21 May 2018  |  Cat Vizor

The blog of a Charity Chief Officer

Growing a successful charity has been a challenge. I definitely couldn’t have done it on my own – I stood on the strong shoulders of my Mum who planted the seed way back in 1996. Then there have been the many amazing people who have supported along the way.

I wanted to start this blog for a number of reasons but the main aim is inherent to ESTEEEM’s core, promoting well-being.

I consider myself a happy person and I reckon much of my feeling good is due to altruism – putting other people’s needs before your own. I have had my fair share of struggles and certainly running ESTEEM has been no easy feat, but the good feeling you get is a bit addictive! The Mental Health Foundation reported “The vast majority [of 2037 people] said that they felt good after being kind (87%) and that being kind had a positive influence on their health (80%).”[1]

I hope to share through this blog some of the sadness’s and successes of ESTEEM’s life since I took over as Chief Officer (a title I would like to improve on – any ideas welcome!) eight years ago. I hope that it might help for the wider world to know what issues young people are facing, those in Sussex and sometimes further afield as far as other European countries, as well as how difficult it can be trying to offer enough support as a small voluntary organisation.

ESTEEM has doubled its annual turnover nearly year on year, from £6000 to £79,000 in the last six years. We survived hand-to-mouth until, with the help of two very good friends & colleagues, hard work paid off and we were successful in our application to The National Lottery, with a Reaching Communities grant of £340,000 for 4 years of funding. That started in October 2017 and ESTEEM was finally able to employ a full-time Project Manager, a part time Youth Worker and Administration support. I remember getting the news as I was arriving into Palma after a Transatlantic yacht delivery while working as a chef (which I supplemented my charity income with throughout my time as CO). I did have to go into the galley and have a little cry to myself when I heard the answerphone message – I can’t tell you how relieved I felt!

ESTEEM’s base at The Old School House, six months on from receiving our grant, is so different to before. We’re more organised, we look good (our office has recently been refitted with WSC Council grant so we could support more young adults) and there is a general buzz in the atmosphere. We have about thirty young adults who either volunteer to help run ESTEEM or just pop in and out as and when they need us. Having a brilliant staff team to work with, who really understand what ESTEEM is all about, is just an amazing feeling. I can finally say I’m proud to be The Chief Officer of ESTEEM and I’m excited about things to come.

Hopefully there will be some policy makers who can also see what benefits there are to supporting young people in our society and more money will be invested into youth services. Until then, ESTEEM’s next phase will be to shout louder about what we’re doing, broadening our involvement in the community, promoting integration, opportunity and encouraging people to help each other.