Rickmansworth pupils find a cause close to their hearts

There are lots of different reasons why students on the First Give programme might choose to support a particular charity, but some of the most powerful presentations come about when students have a personal connection to the cause they’re championing. This was certainly the case when a team from Rickmansworth School chose to advocate on behalf of the Dystonia Society.

Molly’s dad has suffered from dystonia – a rare neurological movement disorder – for the last 7 years, but it took 6 months for his condition to be diagnosed correctly. “Not many people have heard of it,” Molly said, “not even doctors.”

“We chose to support the Dystonia Society because he came into contact with the charity and they helped him immensely. He was really lucky,” Molly added. “It’s a great charity and they help so many people across the world. We met people at the charity who’ve got it a lot worse than my dad.”

Because so few people have heard of dystonia, Molly and her two teammates Lucy and Lilly realised that raising awareness was going to be just as important as raising money. As Lucy said, “They’re an extremely small charity. No one really knows what dystonia is, so we were mainly spreading awareness and telling people about it.”

The team decided to work this into their presentation, going out onto the street with a camera and asking people whether they had heard of dystonia. The vast majority hadn’t. “One of the people we asked was a doctor, and he specialises in dystonia, so that was a bit of a chance encounter. Another person had heard of it, but she didn’t know what it was. And another woman thought it was a country!” The presentation was such a hit with the judges that the girls won £1,000 for the Dystonia Society, and, inspired by their visit to the charity’s local support group for people who are affected by dystonia, they hope to raise more money in the future.

Lilly had this advice for future First Givers: “Make sure you pick a charity that’s important to you, that you have something to say about.” The girls’ success just goes to show the value of pursuing a project that’s close to your heart.