Craig Fisher understands better than most the impact that hearing loss can have on a person’s life. He struggled with his hearing loss for a long time before getting the support he so badly needed from Hearing Link, an amazing charity that supports people with hearing loss across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
In 2018, Hearing Link was successful in their application to Time to Shine, an internship programme run by the Rank Foundation that uses money raised by National Lottery players to support people into third-sector work. Craig was chosen as Hearing Link ’s intern, helping him out of unemployment and giving him the chance to get even more involved with a charity he loves.
We chatted to Craig about what it’s meant to him to be involved in Time to Shine, and how his personal experiences have influenced his internship.
“I was introduced to Hearing Link several years ago,” said Craig. “Because of my hearing loss, I withdrew from the world almost completely for quite some time and my self-confidence and self-esteem were as low as could be. But through Hearing Link, I’ve been able to start rebuilding my life.
“I started volunteering with Hearing Link a few years ago after being a participant in their programmes. I was so pleased to be able to give back to a charity that had helped me so much.”
Craig first heard about Time to Shine through a colleague and immediately saw an opportunity not just for himself but also for Hearing Link as an organisation.
“The team is quite small compared to the scope of the job it is trying to do,” Craig explained. “One more staff member could really help make a difference.
“On a personal level, I had been unemployed for some time as a direct result of my struggles with my hearing. This way, I could get useful and relevant experience in an organisation that really understood my needs.”
To be eligible for a Time to Shine intern, the host organisation has to have a specific project or area of work that they want their intern to work on during their year. For Craig, that was work was focussed on Hearing Link’s online presence and website.
“Because of how isolating hearing loss can be, our website might be the first point of contact a person has with us. A friendly, informative and reassuring website is key to letting people know that help is out there. For the last year I’ve been working to update the site and make it more accessible.
“I’ve also been investigating new technology around hearing loss. I delivered workshops on Next Generation Text Service, which supports people who can’t hear well on the phone to make phone calls by using a relay operator who types up the conversations.”
As a result of taking part in Time to Shine, Craig’s confidence has soared. It’s shown him that he can make a real difference to the world, and has even led to a job offer from the larger organisation of which Hearing Link is a part.
“Because of my personal experiences with hearing loss, I’ve been able offer my perspective to guide the activities of the charity.
“It’s meant a great deal to me to be able to help others who are so like me and experiencing many of the same struggles. I can help them see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The internship has helped me be a role model to others as people can see that I am living, working, travelling and engaging with the world even with severe hearing loss.”
Thanks to National Lottery players, Time to Shine gives people of all ages and from all walks of life the opportunity to get valuable experience. An intern might be someone like Craig who has been unemployed for a while, someone who wants to change careers, or someone who has never been employed before.
Applications close on Friday 26th October for VCSE organisations to be in with a chance of hosting their own Time to Shine intern. The funding is for a full time, living wage internship for 12 months, during which you’ll receive support on learning, networking, mentoring and coaching from the Rank Foundation.
If you think your organisation would benefit from taking part in Time to Shine, email Helen Stockdale at the Rank Foundation for an application form: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or, if you’d like more information on Time to Shine and the application process, check out our blog post: https://bigblognorthernireland.org.uk/2018/09/28/time-to-shine/