A teen’s perspective: My week at nsif


Arrival Education is a social enterprise that develops young people and encourages social mobility. Star student Nowell Crooks, 16, volunteered at nsif for a week as part of his Arrival Education programme. Here, he gives the lowdown on getting involved with a charity.

Over the course of the past week, I’ve been working with the amazing team at nsif and finding out more about them and their cause. For the uninitiated, nsif is one of the few charities that focuses all its efforts on researching a cure for paralysis brought about by spinal cord injuries. Although they are a modest team of six, the waves they’ve made in the field of paralysis treatment are anything but. Their work is based around raising funds to support research carried out by Professor Geoffrey Raisman and Doctor Pawel Tabakow. Raisman is a visionary who dared to believe that paralysis is reversible and Tabakow is the surgeon who made a massive breakthrough in the clinical application of his research. Using olfactory ensheathing cells, they were able to reconnect severed long spinal nerve fibres. However, without the funding they received from nsif  – and other partners – this wouldn’t have been possible. With further funding, their ground-breaking efforts could lead to a cure for paralysis from spinal cord injury.

Everyone has the power to change the world but few actually use it. To change that, we need to start with young people. Currently, 58% of 16-24 year olds (myself included) do nothing for any cause in a typical month, according to the Charities Aid Foundation. I know some young people buck the trend – nsif has some incredible young supporters – but I still think there’s untapped potential in my generation. There’s plenty of generosity out there that just needs an avenue to be expressed. If charities are going to be able to rely on a steady stream of donations from habitual givers then they need to get the younger generation into the swing of things early.

From my perspective, there are primarily three things preventing young people from giving to charity:\r\n


  • A lack of understanding of the opportunities to be charitable
  • \r\n

  • A lack of disposable income to donate
  • \r\n

  • Thinking charity work is ‘long’ or time consuming
  • \r\n

\r\nI don’t think these reasons are strong enough to stop anyone from being charitable and I’ll explain why.

To tackle the first barrier, charities, companies and government need to make young people aware of the chances they have to help others. On average, young people aged 16-24 spend more than 27 hours online per week whilst the average adult spends more than 20 hours a week online. It’s shocking how rarely donations are made online or on a mobile considering it’s an integral part of our lives. This highlights the need for more mobile-friendly donation pages or apps to allow people to give at the click of a button or find out about events supporting their favourite causes. Websites like gofundme are gaining popularity and traction – but it’s not specific to charitable causes.

Campaigns like the ALS ice bucket challenge brought about lots of one-off donations but it’s imperative to ensure those participating actually feel like they’re part of the cause being supported. If young people feel like a significant part of a campaign then they’re likely to stay engaged. So whilst there are certainly positives to it, I don’t think a trend of “easy giving” is the only option.

What’s sometimes overlooked is that giving isn’t all about what’s lining your pockets. It’s perfectly possible to give generously without losing a penny. Donating time – lending a helping hand – is equally important but completely free. Playing your part can be as simple as following pages like nsif, engaging with their online or events activity and helping spread their message to a wider audience. More effort should be made to emphasise how effective these forms of charity are and help stop the misconception that when giving to others you have to lose what’s valuable to you.

My week at a charity has inspired me to stay involved. The change I’d like to leave behind at nsif is to encourage them to keep working on engaging young people. If you’re reading this, you can help me to make this change by following nsif online, sharing their message or emailing your bright fundraising ideas to info@nsif.org.uk. Your actions could help lead to a cure for paralysis from spinal cord injury.



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