By Hannah Cooper
I have always had an interest in nature and our environment. I went from eco team and gardening club in primary school, to biology student in college, to enrolling for a degree in environmental science through the Open University- with any free time in-between spent exploring in the woods or along our beautiful coast. The one thing I couldn’t figure out was how to bring this passion into my career. I had done stints in coffee shops and in 2021 I was working as a pension administrator, a position that paid the bills but didn’t fulfil or inspire me in the same way my study sessions would. After not much luck breaking into the environmental sector, either from lack of experience or a completed degree, came December. I suddenly found myself facing redundancy, with 5 months to find a new job.
Determined to use this as an opportunity rather than adversity, I started looking into what I could do next and found the Open University internship scheme. This program allows students to build their own internships by approaching companies that interest them. Half of the wages would be funded by the OU, creating a unique opportunity for both the company and the student. I immediately knew I would approach Final Straw Foundation, as their work in my hometown of Emsworth and new home of Southsea, and all across the south coast was inspiring and covers issues that I am passionate about, namely environmental stewardship and education.
The next thing I knew, I was out of the office and thrown in at the deep end with the team at Final Straw Foundation. Their CEO, Bianca, and Lissie, COO, didn’t want an intern to pick up menial tasks and go unnoticed. Within my first week I was teaching children about the impact of plastic pollution at a schools’ event at the Historic Dockyard; representing the charity at a litter pick hosted by the Environment Agency; and being given the responsibility of running the accreditation scheme for businesses who want to become plastic free. It has been amazing to get experience in so many different elements of the charity throughout my internship. Bianca and Lissie have given me the freedom to bring my ideas to the table and the tools to execute my own projects which has allowed me to be creative and innovative. It’s been a great opportunity to show my strengths and get practice in skills that will undeniably help me in my future career.
My favourite part of the internship has been getting involved in Beach Schools. This is a new project for Final Straw Foundation, and I was lucky enough to attend the first ever session. It’s been inspiring and touching being involved in such an important project- giving children, in some cases, their first experience of the beach and ocean. Georgie, the head of Outreach at Final Straw Foundation, is absolutely amazing at teaching through play and exploration. I learned just as much as the kids! It seemed daunting in the beginning, trying to keep 30 or so primary-aged children safe and engaged on the beach, but Georgie makes it look easy. By the time the children set off back to school they are full of knowledge on tidal systems, marine creatures, the Beaufort scale and so much more and have memories to cherish. It’s been fantastic to be involved.
So, what next? Well, you haven’t seen the last of me yet. I am lucky enough to be staying with Final Straw Foundation for the time being as a Campaign Assistant- a position I am absolutely loving. I feel so grateful and lucky to be a part of such a fantastic cause and an amazing, supportive team. Many thanks to the Open University and, of course, Bianca, Lissie and the team at Final Straw Foundation for giving me such a valuable experience, you have had a really important impact on both my career and my life.