Sara joined Project Trust in March 2020, on secondment from the Civil Service Fast Stream programme. Over the past months, Sara has played a key role in the Urgent Appeal.

As her secondment is due to be completed in August, Sara took a moment to reflect on her time with Project Trust.

Sara Nasir

Sara Nasir: Fast Stream Civil Service Secondee

1. What is the Civil Service Fast Stream Programme?

I studied Law at university because I wanted to help people, but looking at my favourite modules, I soon realised that I was more interested in the policy behind the law, and that the Civil Service (the impartial body that supports the government of the day to implement its policies effectively) would give me the opportunity to help people across the country in all aspects of their lives, both directly and indirectly.  So, I applied for the Civil Service Fast Stream, the leadership programme that develops graduates into the future leaders of the Civil Service.

The programme offers a choice of 15 different schemes with different career paths within government professions, but I chose to be a generalist because I wanted a broad range of experiences during my three years on the programme! I am now coming to the end of my second year, having worked in a range of projects from the Department for Exiting the EU and Cabinet Office (before Project Trust), and No Deal Preparations in other EU Member States, to the Department of Health and Social Care and preparing negotiations from a Crown Dependencies perspective. In all of my work, I have been able to ensure we would deliver the best outcomes for people, no matter what situation we were faced with or the seemingly impossible challenges we were confronted with.

2. What interested you in a secondment to / placement at Project Trust?

Having gone straight into the Civil Service after university, I knew I wanted to experience the world of work outside of Government and understand different attitudes and ways of working…. And what could be more different to Whitehall than Coll?

I first heard about Project Trust from another Fast Streamer who was seconded to Project Trust last year, he could not stop raving about the organisation, the people and the island. Until then I had always been a bit sceptical about gap years, I felt uncomfortable with the ethics of going abroad for a few months to volunteer, but here was an organisation taking an ethically responsible approach with year long placements, where volunteers were encouraged to become part of the community. I started to wonder what it might be like to work at Project Trust. Little did I know I would have the luck to actually do so!

The ferry to Coll

The ferry to Coll

3. What would you say to any Project Trust Returned Volunteers interested in applying for the Civil Service Fast Stream programme?

If you want a varied and challenging career that puts people at the centre of what you do, then the Fast Stream is the place for you! I think a lot of people think you need to have a politics degree or at least an arts degree to be in the Civil Service, but the Civil Service has such a range of roles that no matter what your background or experience there will be a job that is perfect for you.

As a Project Trust Volunteer, you have already got examples of a lot of the behaviours that you need to demonstrate to be a Fast Streamer. In leading activities in your project and taking into consideration the needs of all of those under your care, you have demonstrated Leadership. In learning a new language or skills during your time as a Project Trust Volunteer you have demonstrated that you have a capacity to Develop Yourself and Others. By becoming immersed in a new community and culture and working with your new community to deliver your objectives as a Volunteer, it is clear you can Work Together with other people. Your time at Project Trust will be invaluable in your future career.

4. What impact is Coronavirus having on your life/work?

Just as I was getting used to island life and avoiding kamikaze sheep when I cycled to work, the pandemic was declared. Immediately, Project Trust went into action working quickly to repatriate all overseas Volunteers. During this time, I was truly struck by the nature of the organisation as I witnessed all hands on deck as the team fought to get Volunteers home. There are very few organisations that would collaborate so well together at a time of such stress and keep their Volunteers right at the centre of their vision.

As Volunteers returned home, the aim of the team pivoted. The big question now was ‘how was Project Trust going to survive Coronavirus when everything that made Project Trust Project Trust had to be paused?’. I finally felt like I could offer something useful! Moving from my original Project Trust role, I worked closely with my colleagues Kenny, Heloise, Alison and Niall to create the first Project Trust Urgent Appeal strategy and from there we launched the Urgent Appeal. Unfortunately, this all had to be done remotely as one of the results of Coronavirus was that I had to move back to London.

My time on Coll was short, but the people of Coll, the team at Project Trust, and the way they handled the start of the pandemic made a massive impact.

The Sheep preparing for their next attack of my bike
The sheep preparing for their next attack of my bike.

5. How has Project Trust impacted your global view of the world?

I have been incredibly fortunate to grow up in countries across the world, but I often witnessed people’s biases and the way that people from different cultures treated each other differently. Meeting Project Trust Returned Volunteers who worked at Project Trust and hearing the stories of Changemakers I have heard about how Volunteers become immersed in other cultures and often come to see their host country as a second home. Seeing how these experiences have impacted others, I am hopeful for a future where people’s interactions are no longer shaped by biases, and where everyone’s differences are valued and respected. 

6. What has been the biggest benefit in, and greatest challenge you overcame, working for Project Trust for six months?

I have been lucky to have an opportunity to work alongside an incredible set of colleagues during my time at Project Trust. I have witnessed what true leadership looks like, I have learnt about the complexities of charitable organisations and I have discovered more about social media than I thought possible. I have also been trusted to take our Urgent Appeal strategy and put it into action. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn so much in so short a time, and for the colleagues who have supported me along the way.

The biggest challenge for me, has been the massive task that we set ourselves of £75,000 to be fundraised from the Project Trust Community. At the beginning of the journey it felt like an incredibly big hill to climb up, particularly at such a distance from my colleagues. However, the key to this work has been collaboration and Zoom and Teams have helped us to manage this at a distance. Everyone within the organisation has massively contributed to the Urgent Appeal, from some truly ingenious 2.6 challenges to sharing individual expertise.

The Project Trust community has similarly been wonderful in their support and engagement. When I look at where we are today having raised over £54,600, every 2.6 Challenge video, every Changemaker story, and every individual donation and story has had a massive part to play – and I am proud that my work has made it possible to share these in the community.

7. Where is your next placement?

I found out this week that my next placement will be in the Ministry of Justice, although I am not certain what that role will entail. One thing I am certain of, is that as I step out, in London, on the next step of my Fast Stream journey (fully equipped with my face mask) I know that my time with Project Trust has helped me on my way.