Leading Lights mentor Sophie Carr braves the high seas!

Sophie shares her experience of mentoring as part of the Leading Lights project in May this year.

Year of Saying Yes: Part 1

Unbeknown to me at the time, last October started a year of saying “yes” to opportunities that frankly terrify me.  I honestly have no idea why, when Monika introduced me to the Leading Lights asking if I’d like to go sailing on a proper sailboat for a week I said “yes please!” because the truth is I was completely terrified of sailing and suffer with horrendous sea sickness.The thing is, once you’ve said yes to joining in, pulling out is a lot harder.  When I told people what I’d signed up to, all my loved ones pretty much looked at me with bemused terror – they knew all too well what I’m like with being on the water.  I calmed myself by telling myself that I’d get super fit before I went and learn lots about boats.  What actually happened was I stuck my head in the sand about what was going to happen, so in reality, I did neither.Everything came into focus when on the first May bank holiday I arrived at Southampton with my trusty rucksack in tow, and my out of office saying:I’m off sailing around the world!

Well not quite around the world – more from Southampton to Gosport with the Leading Lights voyage, but for someone who has spent most of her life avoiding being in a boat this is a big thing.  That said, thanks for contacting me but until the 13th May, I’ll be on the water, looking for dolphins.  This means I won’t be accessing my emails as I’m sailing on a ship with a sail so I’ve no idea if there will be any wifi (hope not) or any phone signal.  So if there is something that really needs my attention then please contact Sam and she’ll do her best to help.   Once I’m back I’ll respond as soon as my land legs are back – and I’ve had a shower.

I took some comfort that I was quite literally in the same boat as all the other girls who were taking part and put my hands in the very lovely (and competent) crew and mentors.  Bays Consulting was put in the hands of Abbie and Sam (equally lovely and competent).

So what happened when we went sailing? Truthfully it was amazing.  It’s been a long time since I was (a) that nervous; (b) only had to focus on the task in hand and (c) didn’t have to make any decisions!  What that meant in practice was that for a whole week I didn’t have to hold multiple conversations or project status’ in my head, nor sit for hours at a computer.  Literally, all the life decisions had been made as well – the menu was sorted (all amazingly yummy) and the food was on-board, the team decided where we’d go and I had a place to sleep.

So what did I do?  Well the boat sailed through the day, sometimes in the dusk and night.  I learned that it’s the motion of engines that make me feel really seasick, when it was under sail, I was able to cope far better.  In fact, I’m really rather proud of myself for not being at all sick.  Admittedly I was obsessive about taking anti-sickness tablets but in the Force 6, I am really rather proud of the fact I managed to get fish fingers into an oven, open up some wraps and hack at cucumber and cherry tomatoes.  I’d like to say the salad was regularly chopped, but hacked is a far more accurate description.  No-one seemed to mind the lack of symmetrical chopping.   The only day we didn’t sail was when the weather became really rather choppy – very sensibly the decision was taken to learn competent crew skills and I’m much better at knot tying than I was!

I remembered that what it was like to be part of a developing team again.  All the crew were fantastic and quite literally showed you how to handle the ropes (and sails, stairs, waterproofs….) and to watch two sets of students who had never met before come together into a cohesive team that could navigate, steer and raise sails was genuinely inspirational.  I was fortunate enough to be a mentor for one of the teams on-board, but what that actually meant was listening to the stories of these bright, articulate young women with an incredible array of achievements, hopes and aspirations.  I’m not sure what I gave back to them, other than listening and telling them the benefits of looking for a job which you really, really love.

On a personal level, I re-learned why it’s important to eat properly, sleep and get out into the fresh air.  All obvious things, but so easy to forget when sitting at a computer.  I remembered I am capable of learning completely new skills (such as “boat speak”) and that washing up can be ridiculous amounts of fun (onboard Prolific it seems standard for the washing up to involve more water leaving the bowl than necessarily staying in it).

I gained an incredible amount by joining the voyage – I came back to work more refreshed than I can remember being in a very long time, with lots of ideas about how we can develop the company to keep growing and moving forwards.  I also remembered that to be an effective director, I’ve got to make sure I keep looking at things from different perspectives, so saying “yes” to scary things is a good idea.  As is getting away from my desk and sleeping properly.

So if you’re wondering how you can break the routine you’re in, get out of your comfort zone and help an amazing charity, I can heartily recommend sailing with Leading Lights.  Just make sure you get the anti-seasickness tables ready….

By | Jun

James is the Chief Executive officer of Ormiston Trust. He has worked as an organisation advisor in the private, public and voluntary sectors, helping organisations to grow sustainably over the medium to long term. He has helped charities for over 20 years in the fields of strategic development, partnership setup, programme and project delivery.

Poppy is the Youth Engagement and Partnership Officer at Ormiston Trust, responsible for coordinating our team of Young Advisors and developing effective working relationships with external organisations. She is currently studying ‘Politics, International Studies and Global Sustainable Development’ at Warwick University and previously worked as Board Advisor for a non-profit youth-focused organisation in Croydon. She has experience in activism work – attending COP26 with environmental education company Force of Nature and had been a member of the UK Youth Parliament for many years, speaking on environmental issues in the House of Commons for its ‘Make Your Mark’ campaign.

Genéa is the Communications and Events Coordinator at Ormiston Trust. She plays an integral role in overseeing the communications and media strategy – along with leading the content development for internal and external comms and PR across the Trust and the #WeWill programme. As well as supporting all event planning across campaigns, including the delivery of comms workshops with the Youth Advisory Council. 

She has worked predominantly in broadcasting PR, comms and editorial and now works as a narrative designer alongside her work since completing her MA in Narrative Environments at Central Saint Martins. 

Fiona is the Grants Assistant at Ormiston Trust and in her role she supports the Grants team. Previously, she worked in the City for 10 years, firstly as a dealer on the floor of the London Stock Exchange and then as an equity salestrader.  

Samia is a business and ICT Teacher with over 20 years of leadership experience in Education, working with leaders from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 5. Her experience has ranged from working as an Acting Head Teacher to a Deputy for an Education Trust. Some of the key highlights from her education career have included building schools and setting up education provisions, including a teaching school, and winning several National awards. Samia is passionate about ensuring the young people in her care have the best possible experience and has always led by example by sending her own children to the schools she has been a part of.

Ray leads the youth engagement, partnerships and fundraising work streams at Ormiston Trust, in particular having strategic oversight of how we as an organisation can embed the voices of our young people in everything we do, and how we can work with partner organisations to maximise shared outcomes and opportunities.

His background is in community project development and funding, having worked with charities, schools, and local authorities in East Anglia to develop a plethora of projects including primary-secondary school transition, award-winning youth amateur theatre, social prescribing in rural GP practices, and youth commissioning boards, for which he was recognised as a Prime Minister’s Point of Light.

Ray is a global health and medicine graduate, alongside his work at Ormiston, he is a hospital doctor and public health academic. He is also an #iWill Ambassador and national #iWill Partnership Board member.

Anne is Finance Manager at Ormiston Trust and has worked for Ormiston Trust for over 30 years, overseeing the property portfolio and asset management. She combines her work at the Trust with voluntary community work and has raised thousands of pounds to enhance leisure and education opportunities for young people in disadvantaged communities. 

Karlene is Finance Manager at Ormiston Trust and has been handling the Financial Management of Ormiston Trust since 2014. Her background is in Financial Services with 20 years working in the industry and she has a passion for systems, processes and spreadsheets to enable good finance management. 

Aneela is the Head of Education at Ormiston Trust. Prior to joining Ormiston Trust, she was Head of Professional Development and School Improvement at Beaconhouse Group, overseeing the professional development of over 8000 teachers and implementing systems for school improvement across 200 international schools, in the Southeast region. Prior to this, she worked at Universities in the UAE, where she taught on the Bachelor of Education and Diploma programmes, and previous to this she was a Lead Advisor for Nord Anglia Education services, working with head teachers and principals to raise educational standards across schools in Abu Dhabi.

Melissa is a Programme Management Officer at Ormiston Trust. In her role she supports the #WeWill programme management, and works closely with the monitoring & evaluation, social action toolkit & skills, and youth engagement teams. She completed her undergraduate degree in International Development at the University of Sussex, and her postgraduate degree in Global Health and Development at UCL. Over the last eight years, she has dedicated much of her time to working with non-profit organisations in the UK, Nigeria, China, and Tanzania.