Name: Faye Downs
Education: BA Degree from University of Sheffield in English Literature
Works: Volunteer Coordinator, Refugee Action
Volunteers as a Trustee: Roshni Women’s Refuge. Roshni is a registered charity devoted to providing support for Asian women and children in Birmingham who have suffered from domestic violence. ‘Faye has been involved with Roshni since October 2012 and has been formally acting as a trustee at Roshni since January 2013.
How did you become a trustee at Roshni?
I first found out about trustee vacancies at Roshni through one of my colleagues at Refugee Action. I contacted Roshni’s Chief Executive Kulbinder Chohan to find out a little more about Roshni and acting as a trustee before I then went on to apply.
This is my first trustee position but I was interested in acting as a trustee for a number of reasons:
As a Volunteer Co-ordinator in my day job I really believe in volunteering as a positive way for an individual to use their free time and broaden their skills and experience.
What was your experience?
The first step in becoming a trustee was to contact the Chief Executive at Roshni. She was very friendly from the start and provided me with lots of information about Roshni and becoming a trustee, as well as information about how to apply. Once I had decided that acting as a trustee was for me, I completed an application form which Kulbinder forwarded to the other trustees who approved me as a new member. I soon met Kulbinder face-to-face and was invited to other events and meetings for Roshni along with the other trustees which enabled me to learn more about Roshni and about my role very quickly. I was formally accepted as a new trustee at Roshni’s AGM in January and since then have been attending trustee meetings and supporting Roshni in a variety of other ways.
I did initially feel a little daunted about the responsibility of acting as a trustee, but I soon felt more informed about my new responsibilities through reading information provided to me by Roshni and also referring to the Charity Commission website. I also attended a Trustee Information Session at BVSC which gave me a strong introduction to acting as a trustee. I have also been reassured to see that there is a variety of experience and expertise between the trustees at Roshni and that all trustees have a valuable contribution to make. I am really pleased to feel I have already been able to contribute positively to important decision making relating to Roshni’s future.
Any advice for other young people interested in becoming a trustee?
I would encourage other young people to consider becoming a trustee and not to be daunted by the responsibility or perhaps by feeling that they lack experience. I think enthusiasm as well as experience is really important in being a trustee and so if you tick that box, hopefully you can find a trustee vacancy for you. I’d also encourage other young people to think more widely about the potential benefits they can get from volunteering as a trustee – I’m learning lots that’s new to me that I think will help me in the future. I would also say that being a trustee is a great responsibility so it is important to think about your commitment before looking for a trustee position.
Any advice for organisations looking to recruit young people to trustee positions?
First of all I would definitely say that there are great benefits to having young people amongst your trustees, and it’s great to be able to incorporate a fresh approach with the experience that other trustees can bring. I’d also encourage organisations to think more broadly about the skills and experience a young trustee can bring, be that a good operational background, specialist knowledge, or simply enthusiasm or an eagerness to learn and get involved.
My advice on recruiting young trustees would be to consider different ways to engage young people. In a competitive job market many young people are seeking an advantage in the workplace and the skills and experience they may be able to gain will be an important consideration for many young trustees. I also believe that young people may not know much about the role of a trustee or know where to start if they are interested in this, despite having a lot to offer. It may be worth looking for alternative ways to target young people who may be interested in taking on a volunteer role, such as outlining responsibilities and potential benefits that are related to the trustee role when advertising.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I am very lucky to be involved with two fantastic charities – Roshni and Refugee Action – and get a lot of pride out of my work with them. I would encourage others to use their spare time to support the voluntary sector in Birmingham in whatever way they can.
Mary (not her real name) has been volunteering since 2009. Mary had a previous career in teaching and is qualified to degree level in Finance & Accountancy. Mary wanted to use her degree and explore another avenue of work as a change of career. She chose volunteering as an option to gain some experience & build up her confidence in this area while getting an insight into what it would be like to work within a financial environment.
BVSC was successful in placing Mary within a financial organisation and after a short time there she was selected for an article in the organisation's summer edition of their newsletter. The following is an excerpt from that article:
“With her children growing up she felt it was time for a change and welcomes the opportunity of being a volunteer to gain hands-on experience in working in an office environment. Mary also feels that volunteering at our organisation offers her a chance to refresh herself by working and gaining experience of the office procedures. She can be found working at the counter helping members with enquiries, accessing withdrawals from their accounts and completing application and loan forms.
Mary has said how much she enjoys the warm atmosphere, friendly staff and likes the variety of being a volunteer. She ultimately feels she will benefit from the experience at our organisation by doing accounting and office work, knowing she will be guaranteed a reference when she leaves. She is hopeful that this experience will open the door to future job opportunities and that it will be a stepping stone towards her goal of eventually going into Management Accounting.”
Mary plans to continue volunteering for the provider as well as being self-employed as she feels the training and experience she is getting is invaluable at this time.
Ruth (not her real name) started volunteering in February 2009. A full time mother for eight years, Ruth wanted to get back into the workplace yet felt she didn't have the social or technological skills. She lacked confidence and had low self-esteem because she felt she had no experience to offer and had experienced a traumatic break-up which increased her self-doubts.
Ruth says “After many years as a single parent, I felt that it was time to do something with my life, as being so cut off from the working world I didn’t feel confident enough to go straight for a job. I thought about volunteering to try and gain some more skills and maybe boost my own self-esteem.
"I registered with the volunteer centre and started to volunteer shortly after with BTCV.
"Becoming a volunteer is one of the best decisions I have ever made, it has boosted my confidence, made me more active and I have gained a lot of new skills. I have now been offered a paid contract with BTCV and I now look forward to a much brighter future for me and my family.”
A spokesperson from BTCV said "We would like to extend our deepest gratitude for the commitment and hard work Ruth has put in during her time with us. The client’s co-operative attitude and good cheer were important and appreciated; she was organised, efficient and always willing to give more of her time. It was a personal and professional pleasure to work with her”
Volunteering has enabled Ruth to improve her skills, train for ECDL and increased her confidence in the workplace.
Ruth started her employment on 26th May 2009.
Jim (not real name) is on incapacity benefits, with additional support needs due to a learning disability.
Midland Mencap is a local charity which works and campaigns for accessible and inclusive services for people with Learning Disabilities. They also provide opportunities for sufferers to engage in volunteering opportunities with the Organisation itself.
Jim was given an opportunity to volunteer with Midland Mencap under the bWell programme.
Due to the nature of Jim's disability he was supported by a Support Worker through the application process.
Following the placement, feedback showed that Jim had really benefited from volunteering at Midlad Mencap with positive comments and observations found in WEMWBS score and also feedback from placement provider.
Jim's confidence has improved greatly since he began volunteering and he has seen the benefits of getting out of the house and getting involved in something new.
Ricardo (not his real name) is a 22 yr old young person from the BME community. Ricardo has qualifications in sport coaching at a basic level but wanted some practical experience as he felt that lack of work experience was a barrier to gaining employment and industry knowledge.
Ricardo found an opportunity to volunteer with Start Again which aims ‘to support young people to develop their personal, spiritual and social development’.
As a sports coach Ricardo got to use his skills learnt from their level one Sports Coaching qualification.
After 30 hours of volunteering Ricardo stated that he was happy to continue his development at the organisation as a volunteer and was now interested in pursuing a career in Sports Coaching and was looking to get onto a course to gain a level 2 coaching Qualification.
Harjinder (not her real name), came to BVSC looking for a volunteer opportunity. She said that a job was her ultimate aim but that she felt under experienced and lacked self-esteem.
Harjinder was provided with an opportunity at Birmingham Arthritis Resource Centre.
Midway through her placement Harjinder said that her placement was going well. ‘Very relaxed’ and ‘helping self esteem grow’ were comments recorded.
Harjinder completed a 30 hour placement at the end of April 2009. In May 2009 BVSC was contacted by BARC to say that Harjinder had been successful in gaining Employment for a Child and Family Resource Centre.
There was also a noticeable improvement of the clients WEMWBS scores before their 30 hour placement and after.