My years as a Focus Birmingham Trustee – What this has meant for me

It has been both a privilege and a pleasure to be a Focus Trustee.

Focus Birmingham is of course the independent local charity that provides information, advice, support and care for people with visual impairment and complex needs.

When I was first approached to become a trustee, I was very keen, as I was already aware of Focus and some of the work it carried out.  However, once I joined the charity, it became apparent to me, that Focus provided considerably more excellent and wide-ranging services than I had previously been aware of, and therefore the importance of the trustee role.

Marie Tsaloumas MB BS FRCOphth - Focus Trustee

Further research into my role as a trustee, made me aware of the significant responsibility that I had undertaken.  All trustees of a charity have a general role, to ensure that all decisions and actions taken, put the needs of the charity’s beneficiaries first.  It was also essential that my fellow trustees and I, made sure that the charity was carrying out the purposes for which it was set up. In addition, in my role as a trustee it was important to ensure the safeguard of the charity's assets – both physical assets, and intangible ones, such as its reputation and the wellbeing of it staff.

Being a trustee means making decisions that will impact on people’s lives and therefore I took the role very seriously. In addition, it was important that my own personal and professional behaviour was beyond reproach, compliant with charity law requirements and that any required training was up to date.

Specifically, in my role as a trustee with a clinical background, I was able to contribute to the excellent low vision service with support and ideas for future innovation.  I also enjoyed delivering talks to service users and attending open days (pre Covid)!  I was also able to keep the board and charity personnel up to date, and offer advice, on changes in the community and hospital services that could have an impact on the charity’s service users and the local population affected by low vision. This was particularly important in dealing with some of the consequences of Covid.

Finally, as a trustee for Focus, I had the privilege of meeting many interesting and dedicated people. I learnt many things from my fellow trustees and especially from the Focus staff who were so committed to carrying out and fulfilling the role of the charity. Meeting service users and understanding their needs, was also informative and thought provoking.

Witnessing first-hand over the years, the outstanding services that Focus provides in sight loss support, complex needs support and assisted living was a truly humbling experience, and I am very pleased that I was able be of use to the charity and contribute in some way.