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Untold Stories bring the work of Sussex charities to life

A new University of Sussex project is giving local charities the opportunity to promote themselves and students the chance to use their media skills.

For the Untold Stories project, MA students in the School of Media, Film and Music interview charity volunteers and those they support and turn their first-hand accounts into audio podcasts.

Through these interviews, the charities get a taste of working with the media, the students gain practical experience, and both can use the podcast to promote what they do to potential volunteers, funding bodies or employers.

Fun in Action for Children, one of the charities taking part, provides support to lone-parent families in Brighton and Hove. An adult ‘befriender’ commits to spending a few hours every week with a child aged 4-16, for a minimum of two years.

Anne McLaren, a project manager at the charity, says they will use the podcast in their volunteer training programme and as a way to explain their work to referring agencies and potential volunteers and donors.

She says: “As a small charity with limited resources we struggle to recruit enough volunteers to meet the needs of the many families referred to us for help.

“The podcast will help us get the message out to more people in a most friendly and direct way. People will be able to listen on our website to the ordinary story of a friendship recounted by a little girl and her befriender.

“They’ll gain an insight into what it is to befriend and hopefully come forward as volunteers.

“Individuals or local small businesses might also be encouraged to donate to us after listening to the podcast.”

Sophie Turton, one of the students taking part, says: “The project gave me a range of valuable experiences. I was able to take sole responsibility for a project and apply the journalistic skills I have learned over the past year in a professional context.

“Fun in Action for Children is an incredible organisation. It was a great honour to work with the staff and with six-year-old Cinnamon and her befriender Tanya, to produce a snapshot of the fun, friendship and love that has developed through this scheme.”

Sussex Nightstop, another charity taking part, provides a range of flexible accommodation (from one night to four weeks) to young homeless people across Brighton, Hove and West Sussex.

Marie Ashton, coordinator at Sussex Nightstop, says: “We regularly have days when we can’t support young people due to lack of available hosts, so anything that helps aid recruitment of volunteers is greatly appreciated.

“We are very pleased with the podcast. It’s very relaxed and easy to listen to, giving a really good feel of being in the home of a host. There is a lot of fear around letting young people into your home and I feel the podcast helps to put those fears at ease.

“We will use the podcast on our website, as well as promoting it on Twitter and our Facebook page. We will also use it during training sessions with new volunteers.”

MA student Eugene McCloskey worked with both charities, composing music for Fun in Action for Children and producing a soundscape for Sussex Nightstop.

He says: “I found this a great project and idea - not only in terms of the end result, which is a useful tool and audio portrait of the charities involved, but also for me personally as an experience of applying my skills within a team.

“I got very involved with recording, writing and editing. Providing composed sounds alongside the journalistic work was a pleasurable challenge for me and I think that the success of the creative collaboration can be heard in the poignant recordings produced.”

Miranda Birch, whose broadcasting background includes ‘Woman’s Hour’ and ‘Desert Island Discs’ on BBC Radio 4, is working with the University to supervise the Untold Stories project.

She says: “It’s win-win. It gives the students useful practical experience and supports the University’s commitment to sharing knowledge and skills with local organisations.”

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Posted on behalf of: School of Media, Film and Music
Last updated: Tuesday, 27 August 2013

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