Trustees' Week: Q&A with Louise Sykes
Louise Sykes joined Jacari’s board of trustees earlier this year. She originally volunteered with Jacari in the 1980s as a tutor. We asked her about her experience volunteering with Jacari both then and now.
1. When did you originally volunteer with Jacari?
I volunteered in 1985 and 1986.
2. Who was your pupil?
A 10 year old girl from a Bangladeshi family who lived near Donnington Bridge. Her father was disabled and her mother didn’t speak English, so their life was quite restricted. ‘Lessons’ very often turned into general chats and looking back I’m not sure how much tutoring was done, but we had a good time.
3. Can you tell us the most vivid memory of your time as a Jacari volunteer?
I can’t remember how it came about but one day the family thought it would be fun for me to try on a sari and everyone got involved. It’s hard enough for westerners to dress in a sari at any time, but try doing it over jeans and trainers!
4. What are you doing now?
I work in the finance team of a multinational company and for the last 8 years have been a Trustee of a small Indian children’s charity. In 2019 I went on a field trip to Kolkata and rural West Bengal. We met many very needy children, some with heart-breaking backstories, but their optimism and determination to take advantage of opportunities was awe-inspiring.
5. How has being a volunteer with Jacari influenced you later in life?
It opened my eyes to how differently other people live, but how essentially we are all the same. I think it also developed my sense of internationalism. After leaving university I lived abroad for nearly a decade and every day now I work together with people in many countries and continue to learn from different perspectives.
6. How did you end up joining Jacari’s board of trustees?
With so much else going on – children, work, pandemic – my student volunteering with Jacari had faded into the background, but was reignited when the alumni team at Corpus Christi College (prompted by an email from Natasha, Jacari’s Alumni Engagement Officer) asked former volunteers to share their experiences.
I was surprised and hugely pleased that Jacari was still active, particularly as recently borders seem to be being drawn up rather than pulled down. I was even more impressed that Jacari was celebrating its 65th anniversary! I hadn’t realised it had already been in existence for so long when I volunteered in the 1980s. I looked at the website, saw a request for additional Trustees and asked the team if they needed any help. Unbeknown to me the existing Finance Trustee had decided to step down, so (as an accountant) I had turned up at the right time and was very happy, though slightly nervous, to take the role. My fellow Trustees are an amazing, professional and talented group and I’m proud once again to be part of Jacari.