When Everyone Welcome, really means everyone

Published : Wed 14th Sep

Volunteer & Community Manager, Sue Jones joined the Trust in 1999. Here, she talks about her approach to delivering Everyone Welcome in North East Wales and making the Trust relevant for the communities it’s a part of.

At the Trust, we look after incredible places, collections and spaces with a responsibility to protect them for everyone, for ever. This is the reason I joined the Trust and continue to work for the organisation some 20 years later.

It’s also why we’ve created Everyone Welcome as part of our commitment to an inclusive organisation. To achieve this, people need to feel connected to us, we must be relevant and our places need to have a significant impact on people. We must be willing and able to flex to meet community needs, to actively listen and be curious. Only then can we shape a truly relevant offer for all of our supporters.

Welcoming everyone, where they are

At the heart of the National Trust are our founders’ words – ‘we all need quiet, we all want space, we all need beauty, without it we cannot find that sense of quiet where whispers of better things come to us gently’ (Octavia Hill 1895).  In North East Wales, we believe that we have a responsibility to protect the most fragile in society, and to build confidence in accessing this benefit that we’re aiming to deliver as an organisation.  We do not and will not wait for anyone to visit before welcoming them, we start where people are at, and work with them to find what they need and want for their National Trust.

Different things to different people

“I’ve only come to a few sessions but already I feel less lonely.” – Young volunteer

Our overriding driver is the absolute belief that we have a responsibility to take the hand of those broken by life, and walk beside them quietly as they begin to hear the whispers of better things come to them gently.

Standing alongside a young boy at the front of Chirk Castle, I heard him shout, ‘Woooah, look at the view, you can see to the end of the world, I’ve never seen a view I can’t see the end of. There’s always a wall in the way’. I was foolish enough to think I knew what this boy needed, expecting dressing up as a knight and visiting a dungeon to be high on his wish list; in fact, what he needed was the opportunity to lift his head and see there was a world beyond the walls in which he lives his life within.

 Becoming relevant for today’s world

We know heritage and nature can have a positive impact on people’s mental and physical wellbeing but not everyone can access it. Financial barriers to access are the tip of the iceberg, whilst others may not know who we are or some may be scared to visit, be outdoors or be around collections; some may feel it’s just not for them. So, where do we start if we want to deliver public benefit to all?

We simply start where people are. We must be confident in flexing our offer. We must listen. We must work generously and humbly with partners because it’s through strong partnerships that the greatest impact can be achieved. We can be proactive in seeking opportunities to engage those most in need, and arguably those who could most benefit, but find it most challenging to visit.

Every human being deserves to believe good things can happen.  As the National Trust, we have the values, ambition, places and founding principles to do this – we have the ability, and most importantly the responsibility to deliver it.