Friends For Life

Lucy Searles and Phil Griffith

As a senior fundraiser for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s charity, Lucy Searles knows how to ask people for money and the best ways of persuading them to commit time and energy to benefit a good cause - skills she acquired at Lancaster while carrying out volunteer work in time off from her History studies. Opportunities to act as Media Officer for the Oxfam Society, a trip to Northern India to Lancaster’s Goenka campus and organising student fundraising activities on campus, all gave her experiences that equipped her for a successful career in the charitable sector. 

Her current role is focused on community fundraising, in particular recruiting teams for ‘challenge’ events such as the London Marathon. Great Ormond Street Hospital has resources to support and monitor the training of individuals who volunteer to run or cycle to raise money for the organisation. This not only increases the chances that people will complete the course and therefore raise the money, but is also an incentive for volunteers to choose to make their sporting effort for Great Ormond Street Hospital. 

Brought up in Newcastle, Lucy was encouraged to consider Lancaster by her history teacher father. She was drawn to the idea of a campus and a smaller city than Newcastle. It was through the friends she met at County College that she was introduced her to her fiancé Phil Griffith in her second year.  

Studying was an adventure for Lucy, because of the breadth of the modules on offer, such as history of medicine and Japanese history - both of which she took. In the first year. She is full of praise for the quality of teaching she received. 

The Oxfam Society gave her the chance to work with the North West Oxfam branch. Then the opportunity arose to visit Lancaster University’s Goenka World Institute in Northern India, through the LUSU Involve scheme. She and a group of friends spent three weeks teaching English and blogging to students, visiting businesses and gaining an insight into how Indian charities operated, including the Katha education charity for which she continued to fundraise on her return. 

She says, “It was really exciting to see that we could bring value and it made me very aware of issues around the world. We worked with women’s groups who operated microfinance schemes to set up businesses. Seeing this really opened my eyes to women’s issues outside of my own experience.”

She left university without a clear idea of what career path to follow, but took a year working part time and visiting Japan for a month, before starting a Master’s degree in Global History at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

Since then she has worked as a fundraising assistant for a Parkinson’s charity and for SSAFA (the armed forces charity) before taking on her current senior fundraising role at Great Ormond Street Hospital in February 2018. Her experience at Lancaster has fed into her daily life. “It definitely gave me confidence,” she explains. “You go through school learning in a set way that is not necessarily the best way for you, but at Lancaster I encountered new theories about learning which increased my confidence in my ability to succeed academically.”

Looking back at his undergraduate days, sharing a floor at Bowland Hall with 40 others and a kitchen with 22, Phil Griffith is amused by how well it prepared him for living for months in an attack submarine on patrol. Now a Royal Navy Logistics Officer, Phil started his career after his officer training, packed into a 90m long vessel under the sea, with 130 men and only 100 bed spaces. Whilst he does not make a direct comparison between the living conditions on campus at Lancaster and in a submarine, he sees the spirit required in both as very similar.

“The level of camaraderie on a submarine is unparalleled,” he explains. “We tend to be very relaxed people. It’s challenging and exhausting and at the sharp end of maritime warfare. If you can get used to the sharing in a hall, it’s good training for a submarine!”

Studying International Relations at Lancaster has been “critical” to his fast progress in the Royal Navy, he says. He spent much of 2018 as part of the British contribution to the UN Peacekeeping forces in South Sudan. He was often pushed to draw on his undergraduate learnings in his role dealing with the logistics required to support 13,000 members of the military in a region devastated by civil war, famine and its climate of alternating heat and torrential rain. In such circumstances, he needed to help his men understand why they were there. He says, “Lancaster gave me a fantastic grounding in international relations and in understanding the historical context for action in my work in order to explain it to my men - particularly when they are tired.”

Brought up in Chichester, he did not need to be told about Lancaster University as his father Gerald (now a Senior Leader at Chichester College) had studied there in the 1970s and his mother Annette had done her education degree at St Martin’s College.

Whilst still at school Phil had developed an interest in international politics and was delighted to find that Lancaster was a market leader for the subject and for security studies. He was also attracted by the collegiate system, and took to it immediately. It was, he found, designed for making good friends quickly.

Unafraid of controversy, he did his dissertation on Islamophobia in the UK. His eyes were opened by a tutor who pushed him to do original research, investigating the link between Islamophobia and the BNP party.

In his final year he met his now fiancée Lucy Searles through a friend and they are getting married in Lancaster this summer.

Having graduated he wanted an adventure and believes strongly in public service. He looked for a career where he could do something for his country, joined the Navy as an officer and is now on a 20-year commission.

In 2016, he was serving briefly in HMS Enterprise as logistics/embarkation officer as part of Operation Litten, rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean. During that time, he was in charge of the recovery of more than 1500 migrants and of their welfare once on board.

In February 2019 he started a desk job at naval command in Portsmouth. He is learning Japanese at the moment to further his ambition to be sent to Japan. He sees the Far East as dominating foreign policy in the next 10 years and predicts a need for speakers of Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

As a member of the armed forces he has a sense of duty to the British public to keep Britain safe, and believes that the services should be a force for the good of the world. To this end Phil feels Lancaster prepared him well for his role. He says: “Quite simply I learned that it’s important to do your reading and to listen to the other side of the debate.”





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