Pick of the Month - April 2022

1 April 2022 | By Faye Edwards

As the days get longer, April is here and with it, we bring you our next monthly pick of inspiring individuals doing great work in the sector. This month, we spoke to the Head of Development at a cutting-edge arts centre, the founder of a social enterprise empowering communities with manual washing machines, a Chief Executive championing Antarctic heritage for all and a Trustee of a charity offering respite to carers of dementia patients.


Fellow of the Month – Liz Hughes, Cambridge Junction

Liz Hughes is Head of Development at Cambridge Junction, an arts centre located in the South-West of Cambridge that has become the welcoming home of original arts, entertainment and creativity, central to the cultural life of the city.Cambridge Junction encompasses the performing arts, music, comedy, club nights, community and creative learning projects and is committed to art and entertainment that is up-coming, youthful and cutting-edge.

Liz told us about her day-to-day role within the organisation:

“Together with my colleague we cover the full ‘fundraising mix’, working closely with the marketing, box office, programming and creative learning teams. So my work is richly diverse, from liaising with local charities and food hubs, through to writing bids for six figure sums from trusts and foundations. I love the variety and it is a privilege to work across the full complement of activity Cambridge Junction presents.”


We were interested to know how the pandemic has impacted Cambridge Junction and its work and how the team have adapted since. Liz said:


“Everybody has been affected by the pandemic in so many ways. It is too early for us to fully understand the enduring impact. However, two years on from the first lockdown we are seeing a strong return to live performance by our audiences, with music and comedy programming doing especially well, but our ticket sales are not yet back to pre-pandemic levels.”


Reflecting on the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Senior Fellowship, Liz said:


“I have worked in arts fundraising since the late 1990s, but never headed up a fundraising team before joining Cambridge Junction. The Senior Fellowship has been invaluable as it has given me the opportunity to learn from my talented peers, the fantastic speakers we have had access to and the professionals and tutors giving masterclasses for the programme. The bespoke training and mentoring have bolstered this further. Given this time and support I have been able to reflect on my work and to become a stronger fundraiser.”


Passionate about increasing the range of opportunities available to people and helping to unlock the resources needed to bring potential partners together to make wondrous things happen, Liz summarised the long-term goal for Cambridge Junction:


“Cambridge Junction has worked with young people with complex needs over the last ten years, we are looking to build on what we have learned and share this knowledge and practice with others working in education and the arts. Ultimately, we would like to be recognised as a centre of excellence in this area of work. Removing barriers to cultural activity and creating opportunities for those who may benefit from them most has never felt more important, especially with the arts less visible in curriculum.”


You can keep up with Liz and her work at Cambridge Junction on Twitter at @CambJunction


Social Entrepreneur of the Month – Navjot Sawhney, The Washing Machine Project

Navjot Sawhney is the Founder of The Washing Machine Project, an organisation alleviating the burden of unpaid labour, empowering people with the time to take charge over their lives and engineering a more sustainable future. 


With 70% of the World’s population without access to an electric washing machine and water supplies, often people have no choice but to wash their clothes by hand – a time and water consuming task. At The Washing Machine Project, Nav and his team have developed an off-grid, manual washing machine that saves 60-70% of time and 50% of water, for people in low-income and displaced communities.


Nav explains what led him to launch The Washing Machine Project: 


“I studied aerospace and joined one of the world's best graduate programmes. I realised that every good bit of engineering is making a vacuum cleaner for a rich person. I quit my job and moved to rural South India, where I made efficient clean cook stoves. That’s when I met my next-door neighbour, Divya. Divya spent 20 hours a week washing her clothes by hand for her entire family so I promised her a manual washing machine. That’s how our story began, and The Washing Machine Project was born.”


Now, the organisation is preparing 30 of its ‘Divya 1.5’ model machines to be sent to Mamrashan Refugee Camp based in Iraq with the support of Care International. This will positively impact 300 people, saving up to 750 hours annually per household and later, the team will be fulfilling orders to send to similar camps in Jordan. To continue its work to empower communities with manual washers, The Washing Machine Project has set up a fundraiser which so far, has raised just over £61,000 of the £120,000 goal.


Reflecting on his work with refugees, Nav says: 


“These refugees that we help have so much pride, so much dignity. They don't want handouts. They don't want anything for free. They want opportunities, they want jobs, and they want to go back home. We will do everything we can to make it possible or to make the process easier.”


Finally, Nav summarises the long-term vision for The Washing Machine Project: 


“Our vision is to create a World-leading organisation that brings together innovation, research and development to solve the World's most pressing humanitarian and development challenges. Whether it's washing machines, air conditioning or refrigeration, we want to do it all. We want to become the Dyson of the Humanitarian world.”


Keep up to date with Navjot’s incredible work at The Washing Machine Project on Twitter @thewashorg


Charity Leader of the Month – Camilla Nichol, UK Antarctic Heritage Trust

Camilla Nichol is Chief Executive at the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, a charity responsible for the preservation of historic sites on the Antarctic Peninsula and delivering a public programme to engage and inspire people with stories of human endeavour in Antarctica.


Camilla told us what her role within the organisation involves:


“As CEO, I am responsible for leading the organisation to deliver Antarctic operations, a full conservation programme, a public programme and that essential fundraising. Key to my role is building strong partnerships with stakeholders in the UK and internationally and advocating for the ongoing protection of Antarctica and its heritage.”


With most of its activity based in Antarctica, we spoke to Camilla about how the Trust has adapted post-pandemic:


“The pandemic has been particularly devastating to our work.  A good proportion of our income derives from the retail activity at Port Lockroy and with the global lockdown, that was cut off immediately. However, we turned this into an opportunity to connect more closely with supporters, grow our donor base and increase our fundraised income and engagement. We are building from this and using all these new ways to connect with audiences and supporters to bring them on this journey with us, in ways we weren’t able to previously. We are looking forward to re-establishing our operations at Port Lockroy and welcoming visitors once more, and also deploying a field team to pick up the conservation programme.”


We asked Camilla what she is passionate about seeing change in the sector, she said:


“I think the biggest challenge we all still face is the continued lack of diversity. We are all attempting to improve this in various ways, but we need a step change and that comes from being open. As a LGBTQ+ leader myself, it might not be immediately obvious why that even matters in my sector, but the more open we are about our diversity the more likely it might be we can inspire the change.”


Finally, Camilla had some final advice for prospective CEO’s: 


“Becoming a Chief Executive is a big step, but I would always say go in with your ears open, be bold in your vision and bring everyone along with you. Use your personality, be yourself and connect with other CEOs in any way you can.”


Check out the amazing work that Camilla and her team are doing on Twitter at @AntarcticHT


Trustee of the Month – Lauren Di Pietro

Lauren Di Pietro is a Trustee for CAMEO, a charity providing respite for the carers of people suffering with dementia in the Borough of Spelthorne. CAMEO supports individuals at its day centres, by providing a weekly programme of activities for those suffering with the condition. Its services include arranging outings, organising stimulating activities and offering companionship for confused people as well as providing well-needed support and additional advice for their carers.


It was her wealth of knowledge in dementia and carers respite which led Lauren to apply for the Trustee position advertised at CAMEO day centres. 


Reflecting on her recent governance practice, Lauren said:


“I joined as a trustee during COVID-19, therefore I don't have any experience of governance pre-pandemic. Though I would say that I feel the pandemic has assured Trustees that remote living/working/volunteering is possible through virtual meetings which is how we communicate now, enabling us to widen our reach for volunteers.”


Lauren offered her advice to anyone considering becoming a charity Trustee:


“I would certainly advise taking Cause4’s training course as it was very insightful into the role and gave some good practical examples. I would also say don't be afraid to ask questions - there is no such thing as a silly question and it's important to fully understand the role.”


Lauren’s reason for becoming a Trustee for CAMEO was to have the opportunity to share her knowledge in a meaningful way. We asked Lauren what the highlight of her work in governance has been to date: 


“The highlight of my work is seeing my ideas and knowledge being used in a practical way to inform decisions of how the charity operates.”


See more about CAMEO’s work on Twitter at @CAMEODAYCENTRES

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