Anbreen Bi is determined to prise open the door for many more young trustees to make their mark in the charity sector.
She points out that just 3 per cent of charity trustees are under 30, just 8 per cent are from Black and Asian backgrounds and just 2.9 per cent are women of colour.
At 27 years of age, and a woman of colour who was the first in her family to make it to university, and recently recruited as a trustee of the relationships charity fastn, she is already making a difference by just putting herself forward.
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.
She is quick to dismiss any notion that a single-parent family was a disadvantage in itself. ‘My mum and our family is as good as any,’ she insists.
It is the quality of the relationships that made the difference and enabled her to find her feet and thrive at Cambridge University, despite feeling out of place at times.
‘There weren’t many people of my background – working class, BAME, having grown up relying on benefits – there,’ she remembers. ‘But I had family and friends just a call away. They spurred me on, kept me going.’
She was attracted to fastn in particular after meeting staff from the charity at the Trustee Fair organised for students of King’s College London by the university and its student union, KCLSU. It was part of the first ever Student Board Bank programme, delivered in partnership with Getting on Board, who help to match students and staff to local and national charities who are looking to draw on young people’s skills, enthusiasm and energy
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.
She 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 studied psychology as part of her medical degree and is currently undertaking a Masters in Psychiatric Research. She wants to apply these early career professional skills 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,’ she says, ‘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.’