essays and exams, it was turning out to be a nice 7 day working week for the next three years!
Three-and-a-half years later I have finally graduated with a BSc in Acupuncture and am spending my time working part time in asset management and setting up my own clinic in South West London, whilst enjoying volunteering once a week as an acupuncturist for a charity in Wandsworth.
I would like to thank DHSA very much for kindly giving me a grant which has made all the difference to being able to retrain in my passion, and ultimately helped build the career balance and interest I have always wanted to achieve. I can safely say my need for two satisfying careers in one week has finally been met and I am looking forward to developing both.
Grant recipient Emily Sweerts de Landas Wyborgh (2006), towards her teacher training – ‘doing a PGCE the best decision’.Read More
Having started my working life in the Financial Services in the City, I then left to start Kings Tutors. This is a tutoring agency to help children with their entrance exams as well GCSEs, IB, A Levels and applications to university. The reason for doing this was because, after tutoring throughout university, I noticed that too many children did not have the support they needed to pass the increasingly competitive school entrance examinations or the support to cope with the pressure put upon them. This is something that is very close to my heart and the reason why I then also wanted to formalise my teaching experience by undertaking my teacher training.
It was a tough year; my first placement was in a school that was understaffed so I was treated as the main classroom teacher right from the start. Being thrown into the deep end really did help though as I had to learn behavioural management techniques very quickly after being faced with a class of thirty children. The lead up to Christmas in the school was lots of fun and I loved taking part in all of the extra-curricular activities in addition to being involved in the school nativity production. I had much more support on my second placement and could really learn more about different styles of learning. This particular school was also a leader in mastery so it was brilliant to see these new teaching techniques in action and learn from experts so to speak. I absolutely loved my class; our topic for the term was the Vikings. This was fantastic fun to teach in Geography and History in addition to the other subjects. We also made shields to be used in a race for Sports Day.
Doing my PGCE was the best decision and I could not recommend it more. There were difficult times at the start but it was all worth it in the end. It also took a while to get back into the swing of writing essays again, however, any fears about doing this soon disappeared. An enormous thank you to the DHSA for all of their support.
Grant recipient Alexandra Moss (2007), studied for the Cordon Bleu diploma to fast-track a career change into the food sector.Read More
Doing a full time professional cookery course had always been a dream of mine but never something I thought possible. Finally, in April 2016 having left my job in financial services, I enrolled on the six month intensive Cordon Bleu diploma at Tante Marie Culinary Academy, Woking.
The course was rigorous and the focus was predominantly on classical French cuisine with demonstrations and practicals along with theory classes and lectures in butchery, fishmongery and game. Being on my feet, cooking for at least four hours a day, five days a week for six months was a challenge but I loved it!
During the course holidays, I worked freelance as a Private Chef to continue building my skills. I also undertook ‘stages’ at various well-known London restaurants. Having completed the course, I have since started a supper club series, ‘Murray & Moss’, with a friend (Instagram murray.moss). We launched earlier this year with our Spring then Summer supper clubs and are planning a series of regular events going forward.
Combining my professional kitchen skills with financial and business experience has enabled me to get a job as a commercial manager at one of the UK’s leading food delivery companies. I also have a couple of clients who I continue to work for ad hoc. I feel privileged to have been able to complete such a well-recognised course and am very grateful to DHSA for supporting me with my career transition.
Grant recipient Iona Macmillan Douglas (2010), spent four months in 2016 working in Tucson, Arizona for the Arizona Capital Representation Project (ACRP). She started her training contract with Charles Russell Speechlys in August 2017.Read More
ACRP is the only legal aid organisation in Arizona assisting capital defendants at all legal stages, as well as providing direct legal representation to Arizona Death Row inmates in their federal and state appeals. The team at ACRP works hard to improve the quality of representation afforded to capital defendants in Arizona by providing free consulting (including client relations, issue identification, legal research, drafting pleadings) to capital defendants and their lawyers. The project is largely dependent on private grants and donations to maintain its critical work.
While I was there I conducted investigations, wrote briefs, researched similar cases and met with ACRP’s clients. One of the projects I was involved in was the Death Row Housing Suit, involving the Department of Corrections and one of the Death Row prisoners who we represent. Like most death penalty states, Arizona classifies its inmates at highest security level which means housing them in predominately solitary confinement conditions. In late 2015, this prisoner filed a lawsuit challenging this mandatory maximum custody classification for all death-sentenced prisoners on Due Process and Eighth Amendment grounds. I was involved with the staged process of writing and filing these appeals in the High Court and Court of Appeals. I visited the prisoner on numerous occasions to understand the confinement situation in Death Row and worked with the team to reach a settlement. In March 2017 a binding legal settlement was reached.
One of the other projects I was involved with was researching and writing a report on how often prosecutorial misconduct and racial bias were involved in Death Row cases. To compile sufficient evidence to write this report I needed to visit Death Row and talk to the prisoners as well as using statistics available online and the local library.
Although I was only interning here for four months I feel like a learnt an incredible amount about the legal system in America on both a State and Federal level.
Grant recipient Izzie Stopford (2010) spent her medical elective in Tacloban, a city on the island of Leyte in the Philippines.Read More
This was organised through Volunteer for the Visayans, a charity that runs various sustainable development projects and has links with a local hospital, Leyte Provincial Hospital (LPH) where I mainly spent time with the Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Paediatrics team. Our time in Tacloban was split between work at LPH, a couple of days a week at Municipal Health Centres in rural towns and several days carrying out health checks and medical missions for the children sponsored by VFV.
Having just finished finals and completed our medical degrees in London hospitals, we encountered a massive culture shock. The hospital itself was incredibly basic and, whereas practically everything in the NHS is disposable, quite the opposite was the case in LPH. Water shortages limited hand washing to only when strictly necessary (I definitely broke this rule a lot!), and the limited available medications meant that our medical management had to be very different to the UK. I was able to take a much more involved role in theatres and became adept at baby deliveries which I loved and learnt a huge amount from. Ward work was difficult due to the language barriers, but everywhere else in the hospital we were able to find a nurse who would act as a translator when necessary. It was also ridiculously hot in the wards so we often sought refuge in the operating theatres!
Consultations in the community brought all sorts of presentations from the usual coughs and colds to cerebral schistosomiasis, abscesses, children with dermatological or musculoskeletal problems who had never seen a medical professional, and endless cases of malnourishment, tuberculosis and urinary tract infections.
Work for the charity was very rewarding. We helped at their annual medical mission – a beautifully organised day involving members of the community, the charity and the police and armed services. During the course of the day some 200ish young boys were circumcised, we assisted with these and subsequently did them ourselves having been taught by the army – apparently all first aid trained soldiers can also circumcise! Even more children had their teeth checked and many dental procedures performed. Circumcision is a tradition in the Philippines but often families of these small villages cannot afford to pay for the procedure to be done in hospital and many complications arise, including extremely high rates of infection. The mission aims to alleviate these complications by performing the procedure for free in a sterilised manner and providing analgesia, antibiotics – and a free toothbrush!
Throughout my time with VFV I was able to experience healthcare in a very different setting to what we are used to, I was also able to hone in on various skills both practical and communication based, which will be particularly useful when starting my job this summer. I am very grateful for the support from the DHSA, which enabled me to work with a fantastic organisation and give a little bit back to the community of Tacloban.
Grant recipient Susannah Moss (2009) headed to Ethiopia to take on the biggest professional and personal challenge of her life, where she immersed herself in the culture and create pioneering content that changes society’s attitude towards girls.Read More
With bags packed full of sensible clothes, gadgets you’d never have heard of and a healthy supply of cheese, I turned to Dad to wave goodbye. Then came a moment that has stuck with me ever since, as he said “You’ll look back on this moment as a turning point in your life”. Unconvinced, I rolled my eyes and headed to the airport.
Getting off that plane into the smoggy-spicy smell of Addis Ababa, I entered a whole new world. Ethiopia is largely devoid of ‘Western’ influence – almost everything is different from the UK, no process or behaviour can be taken for granted. Arriving there I knew I had to start learning the local language Amharic to get under the skin of what was going on.
Amharic is a Semitic language (the same branch as Hebrew) and sounds like nothing you have ever heard before. It shares some words with Arabic and also Italian (hangovers from occupations and ancient trade routes) with over two hundred characters in the alphabet. Bugging my colleagues helped me master the basics but I soon realised that I needed some extra support.
The DHSA grant funded six months of one-to-one lessons. I learnt how to craft sentences, grew my vocabulary and practised conversations. This gave me real freedom. Solo female travel in Ethiopia is not without its challenges but armed with Amharic I was able to take minibuses all over the country, developing my photography (cue shameless plug for @todayinaddis) and experiencing the incredibly rich culture of Africa’s never-colonised nation.
I visited all night qat sessions, was welcomed into farmers’ homes, experienced several car crashes (sorry mum), partied with pop-stars, got published by CNN, slept on top of volcanoes, fed hyenas, ascended rock-hewn churches, experienced civil unrest, total internet blackouts and much more.
Nothing could prepare me for the incredible warmth of Ethiopian people and their way of life. I am truly amazed at the intricacies and richness of human nature. By speaking Amharic, I was able to uncover this on my own terms. I have developed an invaluable sense of perspective and appreciation for humanity. Stepping off that plane was truly a turning point in my life – it has taken me a year and half to realise it, but Dad was right.
Grant recipient Caroline Williams (2010), now a qualified doctor, spent her medical elective in Cape Town.Read More
Shortly after finishing finals and finding out I was a doctor, myself and two friends jumped on a plane to Cape Town for our medical elective. We were working with SHAWCO, a student-run charity linked to the University of Cape Town, which runs evening clinics out to the townships surrounding the city. These clinics aim to provide free primary healthcare services to those who may otherwise be unable to access this care, either due to work commitments or financial difficulties. As we soon learnt, seeing a doctor at the local clinic or government hospital could involve waiting all day, sometimes without getting to the front of the queue, and so these clinics are an important first port of call for many township residents.
The clinics were completely run by students – we saw and examined patients, formed a management plan and then discussed this with a supervising doctor. We saw a mixture of common ailments – from skin conditions to paediatric complaints to urinary infections and STIs. Although not dissimilar to GP complaints in England, the lack of easy access to treatment made us realise just how great the NHS is. A huge part of the service we offered was rapid HIV testing, something we offered to every patient and was often the main reason they were there. Although the test itself was a very simple finger prick test, the counselling that was required before and after testing was not something I had done before and is a skill I will take with me into my career as a doctor.
Whilst the treatment we could offer was fairly limited – few antibiotics were available, paracetamol was the treatment for most things, Rub-Rub (the African equivalent of deep heat) solved all musculoskeletal problems and antihistamines functioned additionally as sleeping pills – the clinics themselves were an amazing learning experience and an incredible opportunity to go out into the townships and speak with the residents. Hearing their stories highlighted what a huge divide still exists in post-apartheid South Africa and a side of the country we may not have seen just as tourists.
I have fallen in love with South Africa and hope to go back and work there once I have completed my foundation training – thank you so much to the DHSA for their help in making it all possible.
Grant recipient Neda Hasan (2008), now a qualified doctor, used her medical elective to spend eight weeks studying Paediatric Endocrinology at hospitals in Bangkok and Sydney.Read More
My journey started in Bangkok’s oldest and largest university hospital, Chulalongkorn. I applied here for Paediatrics and Infectious Diseases. I spent a total of four weeks shadowing various specialties within Paediatrics in clinics and focussed on Infectious diseases on the wards. It was a very steep learning curve both academically and culturally. I was moved by how the Thai parents were more than happy for me to be involved in the care of their children, even though I could not speak the language and was not fully qualified. The medical team were keen to teach me and make me feel welcome.
I was able to help treat many rare and complex diseases. Actinomycosis, Ascariasis, and Pulmonary campylobacter in children were as common as an ear infection or asthma! The only hindrance was the language barrier. I found it difficult to carry out any practical procedures as I was not able to consent the parents. However, I found it helpful to take a back seat and observe as there was so much new material to learn.
Comparing the healthcare in Chulalongkorn to that in the NHS showed marked differences. With limited diagnostic equipment, the doctors had a deeper knowledge of pathophysiology, but they were unable to keep up with some WHO and other international guidelines that we use in the UK.
For the following four weeks I attended St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney working in the Endocrine department. The care in St Vincent’s was very similar to that in the NHS. However, the pressures on the healthcare system were much less pronounced in Australia when compared to the UK. There were shorter waiting lists, clinics with only 5 patients per doctor (as opposed to 15 plus in the UK), and certain expensive drugs were more readily available.
I was able to have a more central role as I could communicate both with the team and the patients more than adequately. I was allowed to engage actively in ward rounds, voicing my opinion on diagnosis and treatment, and examining patients. Had it not been for the grant and the two months off from work, I would have never been able to take this wonderful journey! All the medical experience and otherwise that I have gained has been invaluable to me, and hopefully will make me a better doctor.
Grant recipient Iona Farrar-Bell (2012), currently studying architecture, spent four months of her gap year in the Gambia with the Christian charity Crosslinks.Read More
Our primary job there was to teach, as well as working in churches, serving in the local slum area and helping run youth and children’s work on a number of Christian conferences in the country. I worked at Agape Preparatory School for pupils aged 3-12. I went to Gambia with the assumption that teaching would be easy but I was in for a surprise! The school is located in a small church hall, using outbuildings as classrooms. Several of the classes are in the same rooms with a thin partition separating them. Not only did I have to contend with a noisy class myself, I was also battling against the noisy classroom next door.
Due to the lack of teachers and the large class sizes of up to 60, it is easy for individuals who are struggling to go unnoticed. There are students in the older years who have never learnt to read and write. We made a real effort to identify those who were struggling and work with small groups of 5 or 6 with whom we would practise reading and writing and pronunciation.
As well as teaching, a favourite part of the week was our work with YWAM (Youth with a Mission). Every Sunday afternoon we went into the local slum area where I helped run a Sunday school. We taught English songs, verses and a story from the Bible to a group of about 20 children. It was challenging as none of the children spoke English so we needed a Wollof translator with us.
The experience was a real opportunity to grow in faith, to learn about living alongside others and to understand more about myself.
Victoria (2012), currently studying Engineering, worked with Cambridge University’s Ecohouse Initiative in Quito, EcuadorRead More
‘The Transitional team works as technical consultants with TECHO, a South American NGO building transitional houses in Latin American countries to improve design. As the only team member team in Quito, I organised the construction of two house prototypes including modifications agreed by the society throughout the year, and modifications for problems I saw whilst on placement. I talked to families living in existing TECHO house communities about issues they have, found locations to build both prototypes, sourced materials, addressed problems with the current house design, communicated design ideas to TECHO, physically made the panels for one house and ran the construction of both prototypes.
One prototype, a shelter for Quito’s homeless children, was based on the current design used by TECHO Ecuador modified to resolve previous drawbacks. The second, a new design built on smaller plot sizes achieving the same floor space with a mezzanine floor.
It was a challenge to source required materials as those available and socially acceptable in Ecuador, differ from Brazil where the house was originally designed, and find a site where the house could remain to assess the design long term. I ran tests on items for TECHO Ecuador to implement: solar bottle lights, guttering, foundation piles treatment method, and designed a new window for TECHO’s house.
A truly rewarding, enjoyable experience!