Sushila, Birmingham

Sushila Patel, is a mother of two, in her 40’s and is from Handsworth Wood, Birmingham.

She’s been volunteering in her local community for over 10years

Living the typical corporate lifestyle, Sushila was a Senior Manager in IT for 15 years. But she always had in the back of her mind that she wanted to ‘give back’ somehow and see life beyond the corporate world she lived in.

So she turned to volunteering. She’s done a lot of work in the local community, helping out at social and religious functions and she spent 5 years as an active member of the parent teacher association as well as another four years volunteering her time as a school governor.

“Volunteering helped me break away from the hard core corporate world”, says Sushila.“ It gave me time out to think about something else and ‘do good’ rather than selfishly be more concerned with achieving the organisations goals in order to receive better pay and prospects for myself!.”

She was also a Trustee Director with Birmingham Focus on Blindness for a couple of years too and she even did an abseil to raise funds for the charity. She says,

“The trustees have to make sure that the organisation’s limited finances are spent properly and provide strategic guidance and leadership to the senior management team so I’ve really drawn  on my corporate experience coaching senior managers. Helping the charity to grow is a real challenge, and a delight.”

One of the most ambitious and fulfilling volunteering roles Sushila has performed was as a life coach on the Birmingham City Council “Leaps and Bounds” project. The 18 month programme involved working with around 150 teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds, using coaching, one to one support and ballet to help them realize their potential. The programme ended with 50 of the teenagers performing in a live performance of Romeo and Juliet at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Many of them are now in higher education.

Sushila says,

“It was great to be able to use ballet and dance as a way of engaging young people that may otherwise find themselves in trouble, with nothing to do. Coaching them, supporting them, and working with them to put on this major performance made them feel as though people really did care about them and wanted to spend time with them, which is so important for their motivation and self belief, which ultimately leads to them succeeding in life.”

Sushila has now started another chapter in her voluntary and professional work. She has opened up a domiciliary care company to help people remain independent and enjoy a high quality of life in their own homes rather than be confined to residential care. In parallel with this, she is working with charities and the WRVS women’s royal voluntary service helping out at local day centres for people with dementia.

In addition, she has been liaising with Dr. Doina Gherghel of Aston University’s Research Centre for Healthy Ageing, promoting the facilities they have to conduct free health checks on individuals who are concerned about their risk of developing dementia, coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

“Volunteering showed me a life beyond my career – I had gained some invaluable sills in coaching and mentoring young people as well as building on my management skills as a trustee. It helped me realise that I wanted to take my volunteering further and make my career out of doing something more hands on, helping people – running my own domiciliary care company certainly gives me that, and it gives me flexibility too.”