We sat down with Saz Willey, Chair of Care & Repair Cymru’s Board, to ask her why she joined the Board, what makes a good trustee and why is she so passionate about older people.

Q. What was your first encounter with Care & Repair?

My first encounter with Care & Repair was about 20 years ago. I was an Advisor Caseworker with Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), working out of health centres.

It was my third client ever, who I saw in her own home to help with her attendance allowance form. We were just chatting, and she said that what she was planning to do in the afternoon was to get up on a stool and fix a curtain that had fallen down. This was a lady with very poor mobility. I managed to get her to promise me that she would wait until I looked to see what I could do. I went back to the office. Alarm bells were ringing as she was already quite vulnerable and frail, it potentially was going to end very badly. I discovered Care & Repair in the Vale and they had a small handy persons service. They accepted a referral and within days went and put the curtain pole back up and did a few other bits. It was absolutely brilliant.

As I went on to manage various CABs and I always made sure we worked in partnership with Care & Repair.

Q. You are hugely passionate about helping older people, where did that come from?

I have always, since a young child, got on well with older people. Perhaps it was because I found them interesting, and they would listen to me.

Back when I went to University, I did Agricultural Economics, so our college was out in the sticks, and we lived in a little cottage.

The lady next door to us was 80 and a double widow. She was absolutely no-nonsense, fiercely independent, but she would always do whatever she could for others and, concerned that I was not eating properly, would invite me for a roast diner. I was unaware how poor her sight was until one day when I arrived early. She was still cooking, and I saw her check the heat of the electric rings by hovering her hand close to them. I realised she was virtually blind.

She should not have had to live like that. So, I can see the value of Care & Repair’s services.

Q. Why did you join Care & Repair Cymru’s Board of Trustees?

I wanted to do Board work and I had some experience in doing it previously. I knew that if I ever had time on my hands there were a couple of organisations I would be interested in, and Care & Repair was one of them. When the opportunity came up, seven years ago, I applied.

The more I have done the more I am convinced how brilliant it is. If I could turn back the clock, I wish the services would have been available to the people I knew – both professionally and personally.


Q. What do you think makes a good trustee?

You have to be curious, to want to learn more.

You must have the ability to listen and then reflect, and then a generosity of spirit to give back. It is not about how much money you donate, but about generosity with your skills and time.

I also think part of it is life experience which brings different perspectives. That is not a matter of age. You can have life experience and be young, on the other hand someone older may not really have breadth of experience.


Q. What advice would you give to other trustees?

There are no stupid questions.

Our board papers are honed but they can often be well over 100 pages, with a lot of detail. So, if trustees can query any numbers or details beforehand that helps the meeting.

I have attended so many board meetings of all sorts of organisations, either as staff member or as a board member. You see ones that work well and ones that do not. The later are where people just turn up and its more about putting it on their CV or ticking off a task. At those that work well everyone is engaged and included. There has to be a passion and a reason.


Q. What are the challenges of being a Care & Repair Cymru trustee?

The uncertainty. Dealing with project funding, because you know it is time limited.

I am extremely frustrated with one-year funding that we must spend so much time on. The really frustrating bit is, when you know that the service really makes a tangible difference, is efficient and effective and has a whole talent pool. then it is threatened with closure. That, from a trustee point of view is really difficult.


Q. Any other thoughts?

Old age is a privilege, and it should be cherished. But for those who are lonely, in poor health or poor housing or worried about money, enjoying later years is not only not a reality it is not a possibility. Addressing this is why I passionately believe in Care & Repair.

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