Guest Blog – Year 11 students from Aquinas work-shadow Big Lottery Fund employees.

On  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, Jack Dougal and Mary Connolly from Aquinas Grammar School came to work shadow Big Lottery Funding Officer Seamus McCann and other staff. They got a thorough introduction to the work done in all departments and at all levels and wrote a blog about what they learned.

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Jack Dougal 15

My Dad works in a charity, Chest Heart and Stroke, and he had spoken several times about the Big Lottery Fund, as they had funded several of their projects. So once it came up in school I took the opportunity to go.

I came here wanting to learn business skills and how the company works and I wanted to find out more about the good work the organisation do in Northern Ireland. I was given a booklet about the sustainability policies of Big Lottery Fund and was surprised how far the company goes to support the environment through recycling in the office, through consolidating office space from two floors to one, reducing travel flights, etc.

The office is smaller than I expected, and the funding offices have a lot more paperwork to do than expected.

In the future I would like to be a programme manager because this role is giving funding to groups who need it, but I hope the paperwork will be reduced in future. I would particularly like to support projects that address the problems of division in NI communities, such as projects being rewarded for bringing people together across community divides.

Our Big Lottery Fund guide Seamus McCann was very welcoming and friendly when we came in and helped make us feel comfortable and enjoy our time here.

Mary Connolly 15

I was assigned the Big Lottery Fund as work shadowing. I was expecting to be boring, and I didn’t realise fully what the Big Lottery Fund was about.

Jack and I met Seamus, and had a brief talk about what the fund is.  Then we met with a funding officer who does assessment, and saw some applications for the Awards for All programme. We read through an application and discussed whether it met the criteria. We learned the details involved in applying for a programme.

We worked in Communications with Niamh Scullion to write a blog, we added a video to the website, learned some HTML and added some entries to a map of upcoming Awards for All grants. We also learned a bit about social media, and how to monitor and schedule posts. Jane McDowell showed us around Videoscribe as she created one for the People and Communities website.  Here is an existing videoscribe, about a new Big Lottery Fund programme for young people:

It was great that we got to talk to people of all levels in Big Lottery. We learned about the big picture from Alison Fraser and Amanda Doherty, who are heads of Funding and Communication. The new company plan is to put people in the lead and we were surprised  that in Empowering Young People, there have to be young people and older people on the committee of each organisation. It’s not very often that happens, but it’s great that the young people get as much of a say as anyone else in projects that are meant for them.

I never really thought about what’s involved in a funding process. I went to Botanic primary school and while I was there the new playground was funded by Big Lottery Fund, which we knew from the big sign put up near the playground. Before it had just been a big gravel area. We were all really excited about the new playground and it definitely made  school more fun.

I think it would be great to work for an organisation like Big Lottery fund that gives money to community projects that need the help.

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