Posted in Charity, Community, Life, News, Opinion Posts

The Big Society, Part 2 – Volunteering and My Local Area


Church Green and St. Stephen's Church in centr...
Church Green and St. Stephen’s Church in central Redditch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Part 1 I shard my responses to the massobs spring directive on the Big Society questions on the Big Society itself and ‘Community’. In this part the questions are about voluntary work and my local area, here are my responses… Continue reading “The Big Society, Part 2 – Volunteering and My Local Area”

Posted in Charity, education, Travel, writing

Totleigh Barton – Arvon Writing Course. Part 5


The front of Totleigh Barton Manor, Devon, one...
The front of Totleigh Barton Manor, Devon, one of the writing centres of the Arvon Foundation, a charitable organisation promoting creative writing.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thursday

I wake up a bit later this morning, 7.30am, after having been awoken during the night with a major coughing fit that kept me awake for a while. I finish reading Utopia, have breakfast, get dressed and start writing before the morning workshop.

Continue reading “Totleigh Barton – Arvon Writing Course. Part 5”

Posted in Charity, Community, Photography

Photography Challenge – Community, Subject 3


I set myself a new challenge as part of my ROW80 goals for this round, the challenge was:

Photography – Approach 1 stranger, photograph them and blog about it – another challenge, to get me out of the house and meeting people – should be interesting! hopefully one a week, but not sure yet – still a new idea!

Now that I have my theme ‘Community’ I am heading out each week to find someone new to photograph and write about, here is this weeks subject…

Continue reading “Photography Challenge – Community, Subject 3”

Posted in Borderline Personality Disorder, Career, Charity, Life

Constant career changes – the BPD unstable sense of self and identity


Silhouette of a woman in a cave looking at her...
Image via Wikipedia

One of the many issues a person with BPD, such as myself, can suffer is the problem of ‘unstable sense of self and identity‘. The DSM IV criteria describes this as:

‘Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.’

People with BPD often feel they don’t know ‘who’ they really are, where they fit in the world and their sense of who they are can vary depending on the situation they are in, change often and rapidly. Not knowing who you are or where your life is going can lead to making many major life changes. For me this biggest area this has affected has been career aspirations…

As a small child all I wanted to be an author, as a teenager I wanted to be an air-hostess, then an artist.  At these stages such changes of mind are normal, kids often want to do different things.  It’s the lingering of this, coupled with actions to switch from one idea to another that are where it becomes more problematic.  Now I know that even non-bpd folks will change their mind about their career choices, or no know which path they want to take.  But, the difference between us and them (other than the BPD label) is that we will make frequent, extreme changes to our lives to follow our latest ‘dream’.

Justice and law
Image via Wikipedia

When I left school I was dead set on becoming a Lawyer, first I did a GCSE in Law (I got an ‘A’ for it) then I went on to do the Legal Executives Training course.  The course was made difficult by teaching problems, and I complained about it in a local newspaper, which resulted in one tutor saying to me ‘You come from the wrong background to be studying law’ when I indicated maybe I should teach the class as she was so useless (oops!). My career plans were interrupted by my husband being diagnosed with a brain tumour, but when I eventually started going for interviews at Law firms I quickly decided I didn’t want to work with ‘these’ people (the lawyers). By now, although my family life (I was a full time carer) prevented me working in paid employment, I had already done a variety of voluntary work – Youth Work assistant, Charity Shop assistant, Teaching assistant in a primary school, Charity trustee and Charity fundraiser.  I have always ‘thrown’ myself in 100% on everything I take on, but often taking on far more than one person should try to juggle at a time…

Immediately, I decided I wanted to do something scientific or medical related instead, and being really into the TV show CSI at the time Forensic Science was appealing, but also Medicine as due to my families multiple medical problems I had been learning a lot about several medical conditions (cardiology and neurology mainly). Strange thing about this career choice was that I had ‘hated’ science at school, and I also had a problem of fainting at the sight of blood… Still, I enrolled on a Biology A Level course.  Part way through the course I gained my first ‘real’ job which just happened to be as a Casework assistant for the Forensic Science Service (my dream job at the time…).  I hadn’t been in the job 6 months before I went off ‘sick’ with stress and depression (It was actually a BPD crisis, but I was undiagnosed at this point).  I left the job in the end due to pressures at home.

So, to keep me occupied whilst getting back t my role as full time carer for my family (all of whom had medical problems) I enrolled with the Open University to study Science, with the intention of one day going back to Forensics. I also continued my charity work, becoming a fundraiser and secretary for a local charity, and training in writing policies, procedures etc for charitable organisations.

What Medical School is Like -or- Studying for ...
Image by SendakSeuss via Flickr

Then I became involved in community work and studied the ‘business’ management side of charitable and community organisations. I set-up  a community group and Paintball team, which I managed and raised funds for, and working with local youth groups engaged the community, taking the youth groups on paintball trips. The team had some success in paintball tournaments, winning a few trophies and I gained a few awards for my charitable work.  Eventually costs prevented the team continuing and my studies, for what was now intended to be a BSc Honors in Health Studies as an entry route to Medical School, consumed most of my time…

Despite my dreams of Medical School, I was getting bored of just studying health and science subjects all the time.  I took on a Painting and decorating NVQ, and whilst on the course considered setting up my own business with the only other girl doing the course, but I got bored again, left the course once I had learnt enough to do my own decorating and enrolled on a Catering NVQ course. I completed this one, so I am a qualified chef, but I never wanted to work in a kitchen, just wanted to be a better cook (thankfully!).

Whilst on the Catering course I got a job as an Office Manager for an IT company.  I had no experience in this area but my varied work with charities meant I had all the skills necessary to manage the accounts on a basic level, create documents and all the typical office work… but getting this job put a new idea in my head… My boss enrolled me on a Business Studies course with the OU (I was still working on my degree as well!) and I started thinking about setting up my own business, but what in???

I decided to finish my degree as at this time I was getting quite unwell again (the start of my current ongoing BPD crisis, still pre-diagnosis) as I had nearly 700 credits with the OU and although I needed to do one more course to get the BSc Hons in Health Studies I no longer wanted to study health related courses for the time being, so I cashed in 360 of my credits for an unnamed 2.1 Bsc Hons… I had my graduation ceremony in June 2010, but due to the course counted for the degree I had actually ‘graduated’ in December 2008…

I realised that with much of the policies, procedures and documents I had been doing for years for charities and now for the IT company I had actually gotten quite good at ‘Quality Assurance‘.  So, I enrolled to train as an Internal Auditor with BSI and did a Customer Service NVQ through work.  When I was made redundant I started to plan setting up my own business ‘Quality for IT’ providing quality assurance, namely ISO 9001:2008 support for IT companies.  I then enrolled on a graduate program that proving training, support and finances to start-up businesses.  I put a lot into getting the business set-up before ‘crashing’ again mentally (the business is ‘there’ I have just not taken on any customers, but I could always go back to it at some point…).

I needed to get another job, but by now I wanted to go to Medical School (again) so I started looking at options that would help me gain a place, hospital work seemed the ideal choice. Just as I was getting ready to start working again I got the BPD diagnosis, but I tried not to let it affect me at this point and plodded on, not realising I was getting worse. I landed a job as a Medical laboratory Assistant as soon as I went for my first interview.  I briefly flirted with the idea of studying biochemistry instead of Medicine, but then I landed the job in Radiology which involved more patient care and contact, so I decided to stick with Medicine.  However, by the time I started the new job I was getting really ill with the BPD and after just 3 weeks in the new job, I went off ‘sick’.  While off sick I realised that my dream of medical school might be very bed for my health, being such a high pressure career choice.

Writing
Image via Wikipedia

I started writing a lot more for my blog, and telling everyone that what I now want is to become known for my writing, get published, be an author and though I am back at work, this is still my current career aspiration – to write.  the only difference between this and all my former choices is that I recognise this is just another symptom of my BPD now. So, who knows what will happen from here…

Do you have BPD?

How has it affected your work/job/career choices?

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Posted in Charity

The role of a Charity Trustee and roles of committe/steering group members


I have been a Trustee of two charities over the years, most recently I became a Trustee for Link-Upp (Birmingham). I got involved to be able to ‘give something back’ to the community, but as well as that I have had fun, met new people and gained new skills myself. It also looks really good on your CV! People often ask what is involved in being a trustee so I thought I would give you a brief over view of the role here and also introduce you briefly to the other roles that are involved in the running of a charity – those of the committee or steering group members, I have tried to keep it fairly brief so as not to overwhelm anyone! 🙂

Charity Trustees
The governing body of a charity is made up of a number of people who are the ‘trustees’ although they may not always be known by this name sometimes being called directors, board members, governors or committee members – although it is important to distinguish whether you are indeed a trustee or an ordinary volunteer so the use of other naming conventions can confuse people – if in doubt ‘ASK’! Usually unpaid Charity trustee volunteers oversee the running of a charity – to make sure it acts in accordance with its governing document (usually called its ‘constitution’) to achieve the outcomes it intends and that it complies with legal, financial and regulatory requirements. This may sound like a lot of work but that does not have to be the case, there are a lot of sources of help and support for trustees to achieve these objectives, one of the main being the Charity Commission. The responsibilities of a trustee are set out in more detail here but don’t let the volume of information there put you off!

As an example of how things can work briefly… in Link-Upp as Trustees we meet quarterly to review the activities of the steering group and see what events have been happening, check over the accounts to make sure the charity has enough money and is spending it appropriately and discuss if there is anything else we should be doing, if so we either act on these ourselves or where necessary pass the tasks down to the steering group who manage the day to day running of the charity. If anyone wants to ‘do more’ then there are options there for them to become more involved by becoming the Chair of Trustees (which is my current role), Treasurer, sitting on the steering group, fund-raising or (as I will be doing) becoming involved in administrative duties (for me this will involve implementing a quality management system tailored to improving the outputs of the charity and increase its access to funding opportunities). So now a few FAQ’s…

QWhat should I do if I want to become a charity trustee?
AFind out about the charity you are interested in and ask what they would expect from you.

QWho can be a Trustee?
AMost people over the age of 18 can become trustees (for unincorporated charities even under 18’s may be trustees) although disqualified directors, certain criminals and beneficiaries of the charity may be excluded from being trustees.

QWill I be liable if anything goes wrong?
ASo long as you and the other trustees are acting legally and responsibly you are unlikely to suffer any personal liabilities as a result of being a trustee. Some charities will insure against personal liability for trustees.

QWhere can I find out more about becoming a trustee?
AThe Charity Commission provides a range of information, you should also contact the charity you are interested in directly. You can also contact me if you wish and I will try to answer any questions you may have.

Committee/Steering Group Members

The Committee or Steering Group handles the day to day running and activities of a charity. Usually made up of a selection of volunteers, who are often from the membership of the charity, with various roles and responsibilities, the committee will meet regularly to organise events, fund-raising, deal with administrative and financial matters, keep records and whatever else is required to ensure the smooth running of the charity. If the group is large enough there may be a variety of roles available to suit your skills such as Chair, Secretary, Treasurer or Fundraiser. Tasks are usually shared amongst the committee so you can do as much or as little as you have the time available to do.

Main Roles

Chair

  • Ensure the smooth running of the charity
  • Organise and run meetings so they are timely and effective and everyone gets heard.
  • Ensure decisions are reached

Secretary

  • keeping people informed
  • taking minutes of meetings

Treasurer

  • Keeping the financial records for the charity

If you want to know more about the roles and responsibilities of committee/steering group members the Resource Centre has some helpful fact sheets. Or again you can contact the charity I wish to volunteer for directly to find out how they can use your skills.

I hope this has been a useful introduction without going too deep! 🙂