David Sarpong is a Milestones Trust Trustee and a Professor at Brunel University, London
“I’ve lived in Bristol for 20 years, studying and then working at the city’s University of the West of England (UWE). I heard about the possibility of becoming a Trustee at Milestones through a connection at work. I thought it sounded interesting, so I decided to apply.
“Milestones’ services are in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, and that appealed to me. As someone who has been given a lot by the city of Bristol, I thought it would be an opportunity to give something back. When I joined the Board at the start of 2021 I realised it’s not about me giving something back, it’s an opportunity for me to learn even more.
“When I first started going to Board meetings, my approach was to be like a watchful owl – the less I spoke, the more I heard. There was a lot for me to learn. Because of that I’ve joined almost every single committee, which has helped me to get a better understanding of the organisation as a whole, and how the various parts work together.
“The first time I visited one of our services was life-changing. It was so interesting to meet our staff and people we support. You go into the boardroom and discuss issues, but it’s very much theoretical. It’s so important to meet the people who will actually be impacted by the decisions we make. I really enjoyed visiting our services, and it made me feel much more of a part of Milestones.
“On these visits I met people who have worked for Milestones for 20 or even 30 years. These days it’s normal for people to move jobs a lot, so I found these staff members really inspiring. When I spoke to them I could really see that they enjoy working for Milestones, and that they truly care about the people we support.
“I’ve also found our senior executives highly impressive. They have acted with great professionalism and commitment to their responsibilities at what has been a very challenging time.
“And we have indeed had a challenging time. With prices rising, energy prices especially, balancing our responsibilities as a business with our values as a charity has not been easy. Recruitment is a big problem for our sector. We must find the right people, who are committed and ready to do the job, which makes recruitment even more difficult.
“Having said that, we have been steady, and we have handled the stormy weather well. We are constantly coming up with new ideas and thinking about how we can improve. For me, it’s been eye-opening, much more so than if we had been living through placid times where it was business as usual. It’s been a great learning curve.”