#TrusteesWeek Katija Dew’s story

Trustees’ Week is an annual event to showcase the great work that trustees do and highlight opportunities for people from all walks of life to get involved and make a difference.

 

Being a trustee involves taking on significant responsibilities and time commitments and the role is almost always unpaid

 

Trustees Week is a fantastic opportunity to thank your trustees for the work that they do.

As part of this, we’re giving organisations the chance to have a governance health check, and catching up with Trustees themselves to tell their story.

 

This is Katija Dew’s story why she’s a Trustee

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you are a trustee. 

Hi, I’m Teej and I’m interested in a variety of things from activities outdoors to creative hobbies and putting the world to rights. That means I get involved in organisations that look completely unconnected! I have been a trustee for a few organisations over the years but now it’s only three. They are Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, The MSE Charity and Newport Live. Also, not quite a trustee role, I’m a volunteer Co-Event Director of Riverfront parkrun. These are all very different in size organisations and in what they do but I’m passionate about them and enjoy being a part of each. 

Tell us about your role as a trustee and how you support the various organisations.

Although the organisations are very different the core work of a Trustee is similar. For the Health Board my role is known as an Independent Member of the Board for the Third Sector. My responsibilities are officially based on ‘providing leadership, independent scrutiny and specialist expertise’. Practically, this means helping the Health Board to plan for the long term in everything it does, checking that we are delivering high quality, safe services to the budget we have and offering opinion or guidance on specific areas I have experience in. 

For Newport Live and The MSE Charity this is the same but at a much smaller scale and the experience I share is different. So, for example, because Newport Live is a sport, leisure and cultural activities trust, I can share my experience in health and community sport. The MSE charity gives grants to small grass roots organisations to help people learn to manage their money well, so I offer my previous work experience of debt and tackling poverty. 

How long have you been a trustee and why did you decide to become one? 

I think became trustee earlier than most people! I was in my 20s and worked for Torfaen Citizens Advice Bureau as a Money and Debt Advisor. We were approached by Eastern Valley Housing Association (now Melin Homes) to help their tenants who were struggling with debt. Apart from representation and advice for tenants, they were really interested in hearing at Board level about the difficulties people face. I remember thinking ‘wow, they are willing to fund us to completely independently represent their tenants who have rent arrears! I want to be involved with this landlord with a social conscience’. I was on the Board for 7 years and it was a brilliant experience. As well as me helping the organisation, it opened my eyes to all sorts of things I hadn’t considered before and encouraged me think about the world from a different angle. I learned so much about being a trustee and housing more generally. 

What would you say to people thinking of becoming a trustee? 

There are lots of ways to make a difference within a charity or ‘not for profit’ and every single volunteer’s time and effort is valuable. But if anyone were interested in the bigger picture or helping with shaping long term future direction then definitely investigate being a trustee. It’s important to remember this role is not about the day to day running of the organisation and Board meetings shouldn’t get involved in that. Don’t be intimidated or automatically think it’s not for you. Charities and organisations need a healthy mix of experience at Board level and you could be a piece missing from their jigsaw. Talk to other trustees and support organisations like Torfaen Voluntary Alliance. You will get a good feel for what’s involved and the support you would get.  It’s incredibly rewarding and a great opportunity to develop your own knowledge and experience while also helping make a real difference in something you love or feel strongly about.  

By Patrick Downes

Comms Lead - Third Sector Development TVA