By Lara Pocock, Chemists' Community Fund Development Specialist
The Chemists’ Community Fund is the working name of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Benevolent Fund. It exists to assist members who are facing difficulties in either their personal or professional lives. The fund offers a range of services, including legal advice, bereavement support, and financial help.
Genevieve was diagnosed with a functional neurological disorder in her final year of undergraduate study, which quickly confined her to a wheelchair and became a serious impediment to her completing her degree. Despite working with the university’s Health and Safety team, Genevieve was unable to find a way to work safely in the lab. "There are a lot of issues with chemicals being at face height, not being able to get close enough to fume hoods – it suddenly becomes very dangerous just doing simple things", she says.
Genevieve’s rehabilitation doctor recommended an electric wheelchair that could raise and support her to a standing position, but NHS funding was not available for this type of wheelchair, and Genevieve was unable to fund it herself. She began applying for funding through a number of organisations, and her project supervisor pointed her towards the Chemists’ Community Fund.
Having been a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry since starting her undergraduate studies, Genevieve was eligible for support, and approached the fund. After her initial enquiry, Genevieve worked with one of the Fund’s caseworkers to prepare her application and supporting documents for the Benevolent Fund Grants Committee, who would decide whether a grant would be awarded in line with their charitable objectives.
"The fund were really helpful," says Genevieve. "They helped me with all of the application forms, they helped me get all of the information that they needed, all of the evidence that the committee would need, in order to make a decision. And then once all of that evidence was together they were really quick and responsive in getting back to me."
During the application process, we asked Genevieve what her plans would be should she be unsuccessful in sourcing funding:
"I will not pursue a postgraduate qualification and try and gain employment outside of the industry, not something I am particularly happy about, however I understand that I am asking for a large amount of financial aid. I'm sure you understand when I say I am not entirely sure what career path I would follow as I have been a little blinkered!"
By the time Genevieve’s case was presented to the committee, she had already received a grant for partial funding through the Benevolent Society of Blues. The committee agreed to cover the entire rest of the cost of the chair.
Genevieve received her new chair in June 2017. The chair has increased her comfort and support, which has vastly reduced her pain and allowed her independence in her day-to-day activities. This has assisted with an improvement to overall health, meaning Genevieve was able to complete her degree and move on to postgraduate studies as planned.
"I have a promising career as a chemist ahead of me. It is something I had come to believe was an unachievable pipe dream, but is now a reality thanks to the generosity you have showed me. You have all changed the course of my life in an amazing way and I cannot be more grateful."
Genevieve is now studying for a PhD in mesoporous photocatalytic films at Cardiff University.