A former competitive figure skater-turned-paralegal eagle has credited the University of Northampton for helping her to set up a potentially life-saving charity.
Law LLB student, Ashley Dunkley, was recently awarded a £1,000 grant by Santander’s Enterprise Boost Programme, to start her charity Hearts for Health – which offers financial support to victims of tragic accidents.
Ashley, 27 from Ottawa, Canada, runs the charity in her hometown and is organising a fundraising event in Northamptonshire, with the aim of setting up a UK arm of Hearts for Health in the county.
As Ashley explains, she had the inspiration for the charity after experiencing a life-changing accident when she was a teenager.
She said: “At 18, I was involved in a figure skating accident which changed my life drastically. I was at a University in Canada, I was a competitive figure skater and gymnast, and within one month everything changed. I was on bed rest for over month and there were times were I thought ‘I’ve had enough’. Thankfully, I was lucky enough at the time to have private treatment, so I received all the tools necessary to get back on my feet.”
After returning to University, Ashley became a licensed paralegal and moved into personal injury litigation at McNally Gervan Lawyers in Ottawa, where she met her now mentor, Matthew Gervan. This experience opened Ashley’s eyes to the hardship experienced by those who are unable to afford private healthcare.
Ashley added: “When people have been involved in accidents, it changes everything and in a split second your life could be completely taken from you. Working in this field, it really hit home to me, because I totally understand that when something like that happens out of the blue. I have always wanted to help, but the idea never clicked until I began working for McNally Gervan Lawyers.
“For example, we recently had a client who had lost their children in an accident and was obviously going through a lot of grief, both physical and emotional pain, and they didn’t have enough treatment for what they were going through. The insurance company and the government tell you this is the treatment you get and this is the amount of money you get allotted and once it’s done it is pretty much ‘too bad, so sad’.
“It isn’t just this client, it could be any person that is involved in an accident. Pain doesn’t go away when the government or insurance company tells you it does, it only subsides with treatment. Unfortunately, treatment costs money, money that many people don’t have, it really is heart breaking.
“So that’s when I decided that this has to change, and I formed the idea of Hearts for Health. It’s to help raise money through fundraising events and galas to help these victims of negligent accidents get access to the private treatment that they so desperately need.”
Ashley started a two-year Law LLB course at the University of Northampton in September 2018, and has since worked with the University’s Changemaker Hub, which helped her secure the grant.
“The University has been amazing,” Ashley admits. “I connected with the Changemaker Hub team and they gave me examples of social innovation and social enterprise schemes that are available through the University. They mentioned the charities they have supported, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
“If it wasn’t for this £1,000 grant from Santander and these opportunities then this whole project would have no future. It’s all well and good to have an idea but if it weren’t for this money then I wouldn’t be able to go to a lawyer and say ‘get this done – make it official’ so that I can actually go and start an event. It takes initiatives such as these that can take my idea and put it into fruition.”
For more information on the Santander Enterprise Boost programme, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Law LLB, you can visit the course page.