01.06.2020

Supporting the chemistry community

Supporting the chemistry community

The Chemists’ Community Fund – formerly the Benevolent Fund – has been helping people for 100 years.

Even before the full implications of the Covid-19 outbreak were being felt in Europe, Chemists’ Community Fund manager Anna Dearden had begun to reach out to members in south-east Asia. Now the pandemic is global, it’s clear that there will be serious long and short term impacts on many members.

The Benevolent Fund was founded in 1920 as a memorial to fellows of the Institute of Chemistry who died in the first world war. Like many similar professional funds, it helped widows, children, the elderly and disabled.

The fund’s first case supported a fellow who was out of work for several months with a young family to support. The support continued for many years, eventually helping his widow after his death.

During the second world war, a member who broke his leg in an air-raid blackout received immediate support followed by a monthly sum of money.

This may surprise those who imagine the fund only supports retired and disabled people, but that’s not the case. ‘We often pro-actively reach out to members around the world when there are disasters,’ explains Dearden. This includes hurricanes and floods, the 2019 terrorist attack in Sri Lanka, and the recent wildfires in Australia. During the 1990 Gulf War, the fund was able to provide support for an Iraqi member who was stranded in the UK, and more recently has supported members from Syria who needed to relocate.

It has also supported those recovering from smaller scale disasters in the UK. When a fire destroyed part of the chemistry department at the University of St Andrews in 2019, the knock-on effects were felt most keenly by many PhD students who lost their work or were unable to continue it in St Andrews. ‘This was one of those reactive things that we’re able to do. We were able to help in terms of the personal costs that students were incurring when they needed to travel elsewhere for their studies,’ Dearden explains. ‘Rather than work with individual students, we actually worked with the university, enabling them to have a grant pot, which they could allocate. So, for example, they would know if someone needed to travel to another location for some specific equipment to analyse their sample.’

The fund has been able to help many chemists in crisis get back on their feet. ‘It’s not only the fact that we’re able to assist them, it’s the fact that we’re able to assist in a timely way,’ says Dearden. In an emergency, once the details are established and confirmed, the fund can often provide financial relief in as little as 48 hours.

Read more on: www.chemistryworld.com

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