The Well is a small, independent charity that supports vulnerable people and those in need. The charity’s aim is to help people who are affected by a variety of issues, including mental health, age, dementia, loneliness and deprivation. They have a cafe, shop and a quiet space for people to come and be heard by trained staff. As well as helping people with any issues they may be experiencing, the charity works intergenerationally across the local community.
We talk to Emma Dowman to find out how she became involved with The Well.
How did you get into your role within the charity?
I am a qualified teacher and I have worked for other local charities, including Gartree Prison. I have a real heart for supporting those in need and bringing communities together. I liked the diversity of The Well and my skill set was well-matched to the needs of the charity.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Definitely the people; it’s very much about listening to individuals and you never know who is going to walk through the door. I love the diversity and originality of each day – no day is ever the same.
What is the biggest challenge in your role
Being able to be a jack-of-all-trades and turning my hand to everything. Building a good team; I believe passionately that everyone has a role. I enjoy identifying people’s gifts and skills, but you need everyone in the team to understand these. Bringing people together from such diverse backgrounds is both a challenge and a joy, when it works.
Do you have any exciting upcoming projects in the next few months?
We are repositioning the charity and rebranding, which should go live in the New Year. We will be out and about in the community promoting our charity. One exciting project we will be running is a new wellbeing group at a local primary school for parents with children who have autism. Our intergenerational project will involve taking about 20 senior people from a local care home into a school for a tea party. This will hopefully create some interesting conversations and lead to more intergenerational projects.
What do you think it means to the local Leicestershire charity and voluntary sector to have their own VAL awards?
We were humbled to be selected for the awards. The recognition means so much as you work hard and you’re passionate about your cause, but you feel like you’re a drop in the ocean. Going along to the ceremony and hearing about everything that is going on makes you feel part of something bigger and we’re proud to be a part of the Leicestershire charity community.
How does it feel to have won the Small County Charity VAL award?
Quite often rural projects can be overlooked and forgotten when it comes to funding. So, to be recognised and thanked means a lot to us.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone thinking of setting up a similar charity?
Leadership is important. Obviously, a charity starts because someone is passionate about something and it’s great to be organic at the beginning of the process, but at some stage you need to put a structure in place. Work out the roles for trustees, paid staff and volunteers, and be very clear about this. Write really good policies and tailor these to your organisation.
A watershed moment for us was a document we produced; we made it very clear to every trustee exactly what their relationship was and how they related to the management and volunteers. As well as being good for safeguarding, this helped us to manage emotions respectfully.
Another top tip would be pace; slowdown and do the things you can do well. Being able to prioritise is key. Show your volunteers that you value them, as well as any other stakeholders.
Do you have any other advice for a charity looking to recruit volunteers, trustees and paid staff?
When it comes to volunteers it’s important not to be rigid and to pigeonhole people, as you may end up excluding someone and missing out on important skills. Connect with people at VAL and use social media; this has helped to bring people to us.
When employing people, you need to sit down and look at other people’s roles, so you can be very specific about the role you need. Work out how that person is going to fit in with the team.
What’s your biggest challenge for 2020?
It’s been lovely to receive recognition, but it’s looking at how we can utilise this. It’s such an opportunity for us and it’s now about making the most of this. Looking wider, we will look at how we can get our income and budgeting in order, so we can make some informed decisions. We are always looking at sustainability and we’re currently planning for the next 10 years.
If you could go back in time five years, what would be the piece of advice you would give yourself?
That this charity matters, and to be proud and more proactive of who we are. I have seen first-hand how we have changed and potentially saved lives. Just because we are based in a small, rural village, we can make a big difference.
If you had a magic wand to help you with one single thing, what would this be?
Having the right people available to make opportunities happen.
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Any views or opinions expressed above are for guidance only and are expressed in generic terms. They are not intended as a substitute for readers taking appropriate professional advice relevant to individual circumstances. We would always encourage readers to seek professional advice.