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Encouraging a more diverse charity sector

MSc student Anbreen Bi is determined to open the door for many more young trustees to make their mark in the charity sector. Anbreen became a trustee of relationships charity fastn after joining King’s Board Bank programme, which connects organisations in our local communities that are looking for trustees with the skills and experience of our students, staff and alumni.

According to charity Getting on Board, just three per cent of charity trustees are under 30, eight per cent are from Black and Asian backgrounds and less than three per cent are women of colour.

For Anbreen Bi, a master’s student in Psychiatric Research at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, having a place at the board table is not enough. She is driven by a passion to ‘fight for social justice’ because she knows first-hand what it is to have to struggle to get on.

Anbreen grew up with her sister in a single-parent family in Birmingham and remembers all too well the support her family gained from charities, including foodbanks.

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As the first person in her family to go to university, Anbreen studied medicine at the University of Cambridge, before joining King’s to start a master’s in Psychiatric Research.

It is the quality of the relationships that made the difference and enabled her to find her feet and thrive at Cambridge, despite feeling out of place at times.

‘There weren’t many people of my background – working class, BAME, having grown up relying on benefits,’ she remembers. ‘But I had family and friends just a call away. They spurred me on, kept me going.’

Anbreen first met staff from fastn at the Board Bank trustee fair. This event was organised in partnership with KCLSU and local charity Getting on Board, to match students and staff with local and national charities who are looking to draw on young people’s skills, enthusiasm, and energy.

Working in King’s local communities, fastn believes that investing in healthy, dependable and nurturing relationships from an early age can help people thrive throughout life.

It is an approach that resonated with Anbreen. For her, positive relationships are about ‘being open with people you trust, not being judgemental, but listening, respecting each other and offering reciprocal support. I am invested in my family and friends’ growth and I know they are invested in mine.’

Her approach to life also means creating opportunities for others. She has worked with charities since the age of 16 and now also works with a social mobility organisation supporting people to break through barriers to succeed.

Anbreen says that her own experiences are of real value in themselves to any charity wanting to grow and become more representative of the society it serves. ‘I want to make sure that voices like mine are heard and encourage others to make their voices heard too,’ she says.

She also wants to apply her early career professional skills from her background in medicine and mental health in the boardroom, where positive relationships between trustees and staff help a charity deliver for its beneficiaries.

Anbreen is ambitious for the charity sector but also recognises that volunteering to be a trustee will help her develop new skills.

She says: ‘I have never sat on a board and it is a great opportunity to learn more about finance, governance and build on existing skills like communication and teamwork that will support me in my future career.’

More than anything, I want to open the door for other people with my experiences to join a charity and make a real difference to people’s lives.– Anbreen Bi, MSc Psychiatric Research and student Board Bank participant

Student Board Bank is now open for 2021, in partnership with KCLSU. Find out how to start your journey to trusteeship.

Future Board Bank programmes for King’s are currently in development. Sign up to the Board Bank mailing list to receive updates, or find out more about other ways that King’s is working with local authorities, local organisations and community leaders to develop collaborative approaches to our shared challenges on the #KingsLocal webpage.

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