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7
Jun

CEO Interview Series – An Interview with Vicky Ferguson, CEO of International Children’s Charity Glad’s House

Tell us a little about the organisation that you represent.

Glad’s House works with homeless children and young people, together with children and young people in conflict with the law in Mombasa, Kenya. Last year we supported 1,869 children and young people through a wide range of holistic interventions including outreach work, sport, the arts, education, and therapeutic work. Each young person has an individual journey with us that works best for them.

We aim to be a safe adult to every child and young person we meet, and to empower them to take responsibility for their own lives and to realise their full potential.

We are also working to challenge and end the current criminalisation of homeless children and young people by the Government of Kenya. A huge but exciting task, our biggest dream as an organisation is to never see a homeless child in prison again for the ‘crime’ of being homeless.

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Tell us a little about a typical month in the life of the CEO of Glad’s House (if such a thing exists).

There is definitely not a typical month, there’s not even a typical day! But I LOVE that! I travel a lot to Mombasa and I am also a trainer for another charity, which has taken me to other amazing places. I feel so lucky that I get to share my knowledge and passion for street children with people all over the world.

When I’m in London I go to a lot of meetings, which is great as I get to meet so many incredible and interesting people from all walks of life. Some meetings are about fundraising, some about governance, others about communications or volunteering with Glad’s House, or partnerships with other charities. Then there are all the reports, applications, budgets, emails and catching up with my fantastic colleagues in Mombasa for my office days!

When I’m in Kenya there are lots more meetings and training courses with the team and with stakeholders. I always make sure I spend some time everyday with our children and young people – they are always the best moments of any day, week and month! They are the reason I do what I do and they constantly inspire me to do and be better.

 

Tell us about your career path and how you got to where you are now.

If you’d told me at 18 I would have ended up as a charity CEO, I would have laughed…A LOT! I was on a mission to become an actor! An African adventure aged 20 and a group of visionary social workers changed all that in Mombasa in 2005. Together we went about setting up Glad’s House. I wanted to ‘learn my craft’ so I worked with children and young people in the UK as a youth worker, then in a homeless drop-in centre and finally as a specialist substance misuse worker with young people. Some of those roles were service delivery and some were in management. It was an amazing 7 years where I learnt so much about working with vulnerable young people and about creating and implementing effective programmes. During that time I was also fully involved with Glad’s House with any/all ‘spare time’ but in 2013 I started working full time at Glad’s House as the CEO – now that was an amazing day!

 

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What’s the best thing about your job?

Without a shadow of a doubt watching the journeys our children and young people make – sometimes I genuinely feel like my heart may explode with pride and happiness for them. Their resilience, strength, joy plus determination is an incredible thing to behold and teaches me so much about life and the human spirit – I learn from them every single day whether I am with them or 1000s of miles away from them.

I also love working with the team to design programmes that meet the needs of all the children and young people we support. Our children and young people have experienced such complex layers of trauma and have experienced things you and I can never imagine.  So creating programmes and interventions that ensures they can deal with all the underlying issues and trauma and move forward positively in their lives inspires me a great deal.

 

What are you most proud of?

I am so proud of the journey Glad’s House has taken – from 6 people with a vision (3 in the UK and 3 in Kenya) in 2006 to a team of 29, a board of 6 and a huge supporter base who have supported 1000s of children and young people to be safer, happier and to lead more positive lives. In my wildest dreams I could never have imagined that over the last decade Glad’s House would become the brave and bold organisation it has become.

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What are the challenges of running a small charity?

For me, fundraising is always my biggest challenge. I have so many hats to wear and for me the fundraising hat is not my favourite!  I could easily work 24 hours a day and still have not completed my to do list so you have to be really good at prioritising too!

 

What sort of support would you like to see made available for small charities?

I think small charities have to be better at working together, talking to each other and lobbying together – we are all so busy that we forget to talk to each other, which means often we end up reinventing the wheel or missing out on the opportunities that bigger charities obtain. There is fantastic support out there from organisations like The FSI and the Small Charity Coalition and great opportunities to meet each other at events like I AM Networking.

 

How do you switch off from the day job?

This is the point where I should say I do loads of yoga and run to find my Zen – but sadly I don’t! I do walk a lot, which I find is a really great way to zone out and/or problem solve – the other day I was working through an issue and walked 8 miles without realising! I also still love the theatre and that is where I switch off the most – if I won the lottery I would go to the theatre every single night! I am also so lucky to have an incredible group of friends and family who are Glad’s House biggest cheerleaders and who force me to switch off and have fun… All I achieve, and Glad’s House achieves, is due to my family and friends – I owe them everything!

 

Find out more about the work of Glad’s House here.

 

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