Northern Ireland Homes From Home Appeal, CLIC Sargent
CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, and their families. They provide clinical, practical, financial and emotional support to help them cope with cancer and get the most out of life.
What does your role involve?
My role is a new position working as part of CLIC Sargent’s Northern Ireland Homes from Home Appeal.
Every week, two children and young people are diagnosed with cancer in Northern Ireland. Because cancer in children and young people is relatively rare, they are diagnosed and treated at specialist hospitals in Belfast.
This means that families in Northern Ireland travel on average 95 miles, sometimes every day, to access cancer treatment.
The two Homes from Home will give those families a place to stay together free of charge while their child is receiving treatment. This means they won’t have to make long and expensive journeys.
As project manager for the appeal I play a central role in making sure the homes are delivered on time, on budget and to the very highest standards.
The money we raise over the next two years will not just pay for the homes, it will also allow us to continue to provide practical, emotional and financial support to children and young people with cancer, and their families for more than two years.
How did you get into the position in the first place?
I worked as an architect for five years until I was made redundant in February 2011. At that point I decided to look at what I really wanted to do with my next career move, and that involved working for a charity.
To gain some charity experience I took a short term role at the Northern Ireland Hospice. This included fundraising work and some admin. It gave me a real insight into the challenges that face charities.
A few months later the perfect job came up at CLIC Sargent which really combined all of my skills and experience. It’s a very exciting opportunity and quite unique for someone from my background.
Did you always want to work in this sector in some capacity?
I always had a sense that I’d love to work for a good cause and ideally with children. However, in my previous role as an architect I was unsure how I could achieve this.
Since taking this position at CLIC Sargent I have really enjoyed learning about the huge range of support that is offered by the organisation. It has also confirmed that I made the right choice in moving in to this sector.
What training or previous experience do you have that has helped you in your current role?
My degree was in architecture and soon after leaving university I took a position at a Belfast architectural practice. I really enjoyed this time and gained invaluable experience of project management, planning, design, construction and managing stakeholder relationships.
Combined with my recent charity experience this has helped me to fit in to my new role and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.
What is your organisation's role in the local community?
CLIC Sargent is there from the point of diagnosis, providing specialist clinical, practical and emotional support for the whole family.
As well as a team of dedicated health and social care professionals based at the hospitals, CLIC Sargent provides families with financial help to meet the extra costs that come with a cancer diagnosis. We also offer families the chance to take a free holiday together during or after treatment.
And how does your role fit in as part of this?
A cancer diagnosis will come as a complete shock to families. No area of the child’s life will be unaffected, from the physiological effects of the disease and treatment regime, to the emotional, financial and social impacts that accompany it.
When the Homes from Home open to families in 2014 they will help to reduce this impact for hundreds of families in Northern Ireland. I like to think that my role will be key to making this happen.
What sort of personality and qualities do you need to do your job successfully?
In any project management role it’s important to be a good communicator, be organised and pay attention to detail. There are so many facets to a big project like this, and it is important that we deliver the best solution for children, young people and their families.
It’s also important to be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances. Any number of things can change during a large project, so it is my role to work with the team to ensure that changes do not have a negative impact on the successful delivery of the project.
What are the biggest rewards of the job? And the biggest challenges?
The chance to help children and young people is hugely motivating and rewarding. CLIC Sargent really does make a difference in local communities and it’s great to be a part of that.
For any project manager the challenge is to keep the project on time and on budget. But I think it is also important that, while we focus on delivering the project, we maintain our focus on delivering excellent services for children and young people with cancer.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
During my second year of university studies things were starting to get tough. My grandfather was in hospital at the time and on our last visit he simply said, ‘stick at it’.
What I took from that is to persevere and go after the things you really want. I think that has really paid off and helped me to find this role.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do the same job?
My advice would be to get as much experience as you can and don’t be afraid to change direction.
Gaining charity experience was so important for me, so I would encourage anyone to think about volunteering with a charity organisation. There are so many opportunities to get involved with organisations like CLIC Sargent.
What do you enjoy doing outside work?
I enjoy the usual things like spending time with my family and friends, going to the cinema and travelling. However, I have been kept busy in the last few months planning for my wedding which is in just a few days!
To support the Homes from Home Christmas Appeal with the Belfast Telegraph you can:
Text: CLIC04 £your amount to 70070
Or by post: Send a cheque made payable to CLIC Sargent to; Belfast Telegraph Appeal, CLIC Sargent, 3rd Floor, 31 Bruce Street, Belfast, BT27JD