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I Volunteer Because I Know What it is Like to Need Help

01 June 2017

Christina Patterson pictured above is a Shaw Trust Trustee 

I volunteer at Shaw Trust because I know what it’s like to need a bit of help. It doesn’t matter where you come from. Everyone’s life has blips. When I was 25 I came back from a holiday and developed sudden pains in my knees. Within a few days, I couldn’t walk. For the next few years, I was racked with pain. I lost my job and didn’t know how I was going to lead a normal life again.
I was lucky. I got help. After a year of unemployment, a GP referred me for some counselling and I managed to get a part-time job. Within another year I was working full-time. Work got me through. Work kept me sane. But I wouldn’t have had it without that helping hand.

Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to have a very interesting career. I started off in book publishing and then worked at the Southbank Centre, organising literary events. After running the Poetry Society for a few years I made a mid-life transition to journalism. I was a writer and columnist at The Independent for 10 years. For the past four years I’ve had a portfolio life, writing for The Sunday Times and The Guardian, doing some communications consultancy and writing a book, The Art of Not Falling Apart, which will be published by Atlantic next May.
I try to draw on all this experience as I contribute to the Shaw Trust board.

From my first contact with Shaw Trust, at the Hackney Hub down the road from where I live, I have been struck by how often members of staff go the extra mile. It’s one thing to try to help someone get the skills or support they need to get a job, or a life back on track. It’s quite another to do it with warmth and humour and empathy. There are a number of organisations trying to do what we do, but there aren’t all that many trying to do it with a charitable heart and a business brain.

As a trustee of Shaw Trust, a member of the Nominations and Remuneration Committee and Chair of the Advisory Group to the Shaw Trust Policy Institute, I do my best to keep this in mind. I have learnt so much from the members of staff I have met around the country - in London and Bristol, at Scadbury Park, at Live Well Kent, at Rehabilitation International in Edinburgh, from Shaw Trust shops all over England and Wales, and at the Employee Forum. Most of the people I’ve met seem to like their jobs and if you like your job, you’re likely to do it much better.
We all have our ups and downs. Even Shaw Trust has its ups and downs! These are tough times for many charities and there are challenges ahead as certain contracts begin to wind down. But I’m confident that we have a big role to play in bringing the Shaw Trust touch to people’s lives for many years to come. And I’ll be happy and honoured to play my part. 
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