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Meet Amelia Ireland

Megan Raybould

09 September 2020

Meet Amelia Ireland, trustee at the Holocaust Educational Trust. Read her story to find out why she became a trustee and her tips for young people joining boards.

Amelia Ireland

West Midlands Ambassador

Young Trustees Movement Ambassador

Amelia is a Trustee of the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET). She first became involved in the organisation during Sixth Form when I completed their Lessons from Auschwitz Project. Amelia is currently the Young Trustees Movement Ambassador in the West Midlands.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a trustee, how did you get to this point?

I’m a Trustee of the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET), an organisation I first became involved with during Sixth Form when I completed their Lessons from Auschwitz Project and had the privilege of hearing from Holocaust survivor, Kitty Hart-Moxon OBE. Through my visit to Auschwitz, I learned about the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance, before undertaking a project to share what I had learned with my school and local community. I was subsequently appointed as one of the Trust’s Regional Ambassadors which has involved organising Holocaust Memorial Day events at my university, as well as opportunities to study at Yad Vashem and hear from eminent historians at the annual Ambassador Conference.

Last year I saw that HET were recruiting for new trustees, but after reading the job description, and having little governance experience beyond committee roles in university societies, I initially decided I not to apply. However, with encouragement from HET’s Ambassador Programme Manager and a supportive conversation with the Chief of Staff, I was able to see the unique experience that I could bring. Consequently, I applied for the role, had an interview with the Chair and another Trustee, and was invited to join the Board in May 2019.

What’s your favourite part about your trustee role?

There have been many highlights in my short time as a Trustee already, such as meeting with the Secretary of State for Education last summer, to discuss our programmes, and working with inspiring Holocaust survivors. However, the best part of my role is getting to work with such a skilled, driven and dedicated team of staff. As an Ambassador for the Trust I have always seen their excellent output of events, programmes and resources, but as a Trustee I have gained a real appreciation of just how much hard work goes on behind the scenes to ensure success. In light of Covid-19 in particular, I have been so impressed by the team’s tireless efforts to adapt, for example transforming our Ambassador Conference into a successful series of engaging online events.

Why did you decide you wanted to be a trustee? And, how did you first hear about what a trustee was (lots of young people don’t know)?

My role as a Regional Ambassador for the Holocaust Educational Trust is coming to an end, whilst increasing levels of racism and the worrying rise of antisemitism in recent years reminds us of the urgency and importance of the work led by organisations like HET, therefore I was eager to extend my involvement with the charity by taking on a new role.

Through previous volunteering I had been vaguely aware of how charities are governed, but the Charity Commission’s The Essential Trustee guidance was helpful in outlining the exact legal duties of a Trustee. Speaking to staff at HET also helped me to understand the responsibilities of the role and to realise that it would be a great opportunity to harness my skills, experience and insight to support the organisation in a meaningful way.

What’s been your greatest challenge in your role as a trustee to date?

The greatest challenge I have faced as a Trustee has definitely been imposter syndrome. My Board is full of distinguished people with established careers and decades of experience which can sometimes feel intimidating, especially whilst also being the youngest person in the room. There have certainly been moments where I have felt that I am not qualified enough to be there, or don’t have anything valuable to add to discussions, but I am learning to remind myself that I have a unique insight and experience of the charity’s programmes, and that I am the only Trustee who can bring this to the boardroom. Over time this has given me the confidence to speak up more and share my views in meetings, and the positive response this has received from the Board has reassured me that I am adding value to the charity and has helped to increase my self-belief.

What’s the biggest misconception there is about young trusteeship?

I think that one of the biggest misconceptions about young trusteeship is the assumption that recruiting a young person as a Trustee automatically diversifies a Board. But the presence of a young person in the boardroom alone is not enough unless there is also an inclusive culture where that young person feels welcome and supported to make a meaningful contribution. Often young trustees don’t have extensive governance or trustee experience, so organisations need to be willing to invest in their potential and offer the training and support that they need. It is also important to note that Board diversity is not only about age, but encompasses a range of factors such as gender, ethnicity and geography.

Any tips for other young people looking for trusteeships or starting out as a young trustee?

My advice to other young people starting out as a trustee is to seek out a support network, whether that’s trustees or staff within your organisation or someone externally, and to not be afraid to ask questions if there is something you don’t understand. I’m really fortunate to have staff members who are always willing to make time in their busy schedules to speak to me, answer my questions and explain things I don’t understand, which helps me to feel much more confident in Board meetings. I also have a mentor who supports me in thinking about my longer-term strategy and working towards my goals.

I’d also recommend joining the Young Trustees Movement Digital Hub, if you haven’t already, where you can connect with other Young Trustees across the country and find peer support. Likewise, if you’re an aspiring young trustee you can find lots of information, advice and opportunities on the Digital Hub.

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