Becoming a trustee is one of the most powerful ways you can contribute to your local community while using and building a wealth of skills. The work being done by Home-Start trustees has never been more important as families reach breaking point during the cost-of-living crisis. We want to thank the incredible Home-Start trustees around the UK for their dedication and commitment. By giving the gift of time, they are ensuring we can reach struggling families in times of need.

For Trustees' Week we hear from three local Home-Start trustees about why they got involved and the impact that being a trustee can make.

Liam Maguire, Trustee at Home-Start Cymru

After experiencing a difficult and divided family life, Liam went on to study law and then to commission from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst at the same time as Prince Harry. He became a Captain in the Royal Welsh and led his Platoon on operations in Afghanistan. He later trained young military recruits where he gained a passion for youth development, which he has pursued throughout his career.  

Liam Maguire headshotLiam says "The reason I became a trustee at Home-Start Cymru is because the service resonated very personally. I was one of three boys raised by a single mum for most of our childhood and we lived on the eighth floor of a twenty story tower block. Unfortunately, due to a myriad of reasons, one of my brothers was placed in care. This had a very detrimental impact on him and the family, but I believe that if an organisation like Home-Start had been around to give support to my family, things could have been very different.

When I first joined Home-Start I asked myself 'is this a service that can actually change people’s lives?' And the answer is a certain yes. Early intervention has a positive ripple effect on children’s lives and the earlier we start the better.

Being a trustee can be daunting. Yes, there are formalities, lengthy reports to read and a high level of professionalism. However, if you can ask yourself 'Do I really care about families and children, and am I committed to giving up my time to help?' and if the answer is yes, then you already have 90% of the ingredients needed.

You don’t have to be a CEO or senior manager either. Being a good communicator, being collaborative and a good listener are the sort of skills anyone can have. 

To encourage people, I would say don’t be put off by the unknown. Go on the website, digest as much as you can and then speak to someone within the organisation to get a feel for what it's like. We're always on the lookout for committed people with diverse experiences to become trustees.

Amanjit Dhillon, Trustee at Home-Start Banbury, Bicester and Chipping Norton 

After working in International Development, focussing on children's health, Amanjit moved back to her home town during the pandemic and took up a new position in a different sector. Becoming a trustee at Home-Start has enabled her to utilise the knowledge and skills she had gained in the importance of early years intervention but also helps her attain valuable skills for he own career progression.

Amanjit Dhillon headshotAmanjit says "What drew me to Home-Start was the mission. From my previous experience working with mums in Kenya, I saw the power that parents had to give their children the best start in life. To see Home-Start doing that in UK, and in the town I grew up, really appealed to me. Children are the future and we must equip them to have the best and most equal start in life.

I've been a trustee for two years now and I am still very much enjoying it, and still very much learning. 

For me, it’s also about career development. You are taking on legal role as a director which is the same as being a director of a company so the skills you gain in governance, strategy and financials are of real value. It's good to look at things with a problem solving eye.

We have designated roles. I am chair of the fundraising committee as I have that experience. 

But one thing I would say to anyone looking to be a trustee is that it’s not always about your work experience, it’s also about your life experience. That’s why Home-Start is a really good place to be a trustee as there are so many parents, or people who have experience of working with children who can bring useful knowledge - people who have lived experience, who have used a Home-Start service, can go on to be a trustee.

Regardless of your background, your age, your circumstances, you always have something of value to give, especially to charity organisations. Home-Start is locally focussed so being a trustee is an opportunity to give something back to the local community.

I care a lot about Home-Start and what we do. Our service is not prescriptive, and we work to the needs of individual families and that’s what makes us special – it always brings me such joy to hear how our home visiting volunteers have empowered and supported families at the most difficult of times and given them hope and happiness.  

Alex Williams, Vice Chair, Home-Start Southwark

Until he began his current role which involves recruiting for CEO's executive leaders and trustees, it didn't occur to Alex Williams that someone like him could be a trustee too. Now as Vice Chair of Home-Start Southwark he actively seeks people with diverse backgrounds to join their board.

Alex Williams headshotAlex says: I always had the impression that it was white middle class males who were on a trustee board. It wasn’t until I joined my current organisation that I realised I could be a trustee. 

When you become a trustee, you support an organisation in ways and means that you never thought you could. In one of my first board meetings, we were having to move from our premises and had no real idea of where we could move to. I knew of shared facilities nearby and within four weeks we had moved in and we've now been in those offices for over a year, so just by having knowledge of the area I was able to help.

I’ve held other trustee positions but the work that we do at Home-Start, the direct impact that we have on families and then the impact that those families then have on their communities is just the most amazing thing to see.

I grew up experiencing some of the things our families have been through, so I am bringing some of that lived experience to the table. It’s mind blowing how many facets of yourself you can bring to a trustee board to support both the board and the staff.

Sometimes I feel guilty because I enjoy it so much. It can be hard when you have lots going on with your family, your personal life, your work , but when you do sit there and you see how the board or your organisation is developing and growing it is such an amazing thing. 

I’m trying as best as I can now in my career, both internally and externally, to shine a light on being a trustee and the benefits of that and hopefully the more we can do that, the more fantastic people we can entice to coming on boards and being involved in all aspects of governance.

Across the charity sector in general, we need to make things more accessible and open. That could just be about the timings of meetings, or paying for expenses, or if someone has a young family and you want them to attend a meeting, there’s way and means to make that more accessible. And if we are able to make it more accessible then everybody is going to win.

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