Trustees in the spotlight

Beth Stout - Amazing Children Uganda 

Amazing Children Uganda logo

About the charity
I am a Trustee of a small charity called Amazing Children Uganda, which supports street children into education in Uganda. We work with a community of street children, identifying those that are ready and eager for education. We also find them sponsors in the UK. We then support them into boarding school, give them a quality education and a place to sleep, eat, as well as integrating them into society. We also fund food and shelter in the school holidays, pay the medical costs of the children in school, and run holiday programmes for those in school and those who are not yet in school.

Together with the sponsor, we commit to support each child all the way through their education. Some of the 30 young people we have sponsored so far have just completed their degrees and have started their first jobs.

In a country where there is such high youth unemployment, we are incredibly proud that the first four young people to graduate from our programme found employment straight away.

Becoming a trustee
I first became involved with Amazing Children Uganda as a volunteer in 2012, while I was at university. A friend who supported the charity asked if I would do a 10km run to raise funds. When I found out more about the charity, I was struck by how it completely transforms the lives of the children it supports, in a very direct way. Later that year, I helped ACU to organise an event to celebrate their 5th Anniversary. I continued to support the charity where possible, and was asked to join the board in 2014.

I became a Trustee aged 21 with little prior experience. I had worked part-time at a small women’s rights charity while studying and have since completed a graduate scheme in the charity sector. This experience has helped me to understand the workings of a small charity and the space charities occupy in society. Being the youngest member of the board, I hope I am able to bring a different perspective, helping to understand any worries about exams and career choices that our young people might be struggling with.

What does your role as trustee entail?
My role as a Trustee involves leading on fundraising and marketing. This includes planning fundraising events and activities, connecting with supporters via social media and newsletters, and more. We currently don’t have any paid staff in the UK, so a significant amount of operational work is undertaken by UK Trustees. There is also a big role at a strategic level, determining the operations of the charity moving forward. Being a Trustee takes up a lot of my free time; but I’m happy to give it to such a good cause.

I have found the experience of being a Trustee a very rewarding one which brings a great insight into the sector. I have had to learn a lot of new things very quickly, and still have much to learn one year in. I have also had some fantastic new experiences in my role as a Trustee. In October, I went to Uganda to meet some of the children and young people we work with. I found them to be so hard-working and inspirational; those in school and those not yet in school striving to achieve so much with the little they have been given in life. The support they offer to one another within their community is unlike anything else.

Being a Trustee has also given me an opportunity to shape the direction of the charity moving forward. I would strongly recommend this to other young people looking to get involved in the charity sector.

What advice would you give to potential trustees?
If I were to give any advice to anyone looking to become a Trustee, for me the most important thing has been finding a cause I really believe in. This will give you the motivation you need to put in the hours at the end of a hard week in your day job. I would also encourage anyone considering becoming a Trustee to think about the time that they can commit. Small charities can suffer with frequent changes to board members, and younger people are highly underrepresented on boards. We need to ensure that we fly the flag for younger people and show the dedication that the causes deserve.

To find out about sponsorship opportunities click here. To donate click here.

 

Ross Young - The Zuri Project Uganda 

Photo: Children from the Zuri Project Uganda

About the charity
I co-founded The Zuri Project Uganda with one of my best friends, Martin Hewell, and we registered with the Charity Commission in February 2015, but this certainly isn’t where our journey started! I met Martin during a volunteer project in Uganda in 2012, where we both spent three months volunteering in a rural primary school. Our experiences during these three months led us to think a lot about international development, and in particular, the perception of development from the viewpoint of local people.

We met some wonderful local people doing incredible things during our time as volunteers, and we also came across lots and lots of small, localised charities, who were facilitating incredible projects on a shoestring budget. We both desperately wanted to support these local projects, but we didn’t want to jump in as ‘white saviours’ with a panacea to their daily challenges, that in reality, we knew very little about.

Therefore, we set about on a mission to learn as much as we could about development, as well as about the local culture and traditions of the village in which we aspired to work, before making any decision about how to support these projects. I came back to the UK and studied for an MSc in International Development to gain an insight into the theory behind development and learn from best practice approaches, and then worked for a year on the CharityWorks programme in order to gain some practical experience in the day to day running of a charitable organisation.

During this period, I also visited Uganda on two more occasions and met with local organisations to learn about their work, and arranged community focus groups to understand what good support would look like to local people, if we were to set up an organisation in the future. At the same time, Martin spent time travelling across Africa working as an in country programme manager for a number of different charities in Uganda and Zambia, learning about the practicalities of project development in Africa and also developing an invaluable network of connections and relationships. These have proved absolutely vital throughout our journey so far.

In September 2014, Martin and I met for a drink in Manchester and started planning what has evolved into The Zuri Project Uganda.

What does your role as trustee entail?
As a small and newly established charity, we only have four trustees. As co-founders, Martin and I have assumed responsibility for the day-to-day running of the charity, which involves anything and everything! From February to July, we focused most of our efforts on fundraising, so that we had a financial foundation from which to work. We devised a fundraising strategy through which we arranged and coordinated five fundraising events, developed partnerships with a number of local businesses with a commitment to corporate social responsibility, and also connected with community groups such as the Rotary Club. I have also been responsible for general administration such as organising trustee meetings, setting up our bank account, registering with HMRC, creating marketing materials, updating our social media pages and developing our website.

By August, we felt that we had our base structure in place, and I travelled to Uganda, where I met with a number of organisations with whom we co-designed six pilot projects, that we have recently implemented in the village of Kihembe, SW Uganda. We are now in the process of recruiting a number of ambassadors in the UK to support us with our work, so we can start to incrementally increase the outreach of our work.

What advice would you give to other trustees?
Being a trustee of a small charity is an incredible experience, as everyday I am doing something different. I have to challenge myself to leave my comfort zone and take on tasks and responsibilities that seem quite daunting at first. The best advice I could give to anyone interested in starting a charity, is that it’s OK to seek advice and support from people who have more experience than you! There are some incredibly talented and inspirational people working in the charity sector, and I’ve found that every time I’ve asked someone for advice, however trivial, there’s always someone willing to have a chat. Don’t think you have to do everything alone and surround yourself by talented people. A couple of good places to start looking for help are The Small Charities Coalition, NCVO and the Young Trustees Network, each of which we’ve found incredibly useful during our short time as a registered charity!

 

Alison Gislasen - Petit Miracles 

Petit Miracles Hub logo

About the charity
Petit Miracle Interiors is a registered charity that was founded in 2008. We are providers of accredited interior design training, DIY workshops and upcycling courses to people who have experienced homelessness, the long term unemployed and vulnerable people.
Our aim is to encourage participants to explore and understand the process of interior design, develop their own DIY skills and use upcycling as a vehicle to improve their living environment, to build confidence, to reduce social exclusion and provide opportunities for further training and employment.

Becoming a trustee
I became a trustee in 2009 – I wanted to give something back to the community by using the skills I’ve gained in my own work. What particularly appeals about PMI as a charity is the principle of ‘upcycling’ both from a people and furniture perspective. Assisting people in gaining a new skills and the confidence that goes with that, all while saving potential landfill items means putting a new shine on things.

What does your role as trustee entail?
Finance & Accounting with a focus on commercial elements; but as my experience has mainly been with SME’s, I try to contribute to all admin areas of the organisation. I’ve recently been involved with the mentorship program offered by the charity as a mentor. It’s incredible inspiration to see someone’s life changed by the efforts of a small charity and by those within the charity who work so hard to get results.

What advice would you give to potential trustees?
It is important to understand that you have the time to commit and that sometimes you may have to be proactive in your role as you are providing insight and those running the organisation might not see some aspect as easily as you can when you’re an experienced professional in your area. The Small Charities Website has been a great help especially surrounding governance and trustee responsibilities.

 


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