In this #HumansCare story we are talking to Sarah Ridley. Sarah has been a Carers Worldwide Trustee since 2013, joining just a year after we started, and has just taken on the role of Vice Chair.
Find out more about what makes her passionate about caring, what made her want to be a part of the Carers Worldwide journey, what she brings to our team and her hopes for carers in the future.
Hi! Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I have been shaped by my family’s experiences and values. My dad’s family were coal miners on Wearside. My mum’s father was a shepherd in rural Northumberland. Aged 11, my parents each passed the national exam that enabled them to continue their schooling–a privilege not available to their family members who did not pass the test. This gave my parents opportunities that led to them eventually having public service roles across the UK, USA and Asia and ultimately enabled me to explore and learn with them.
I am fortunate to have had a diverse career having worked for a local charity in rural Sri Lanka; led cultural education programmes at the national museums for the United States; assessed outreach grants on behalf of Presidents Clinton and Bush; and led one of the UK’s largest grantmakers. Most recently I oversaw The London Marathon Charitable Trust, whose trading subsidiary puts on the London Marathon, and which supports influential health and wellbeing initiatives. A thread that unites my career is my commitment to supporting those on the margins of society and to working for legislative change and practical support.
What makes caring and carer wellbeing such an important issue for you?
I am part of the support network for a family member who has dementia. Like many others, I have had to juggle caring responsibilities with work, and when care support has collapsed, so has my ability to work at full capacity. It is unsurprising that carers have high rates of depression, anxiety and loneliness, often struggle financially and feel forgotten by society. This is an issue that politicians are beginning to talk about, but I think we are going to need a revolution in the way we provide care to address the problems.
Why did you want to be a part of Carers Worldwide?
My experiences in rural Asia taught me that support for carers in low- and middle-income countries is extremely limited indeed. At the heart of the problem is the lack of recognition of the role and needs of carers at a local, regional and national level.
The Carers Worldwide model is such a smart and effective way to maximise positive change for carers. The charity serves as a vital catalyst, working with existing NGOs and governmental structures to reshape attitudes towards carers. This advocacy work creates “light bulb moments” that enable individuals and organisations to engage and support carers. Once I’d learned about the Carers Worldwide model, I immediately offered to help in any way that I could.
You’ve been with Carers Worldwide for eight years – what has been your proudest moment in your time with us?
I am most proud of advocacy work that has seen state legislation changed so that for the first time the rights of carers are recognized. Advocacy is invisible work that requires extensive time meeting with government officials and leaders of NGOs. It isn’t “sexy”, and is hard to raise funds to support, but once laws are changed the lives of thousands of carers can be transformed forever.
What do you personally bring to Carers Worldwide and now, the role of Vice Chair?
I am passionate about the rights of carers. I use my experience of governance and strategy to make certain that Carers Worldwide uses its resources effectively to maximise the positive impact for carers. In addition, I seek to ensure that we have a well-functioning team and that we are mindful of the imperative to support the wellbeing of staff who give so much of their time and energy to support the needs of carers.
How essential do you think a Global Carers’ Movement is in achieving recognition and support for carers?
In my view it is essential that we bring about systemic change in the work of governments, charities and other agencies so that they recognise and respond to the needs of carers. The voices of carers are vital in securing the recognition and support they deserve.
What are your ultimate hopes for carers in the future?
I hope that, in the future, no one need struggle like so many carers do today. We must create a world in which the needs of every carer are routinely met to achieve physical, emotional, economic and social wellbeing for everyone.
And finally, what one thing would you take with you to a desert island?!
A shower (or a conveniently located waterfall!) I have learned that I can confront almost any challenge (physical or emotional) if I know that I can reward myself with a restorative shower/splash in a waterfall at the end of the day.