Since the British Red Cross launched its internship programme in 2007, over 270 interns have passed through its doors and the mark they’ve made is impressive.
Long gone are the days when tea making and filing were the heights of an intern’s tasks – now they’re running their own projects and bringing their own specialist knowledge to the teams they work with. It’s no longer just a case of what the Red Cross can do for an intern, but what an intern can do for it.
Kate Appleby, volunteering development co-ordinator, says: “Having an intern allows managers and departments to develop ideas and projects that would otherwise not happen. It allows you to do those things you’d love to do but don’t have the time to – and with a fresh perspective.”
Interns work on a variety of projects. Last year, James Deacon developed a pilot humanitarian education award scheme for London primary schools; in Scotland, Emma Nairsmith is working on a piece of research on emergency response that will be used by Scottish government; and in London, Matt Skrein has developed a monthly e-newsletter for politicians. One intern even developed a youth retail certificate, which won an Excellence Award in 2009 after helping increase the number of young people volunteering in Red Cross shops by 25 per cent.
Over the past four years the internship programme has expanded a staggering amount – from 30 interns in 2007 to a projected 150 this year. With that, the scheme has been finely honed. The fundraising department, which last year hosted 22 interns, has even developed a system where each batch of interns helps to recruit and train their replacements.
The scheme has also broadened to include specialisms such as archiving and video editing and the quality of the internships has been improved.
Catherine True, who started off as an intern before going on to work with the Red Cross, says: “One of the things that stands out most about a Red Cross internship is that the line between an intern and a staff member is very small – you’re treated the same as members of staff, with real responsibilities and individual projects to work on.”
Anthony Castino, who interns with Kate, adds: “The training opportunities are also great. We can do courses that are on offer to staff and we’re encouraged to shadow people in other departments too. We also have an intern induction day, which is great for meeting other interns.”
Anthony is also working on his own project – developing an alumni digital network so that interns can keep in touch with each other and the Red Cross once their internship is done. This has the added benefit to the Red Cross of nurturing relationships with interns who may potentially go on to positions of influence in other organisations.
On average, around 37 people apply for an internship and it’s not just the students and graduates who are interested. Increasingly, people looking to change careers are looking to the Red Cross for experience and a way to bridge the gap into something new. Wendy Maccance is working in the learning and development department after nine years in publishing and Sue Spencer undertook an internship in the trusts and statutory fundraising department, coming from eight years experience in marketing and new media.
Other interns such as Dr. Sridevi Nagarajan, who worked with the medical loan service in Cambridge, choose to do an internship to broaden their knowledge and develop contacts.
The internship programme has created a new layer of volunteering in the Red Cross. It requires a long-term commitment from both sides but the benefits are significant. As Anthony sums up: “Internships are fantastic. We get to learn from the Red Cross and the Red Cross learns from us. It’s a win-win situation.”
Interns can be recruited at any time of year. If you’d like to know more, visit www.redcross.org.uk/internships