This year we are very sad to say goodbye to our founding Chair of Trustees, Chris Underhill MBE. Chris has been with us from the start of our Carers Worldwide journey and has contributed so much along the way. We have benefited enormously from the input and support that Chris has given us and he will be sorely missed when he leaves the Board of Trustees in July this year.
In this #HumansCare story we find out more about Chris, how he’s seen Carers Worldwide change over the past nine years and his hopes for the future of the organisation.
Tell us a bit about yourself, Chris. What is your background? Why are you so passionate about carers and the work that Carers Worldwide does?
I started life as a VSO volunteer serving in Zambia with my young wife. This gave us the travel bug but more seriously an intense interest in development. In time I created a number of organisations that worked in the service of disabled people and also folk with serious mental health issues. It was whilst running these endeavours that Anil, Ruth and I first connected. So, with a professional concern for mental health in developing countries it was only natural that I would take an interest in the idea conceived of by Anil that the carers of mentally ill people and disabled persons should also be part of the greater picture. They too had to survive, to thrive, and thus my interest in carers was born.
What made you want to be a Trustee for CW?
I have known Anil and Ruth for many years and we’ve had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects over that time. So, I was very touched when they invited me to become the Chair of Trustees when they started Carers Worldwide.
How has your experience of being Chair of Trustees for the past nine years been?
First of all, I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being Chair of the Board of Carers Worldwide. We’ve had some difficult moments, particularly with regard to funding in the early days, but we all held our nerve and with a considerable amount of hard work we have pulled through. So it’s been an experience of working as a team, drawing upon the particular skills of each Trustee and member of staff in turn, and supporting each other as best as we have been able to.
How have you seen Carers Worldwide change over the past nine years?
Over the past nine years Carers Worldwide has changed enormously in terms of its reach and overall project load. We now count the family carers we support in the thousands, not the hundreds, and we can see how important the work is for the families, as much as it is for individual carers. The organisation has always been pretty professional in the way it’s done its work, but even this has improved in the time we’ve been together, which has been tremendous to see.
What are you proudest of during your term as a Trustee?
There are several things that I am proud of. First off, as founding Chair I am just delighted that we have become so well established and that we are now incredibly well reputed, both in our countries of operation, as well as in Europe and the UK.
At a granular level, I’m really proud of the income generation achievements that many of the family carers we work with, mostly women, in India, Nepal and Bangladesh are now able to take advantage of. I’m also delighted with the fact that we have a lively and well tested, model, the Carers Worldwide model which can be applied, a little like a template, to many community settings.
How essential do you think a Global Carers Movement is in achieving recognition and support for carers?
I think this is a tremendously important idea and there is no doubt in my mind that a Global Carers Movement is a very important component in the long-term recognition and support for family carers.
What are your hopes for Carers Worldwide?
Finally, obviously as the founding Chair and the retiring Chair, I wish Carers Worldwide all the best for the future. More specifically I think it is really important that family carers continue to benefit from the professional standard of work that Anil and his team bring to the field, be it at ground level or in the context of strategy.