Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Never a Dull Moment

I’d never really thought about the ‘missing’ issue - about how it feels to be a mother when her son doesn’t come home after a night out, or what it must be like for a teenager who’s run away and doesn’t know where to turn. 250,000 people go missing every year in the UK, and yet most members of the public have never put themselves in the shoes of those affected. It’s an issue that feels far away – one we’re confident we can side-step forever. But chat, like I did, with the Missing People helplines staff, who receive 114,000 calls for help every year, and they’ll tell you that the ‘missing’ issue is one that reaches far and wide, and inevitably touches every community.

I first found out about internships at Missing People through a volunteering fair at my university. I’d already heard of this inspiring charity through a friend who volunteered there part-time, and was excited to see there was an opportunity as a Communications Intern – the perfect role for me to gain relevant work experience for my Journalism degree, whilst learning more about this devastating, but seemingly distant, issue. 

I applied straight away and was lucky enough to be chosen for the three month internship. I couldn’t wait to get started, especially as I was to join just before May 25, International Missing Children’s Day 2011 - what brilliant timing. My first task was to support the "Big Tweet for Missing Children," a 24-hour Tweeting marathon during which the charity tweeted a different missing child's appeal every 30 minutes and asked its supporters to RT and spread the word. I was in charge of researching different celebrities we could invite to take part, and we wound up with 27 celebrities tweeting for us, including Lily Allen, Victoria Beckham, Stephen Fry, Sarah Brown, Alan Carr and Denise Van Outen. It was great fun and, more importantly, the Big Tweet was a big success, with over 15,000 people clicking on our missing children appeal links.

There was never a dull moment, and I found myself doing all sorts of jobs, with no two days being the same. My many and varied tasks included drafting press releases, creating daily coverage reports, sourcing case studies for journalists, and keeping up to date with the large volume of requests for information that the charity's Comms Team receive from the media every day.

I enjoyed everything about my internship at Missing People, but the most meaningful experience has to be attending the first ever Parliamentary Inquiry into support for families of missing people at the Houses of Parliament. The inquiry into the lack of support offered to relatives of people who disappear took place over three days in June and saw Kate McCann, mother of missing Madeleine McCann, and Peter Lawrence, father of missing York chef Claudia - amongst other bereft parents and families - give evidence to Parliament about how often they are without any government support. I found this both really interesting and deeply moving, and was privileged to come back and help at the later sessions.

All too quickly, three months have passed and I’m off to continue my degree. I would definitely recommend applying for an internship at Missing People – there are usually several to choose from. Not only have I learnt a whole new range of transferable skills and seen what happens in a communications team, but I’ve come to grasp the scope of the 'missing' issue, and the importance of Missing People as the UK's only charity to offer a lifeline when someone disappears.

By Laura Barrett
Missing People Intern

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Around 250,000 people go missing in the UK each year. The Missing Blog aims to give a voice to all those affected by this issue.

Written by families and friends of missing people, supporters working to raise awareness of the cause, and volunteers and staff at the charity Missing People, we hope that this blog will offer a window into the issue of missing.

The charity Missing People is a lifeline when someone disappears. To find out more about Missing People and ways that you can support the charity visit www.missingpeople.org.uk.

Call or txt the charity Missing People for free on 116 000, 24/7 if you or anyone you know is affected by a disappearance.