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Young Red Cross volunteers take charge for Takeover Day 2013

25 November 2013

Young volunteers mounted a friendly coup against the British Red Cross’ senior managers on Friday as part of an annual Takeover Day.

It was a case of out with the old and in with the young as a dozen volunteers from across the UK assumed the roles of the senior management team at the charity's head office in London.

“This has been one of the best experiences of my life,” said Beth Baragwnath, from Dunfermline.

The 16-year-old took on the position of UK Director for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for the day.

“It has been genuinely life-changing. I have learned a lot about what I want to do in the Red Cross, but also how the Red Cross works,” she added.

The volunteers, aged between 16 and 24, spent Thursday undergoing training to prepare them for a senior management team meeting. The meeting was then chaired by 20-year-old Charlie Banyard, from Portsmouth, who assumed the role of chief executive.

Each volunteer also had an individual briefing with their respective managers.

Learning curve

On Friday, they took part in a number of activities, including a debate on ethical issues arising from fundraising partnerships. They also heard talks on the Syria crisis and international disaster response. 

Takeover Day culminated in a hotly-contested vote on how best to spend £1,000 on improving the Red Cross’ engagement with young people.

Hannah Lock, 22, from Taunton, assumed the role of Chef de Cabinet for the day.

She said: “Everyone has been really enthusiastic about everything. All the staff have been really nice and helpful.”

Luiza Sarafyan, 20, from Blackpool, who became director of fundraising for 24 hours, added: “It was a really great experience. It’s been good to see how the senior management team here make the hard decisions and how the decisions influence others.”

Mutual benefit

Takeover Day, a national initiative championed by the Children’s Commissioner, is designed to give young people the chance to get involved with organisations and gain an insight into how they work.

But the Red Cross also stands to benefit from the scheme, according to Anna Murphy-Giles, participation and leadership coordinator, who helped organise the day.

“We get young volunteers who understand more about the way such a large organisation works at both a local and national level, and young volunteers who will be more pro-active through this experience,” she said.

As for the senior managers, they had no qualms about the friendly rebellion.

Phil Talbot, director of communications, said: “It’s fantastic to see young volunteers taking an interest in how the organisation is run. I'm always impressed with the energy and thinking that the ‘takeover senior management team’ puts into the event."

Rohan Hewavisenti, director of finance and business development, fielded plenty of questions from the volunteers about his role and career.

“My advice to them was to follow your passions. Do what you enjoy doing and hopefully you will be good at it and progress,” he said.

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