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Volunteer Spotlight - Dr Carol Homden CBE - November 2022

What’s magical about being a Trustee is playing a small part in a movement of change. It's inspiring.

Meet our November Volunteer Spotlight, Dr Carol Homden CBE

To mark Trustees’ Week, we sat down with Dr Carol Homden, Chair of our Board of Trustees, to ask her some questions about her experience.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background

In my day job, I’m Chief Executive at Coram, the oldest and longest continuing children’s charity.

I’ve spent my career in multiple different sectors. I completed a PhD before starting out as a journalist in the arts. I worked in the university sector before leading public services at The British Museum and then joining the charity sector, initially with young people with The Prince’s Trust and now with children at Coram.

For me, one of the principal concerns has been looking to the future for the next generation; not only looking at issues that may affect them now but also concerns as they grow up.  

I have always volunteered. My earliest memories were helping my mother to run fundraising Christmas parties. In adulthood, I was a volunteer fundraiser for Amnesty International. As my career developed, I took on Trusteeships as a way of learning and developing personally and supporting services that matter. It’s my belief that everyone should do what they can to make society a better place.

I’ve been a Trustee of an arts organisation, Chair of a learning difficulties charity, and then Chair of the National Autistic Society for 10 years.

What inspired you to become Chair of the board of trustees for Diabetes UK?

My personal motivation is that my eldest son, who has Autism and learning difficulties, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes just after the coronavirus lockdown. One of my first thoughts was to turn to Diabetes UK for help. I found out what an extraordinary and important job the charity does for families like my own.

I also believed I had the skills and experience to match what Diabetes UK was looking to achieve. I had been Chair of a major UK-wide organisation previously and felt I would be able to serve.

How was your experience applying for the role?

The whole process from applying to interviewing was extremely professional, and I was delighted and humbled to be selected as Chair. My colleagues who serve on the Board of Trustees are an outstanding group.

What’s the role of the board of trustees?

We hold in trust the purpose of the charity. Our role is to ensure the charity is being effectively run and operated, always with a keen eye on maximizing the benefit to the people we exist to support and the mission we are pursuing.

We work very closely alongside the Chief Executive and our wonderful volunteers across the charity to make sure all voices and expertise are heard. We are also a sounding board and critical friend and challenge to our Executive Team.

What’s your role as Chair?

As Chair, I play a role in convening and developing the Board of Trustees. I am the line manager to the Chief Executive and work as an ambassador for our cause.

My role is to seek to ensure that we have all the knowledge and skills we need to support the charity and to hear and benefit from diverse perspectives as well as the trustees’ legal duties.

I hope I am bringing my own skillsets which come from my experience in the charity sector and lived experience of diabetes to this.

What’s your first year as Chair been like?

It’s been a wonderful experience. The first step was to understand the organization and the depth and breadth of what we do. It’s been my absolute privilege to get to know the Board members and to meet with leaders across the charity. It’s also been fantastic to meet with our Council of People Living with Diabetes and our Council of Healthcare Professionals to ensure that they know who I am and that I’m always here to hear, listen, and engage.

Diabetes has no boundaries, even if our healthcare systems are organised differently. I set myself a personal objective, to make sure that it was evident from my own engagement with our teams that we work together across Scotland, Northern Ireland, England, and Wales because we are Diabetes UK.

What’s been the standout moment for you?

It’s almost impossible to point to one single moment. But it was an extraordinary experience to represent Diabetes UK at the funeral of her majesty the Queen, our patron. I felt tremendous pride and humility at that moment to be there.

In terms of our work, I joined as we announced the most outstanding gift to diabetes research from the Steve Morgan Foundation. We have such an opportunity, thanks to the enormous generosity of the foundation and in partnership with JDRF, to make a generational level of change. This comes not only through research but also through our new support services for young people with type 1 diabetes.

Another highlight was the recent staff conference. To feel the energy and buzz in the room and to know I was part of this force for change. It was a joy to see everyone come back together, to say thank you, and play a small part in the day.

Have there been any challenges?

Every charity is facing the same challenges in relation to the cost-of-living crisis. We know it will compound some of the enormous difficulties for families across the country affected by diabetes and for all those seeking to help. We’re not distinctive in these challenges, but we will work together to make sure we are distinctive in our response.

Wherever there is challenge there is the opportunity to do even better. We are working to make sure the future in terms of structure, resources, and approaches to our healthcare systems and research, for people with diabetes is protected but also taken to a whole new level. Together we must and will succeed.

What’s the best thing about being a Trustee?

What’s magical about being a Trustee is playing a small part in a movement of change. It's inspiring. There’s a very important and significant sense of duty and responsibility in the service of others.

It’s also so inspiring to be part of such a great team. We have a diverse and highly skilled board, with all parts of the UK represented with a huge amount of clinical, research and other expertise.

We are all volunteers, and although our Trustees are all very accomplished in their fields, what’s most inspiring is their humility and how they give their time and expertise. It’s not about us, it’s about something so much bigger that can only be achieved by all of us working together.

And finally, what are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to taking part in thanking our amazing supporters on World Diabetes Day with my fellow Trustees and continuing to meet teams across the UK to celebrate and support all that is being achieved. I’m looking forward to attending the Diabetes UK Professional Conference next Spring. Most of all, perhaps, I’m looking forward to seeing new research come through, building further on the amazing services we have, and ultimately turning the curve on this condition. It’s an enormous privilege to serve Diabetes UK. Thank you.


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