For Trustees' Week, we hear from Ellie Hutchinson about what led her to become a Home-Start trustee and how joining the Board during the pandemic was both eye-opening and heart warming.

Ellie’s job in risk management for a bank kept her busy, but she was keen to find a role outside of work that would help her to further develop her professional skills and also support a local charity. An internet search led Ellie to Home-Start Stirling, as she explains:

“I wanted to take on a trustee position outside of work so I searched for charities who needed trustees. As soon as I saw Home-Start and read about how it helps families I knew it was the perfect fit for me. I have a son and I know how hard parenting can be, and that’s even without facing any additional issues. I emailed the Home-Start and within days the Chair, Jean, called me. She invited me to observe a Board meeting before deciding if it was something I wanted to pursue.

“It was during lockdown so I joined the meeting via Zoom. Jean, the Chair had briefed me on what the meeting would be like. I logged on and immediately my screen filled up with lots of friendly face. Funnily enough one of those faces was a colleague from the bank. I didn’t even know he was on the Home-Start Board.

“As the meeting progressed I saw that everyone on the Board had a voice. Every opinion mattered and was listened to. That’s when I knew that this was the right place for me.

“I’m not an expert on supporting families, and apart from being a mum myself, I’ve no expertise in the early years, volunteering, or in health and education, but I recognise due to the mixed skillset of the Board I don’t need to be an expert in these areas. I think that’s one of the most important lessons I learnt early on – that for Boards to be truly effective, they need to be made up of people with a wide range of skills and experiences.

“I provide the Board with an independent view, and ask common sense questions. I’ve worked in financial services since graduating and my background is in risk management – and that requires me to ask a lot of ‘but why?’ questions. It’s a useful skill to have to help the Board interrogate the reasons (and risks) behind the actions we take. On a personal level, I’m a bit of an energizer bunny, and enthusiastic and passionate about supporting local families so I like to think that my energy helps motivation and to drive things through.

“After the first meeting I had a call with Jean to chat about my first impressions and whether I was still interested. I followed it up with lots of reading about Home-Start, and getting up to speed on what was happening.

“My attendance at the next Board meeting was as a trustee. We were still very much in lockdown so much of our focus was around supporting our staff, volunteers and families. There were no easy answers to the unprecedented situation we (and everyone else) were in. But, we discussed, debated and ultimately came up with a direction for the charity to navigate us through the crisis. With our Home-Start Manager, Rachel, at the helm and her team working effectively to drive the necessary activities forward. The situation was changing on a daily basis, so both the Home-Start Stirling team and the Board had to be agile and responsive. It was inspiring to see everyone pull together. Observing our local Home-Start team and volunteers, I can safely say I’ve never come across such committed and passionate people in my life.

“In Home-Start Stirling, our team and volunteers made it clear their focus was on making sure our families were supported at this difficult time. I joined Home-Start during a global pandemic, when families were really struggling and volunteers were unable to visit them in their homes. But I saw Home-Start at its very best. A group of dedicated people, determined to do whatever they could to provide families with what they needed.

“I understand now how the groundwork laid early on in a child’s life can change their future for the better.  I see the difference Home-Start Stirling makes to families and I’m proud to be part of it.”

Learn more about the role of a Home-Start trustee

Register your interest to become a trustee