Just do it: Alice Rath on volunteering and trusteeship

Alice Rath

Reach volunteer Tim Langham interviews Alice Rath about her transformative and impactful experience as a volunteer and now as the youngest trustee on the Board at Crohn's & Colitis UK.

'I would say just do it.' We are talking to Alice Rath, not a famous sports brand. At 22, Alice is the youngest trustee on the board of Crohn’s & Colitis UK  and we are talking volunteering. 'I think it’s great for your career. I think it’s great for your development. You can get such rich and valuable experience from it.' 

Alice is open and confident. The living embodiment of that famous brand's ‘can do’ spirit. From living with her own debilitating health challenges, to applying her skills as a digital marketing specialist to the digital challenges faced by charities such as Baggy Trousers (with a rather racy rallying cry, Have the GUTS to check your....), she's always on message to a social media savvy generation.

'I kind of think of myself as an ally to those with Crohn’s & Colitis, even though I don’t share that diagnosis with them, we have some similar symptoms. And it helps that I am a user of social media and because it’s my career,' says Alice.

Whilst acknowledging the experience of older trustees in areas such as governance she can 'add more value by questioning around things digital, around social media, the risks involved there.' She highlights the UK Charity Digital Index 2019 report as a wake up call, 'You really need to have your chief executive and your directors championing digital and being able to understand how it can benefit your chariity,' she argues.

I was quite unwell when I was growing up…

Alice’s early life was spent in and out of Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) with an undiagnosed gastroenterological condition. 'When I was a teenager, dealing with all the other things teenagers deal with on top of that, if I am going to be honest, I felt very sorry for myself,' she says. 'I understand the reasons why I felt that way, but then I would go to the hospital and just see all the other things people were dealing with and that kind of grounded me.' 

Her journey as a volunteer began at GOSH where she joined their Young Persons Forum and then became one of the hospitals ambassadors. She reflects, 'I used to be very nervous and very shy'. But this formative experience built her confidence. She learned how to talk to decision makers, becoming a hospital governor and make presentations, like giving a speech, on behalf of the hospital, to the House of Lords. 

Twelve years and fifteen operations later, she’s undergone a life affirming journey that has been transformative. 'As I matured I realised that this is something I can use…without all these experiences I wouldn’t have been able to make the most of all these amazing voluntary opportunities and I wouldn’t be where I am today…incredible things I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise. Everything happens for a reason.'

I kind of think of myself as an ally to those with Crohn’s & Colitis, even though I don’t share that diagnosis with them, we have some similar symptoms. It helps that I am a user of social media and because it’s my career.

Which brings us full circle to the story of how she became a trustee with Crohn’s & Colitis UK. 'I assumed it would be something I would do later in my career,' she says. 'Then I discovered the young trustee movement…and that made me realise that maybe I did have some value to a charity.” So she created a profile and uploaded her CV on Reach Volunteering’s website which led to an initial interview with another charity. When that didn't go any further,she was 'a bit disheartened'.

‘Dear AliceR…’

 A week later an email appeared from John at TrusteeWorks at Reach. ‘Dear AliceR…we are currently working with Crohn's and Colitis UK. Having viewed your profile I thought that this role may be of interest to you.’ The role was close to her home, it ticked a lot of boxes and the fact that Reach got in touch with her was 'a really great sign.' The rest is history and, as she says, 'everything happens for a reason.'

In Greek mythology the Goddess Nike represented speed, strength and victory. In this case, arguably, Reach symbolised the ‘speed’ in the timely response, Alice Rath undoubtedly has the ‘strength’ of character and Crohn's and Colitis UK has secured the ‘victory’ by finding a young trustee who is a perfect fit. Or maybe it can all be summed up with the words ‘just do it’. 

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