I’m delighted to introduce myself as the new Chair of the Trustee board for Reach.
My twitter biog would tell you that I am “passionate about Northern Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement, equality/rights, music, peace, truth, justice, inclusion, badgers, knitting, gin”.
That probably does sum me up pretty well but I’ll put a few bits of flesh on the bones for you here.
I live in London with my husband (Malcolm) and son (Jamie, aged 16).
I grew up in Fife but have spent the majority of my career to date working between Belfast and London, as a civil servant helping to support the Northern Ireland peace process. Since early last year, I’ve been pursuing a portfolio career, doing an eclectic range of things, including interviewing prospective judges for the Judicial Appointments Commission, teaching clarinet, saxophone and recorder to children, and doing some work with a number of charities.
I became a member of Reach because one of my music pupils, my friend Maria, was born missing most of her left hand, and I wanted to find a solution to help her learn an instrument. The Reach recorder hire programme came to our assistance and has enabled her musical development to go from strength to strength. Around that time, Reach were recruiting new trustees and, given my interest in charity governance, equality, rights and inclusion, I thought I’d give it a go. Thank you for accepting me into the Reach family.
I have learnt a lot since joining Reach, in particular about how embedded its values are across all that the charity does.
I’ve learnt that two hands are definitely over-rated. More specifically, I’ve learnt that two-handed assumptions can be more of a barrier to limb-different people than the absence of a limb. In fact, the question I had been asking in relation to Maria’s music (“so, she’s only got one hand, she can’t do X, what could she do instead?”) was the wrong one. I should have been saying “she has only got one hand, so what does she need in order to do X?”. Thank you to those of you who have improved my thinking. Reach is positive – and because of that so many Reach children are truly inspiring.
I’ve learnt how lonely it can be feeling that you are the only one – with a limb difference, or with a limb-different baby; why it is so important for new parents to learn about the Reach community as soon as possible after they get the news about their baby’s difference; and why it’s so vital for midwives and other health care professionals to know how to put parents in touch with Reach. I’m keen that we should prioritise raising awareness within the healthcare sector as a means of reaching those who need us, showing that Reach is supportive right from the start.
I’ve learnt how valuable the Reach family is at boosting the self-esteem of limb-different children, and how important it is for them to be around people who accept their difference as perfectly normal, and away from the staring of strangers. Nothing brought this home to me more than the wee lad who turned up at the door of the hotel where the Annual Family Weekend was happening and said that at last he could take his coat off and just be himself. Reach really is community. I can see how valuable the Reach get togethers are for children and want to see how we can make it possible for more families to participate every year. Thank you to everyone who filled in the survey on how we make the family weekend more inclusive. That’s another priority for the year ahead.
What I haven’t yet learnt is how to stick to the 500 word limit that Debs set me for this message. So I had better wrap this up quickly. I’d like to say that becoming chair of the Reach board of trustees was part of a great master plan, but my passion for truth (see above) makes this impossible. It is, however, a great privilege and one that I am genuinely excited about. I am very much looking forward to serving as chair of the board of trustees and to meeting even more of the Reach family over the course of the next year
Chair of Trustees
Reach Charity Ltd