This week at the Progress Educational Trust (5 June 2020)
This week, the Progress Educational Trust (PET) has been participating in Volunteers' Week, an annual celebration - led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations - of the contributions people make through volunteering.
In this article, PET's Director Sarah Norcross thanks PET's volunteers for (among other things) ensuring that the charity has been able to continue operating during the global coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.
In this article, Kerry Dyus explains how and why she began volunteering for PET 10 years ago, and how she eventually became so involved with and dedicated to the charity that she now sits on its Board of Trustees.
Elsewhere, Miranda Birch has published an article on LinkedIn on the occasion of Volunteers' Week, in which she speaks to several of PET's longstanding volunteers about why they volunteer for the charity and how this has benefited them.
One of Miranda's interviewees, Daniel Malynn, also discusses his experiences with PET in a series of short videos that have been published throughout this week.
These five short videos can be watched below (when one video has finished playing, the next one should load automatically) or alternatively can be watched here. Follow PET on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to keep up-to-date with future videos.
Another of PET's brilliant volunteers, Sharon Jones, says on the occasion of Volunteers' Week: 'I am proud to volunteer with PET as it enables me to unite with others to raise awareness, educate others, drive forward positive changes and make a difference.'
Sharon is a leading figure in PET's ongoing #ExtendTheLimit campaign, which calls for an extension to the outdated and unscientific 10-year legal limit on the length of time for which women's eggs can be stored in the UK (if these eggs are frozen for non-medical or 'social' reasons).
Thanks to the help of PET's volunteers, this campaign has already had a big impact, and has seen Sharon quoted - alongside PET Director Sarah Norcross - by BBC News and by OneZero. PET's efforts have prompted the UK Government to take action.
The Government has granted a temporary two-year extension to the 10-year limit, in order to help patients affected by the suspension of fertility treatment during the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, and the piece of legislation that enables this extension was laid in Parliament just this week.
The Government has also held a public consultation on egg, sperm and embryo storage limits. PET has submitted a detailed response to this consultation.
For now, however, the 10-year limit on non-medical egg freezing remains in law, temporary extension notwithstanding. PET's campaign to #ExtendTheLimit therefore continues.
Go to the #ExtendTheLimit petition at www.change.org/extendthelimit to read Sharon Jones' story, and help the petition reach 1,000 signatures by signing and sharing it yourself.
If you might be interested in volunteering for PET - whether in relation to a specific activity or initiative (such as the #ExtendTheLimit campaign), or in relation to the charity's many other activities (as discussed in Miranda Birch's article and Daniel Malynn's videos) - then please do get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has had, and continues to have, a serious impact on PET's ability to maintain its operations. But although it may be a little while before volunteers can come into the PET office or volunteer at face-to-face PET events, there are still many ways that you can help the charity remotely. PET welcomes such help, now more than ever.
Meanwhile, PET remains busy on many fronts, including issues related to - and beyond - the pandemic.
PET's Director Sarah Norcross has been quoted by iNews, discussing the UK Government's temporary two-year extension to the 10-year limit on egg storage.
Sarah says: 'This positive move will alleviate, in particular, the huge stress felt by women facing the 10-year storage limit for social egg freezing, and it also paves the way for the outdated, unscientific and discriminatory 10-year storage limit to be changed for all women seeking to preserve their fertility by freezing their eggs. PET now calls upon the Government to #ExtendTheLimit for social egg freezing and give women reproductive choice.'
PET's Head of Communications, Dr Catherine Hill, has been quoted in the Observer newspaper - as well as in two Daily Mail articles (here and here), and in Tech Times - discussing the suspension of fertility treatment during the pandemic.
Catherine says: 'Time is of the essence when it comes to fertility treatment. For some people, this shutdown means they may never become parents. This was going to be their last chance and they're not able to have it. That is deeply distressing and traumatising.'
PET's Deputy Director, Sandy Starr, participated in a conference held by the Changing Face of Medicine (CFM) project where the keynote speaker was Professor Chris Whitty - the Chief Medical Officer for England, and a senior figure leading the UK Government's response to the pandemic.
The conference was discussed in a Guardian newspaper profile of the CFM Lead, Professor Pali Hungin, which reports: 'Around 80 people were invited to attend a CFM conference organised by Hungin to discuss how clinicians and medical practice will evolve. The Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, was among those in attendance.'
Sandy also published an article in the European Journal, discussing recent advances in genome sequencing and genome editing. In relation to genome editing, the article discusses 'two important initiatives - one conducted by the World Health Organisation, one conducted jointly by the USA's National Academies and the UK's Royal Society - which will be working throughout 2020 to establish international standards'.
PET has been keeping a close eye on both of these initiatives. The World Health Organisation's work on this area is overseen by the Advisory Committee on Developing Global Standards for Governance and Oversight of Human Genome Editing, whose members include PET's Chair of Trustees, Professor Robin Lovell-Badge.
Meanwhile, the work led by the National Academies and the Royal Society is carried out by the International Commission on the Clinical Use of Human Germline Genome Editing. PET has participated in two meetings held by this Commission, one in Washington DC and one in London. A presentation given by PET Director Sarah Norcross at the Washington meeting has been discussed in a report by Medscape.
Besides feeding into these international deliberations, PET's work on genome editing has also fed into the deliberations of the UK Parliament. PET was cited by several of the politicians who contributed to a House of Lords debate on the subject.
James Bethell concluded the House of Lords debate by saying that the Government is 'committed to engaging world-class academics and expert groups such as the Progress Educational Trust, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Wellcome Trust'.
Since this debate took place, Lord Bethell has been appointed Innovation Minister at the Department of Health and Social Care, in which capacity he has led on the Government's decision to grant a temporary extension to egg, sperm and embryo storage limits.
Besides working with PET on issues related to coronavirus/COVID-19, some of the charity's current and former staff have also been working directly on related scientific research.
Dr Joanne Delange, Genetics Editor at PET and BioNews, has published a peer-reviewed paper in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health discussing the relationship between nutrition and the immune system in the context of the virus.
Meanwhile one of Joanne's predecessors as Genetics Editor, Annabel Slater, has been working with researchers at the University of Glasgow to create one of the most detailed 3D representations of the virus to date.
Additionally, PET was one of three charities selected to give a presentation at the end of this event, following a brainstorming session with leading figures from the media industry who had volunteered their advice and support.
PET Director Sarah Norcross was quoted by Media Trust saying: 'The event has been fantastic; the knowledge and skills of the volunteers was so helpful. For a tiny charity, the support has been invaluable.'
As Volunteers' Week draws to a close, PET wishes to reiterate its gratitude to these volunteers, and to all of the other volunteers that make the charity's work possible.