We caught up with our Deputy CEO, Caroline Clark. She is always calm and upbeat and we wanted to know what her secret was.
Below she explains how she stays mellow whilst juggling 3 small children, managing the SCT Admin, Finance and HR teams, and remaining an active member of her church – all whilst fighting Hodgkin disease.
When did you start working on social issues?
I was studying Art at Exeter and during my last year at University, I made a full commitment to Christianity after being brought up in the church as a child. The catalyst for this commitment came after a friend who I knew before I went to University told me that I had changed and had become a really unpleasant person, except they used much stronger language.
“Throughout my university years I worked as the Woman’s Officer and when I graduated, I became involved in the Student’s Union. I was voted in as President of my campus.”
They challenged me on how I was living my life and the choices I was making and they suggested we prayed together or I could just carry on as I was, making a mess of things. So we prayed and that was the start of me reading the Bible again, every day, after taking many years away from the Church. It was as if I was reading the words in the Bible for the first time, despite being brought up in the church.
I was supported greatly by friends who I had grown up and continued to live my life according to the teachings of Jesus that I read in the Bible. It still plays a huge role in my life and the choices that I have made.
Throughout my university years I worked as the Woman’s Officer and when I graduated, I became involved in the Student’s Union. I was voted in as President of my campus.
What happened after university?
During the Blair years I joined CARE, a Christian charity who helped me to find work as an intern for Labour MPs Liz Blackman and Fiona Jones as a researcher in the House of Commons. After a lengthy court case in 1999 regarding election expense corruption and then in 2001 losing her seat in the general election, Fiona Jones died of alcoholic liver disease in 2007. She was reportedly surrounded by 15 bottles of vodka.
“Tomorrow I might say something different, but today our struggle is financial.”
I then did a stint at the BBC in the Public Affairs department in Millbank when the internet was emerging. I was showing MPs like Theresa May how to use the internet! I greatly disliked this period of my life, and felt extremely unimpressed by the self importance of people in elected office. I naively believed their role was to serve. As a result of these two jobs, it was clear to me that I wanted to work more with people in need.
When did you start to work with the homeless?
Shortly after this, I applied for a job working with homeless and addicted people. I became a Resettlement Worker with the Salvation Army working in a winter shelter. I continued in this field for over 3 years and assessed and rehoused many people through outreach services. This was my first experience of working with people at the edges of society and I found that I was able to use my skills to make a real difference in the lives of the people I was meeting.
“This was my first experience of working with people at the edges of society and I found that I was able to use my skills to make a real difference in the lives of the people I was meeting.”
I learnt on the job and loved every minute of it! I soon became exhausted by several years of irregular shifts and walking the streets in the cold at night and decided to try something new. I started to work with a local small charity that worked with socially excluded young people that helped to retrain and get them back into work, called City Gateway. It was here that I learnt fundraising skills which later became essential in my role at SCT.
I was introduced to SCT in the late 90s and started working for them in 2003 as a fundraiser. But in my first week at SCT, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin disease. It was also just the first year of my marriage. For the next three years, I juggled work with bouts of chemotherapy and lost several stone in weight. My friends, family and church community all helped us get through it, with dinners, washing, and financial support to pay the bills and mortgage. They were amazing. I’ve just had the 10 year all clear. Yay!
What’s the best thing about your job at SCT?
The best thing about SCT is that we change lives and this never ceases to amaze me. The people that we are working with want to change their lives, because they are sick with being addicted to drugs and alcohol are absolute heroes. They are an inspiration and I am delighted to be a small part of this great charity.
“The people that we are working with want to change their lives, because they are sick with being addicted to drugs and alcohol are absolute heroes. They are an inspiration and I am delighted to be a small part of this great charity.”
On a personal note, I am extremely lucky to work somewhere that lets me work part-time hours to fit with my family, and yet allows me to use my skills well. Most mums who return to work are stuck in jobs that are well below their skill level. I have a challenging and diverse job that allows me to manage and make a difference to people who really need it.
And the worst?
Without a doubt, the worst part of in my role is disciplining staff. I lose sleep over these and although I remain calm throughout the process, the impact of them effects me enormously. After all, this is someone’s job that you are making decisions and judgements about. But if people don’t do their jobs well in our charity, then this could be detrimental and devastating to the people we are working with who are recovering from homelessness and addiction issues.
I think being a Christian in this helps me. I believe that although disciplinaries are hard and unpleasant, you can do them well and treat the person involved with respect and support them to change.
“One staff member said to me last week that this is the best job in the world.”
I would hope that people would want to work well for us as we have such an incredible client group and do fantastic work with many people. One staff member said to me last week that this is the best job in the world.
If you could change one thing at SCT what would it be?
Today I would get our work more greatly recognised and acknowledged, and fully financed. We save lives and yet we get no statutory funding for the work we do. We support people to move away from addiction issues and we do this through our own hard work in fundraising and running several charity shops. Tomorrow I might say something different, but today our struggle is financial.
So Caroline, how is it that you remain so upbeat and calm every day? Any tips?
My life experience has changed me. My faith deepened and I know that with our clients, there but for the grace of God go I. I know from our client group that no one is exempt from addictions or the challenges of homelessness. And Jesus told stories in the Bible about how clothing people when they are naked or feeding them when they are hungry, so I feel I am doing the right thing at this time.
“I know from our client group that no one is exempt from addictions or the challenges of homelessness. And Jesus told stories in the Bible about how clothing people when they are naked or feeding them when they are hungry, so I feel I am doing the right thing at this time.”
Calm and upbeat? I pray, I read the Bible, I try to follow the teachings of Jesus and I spend time with my family and I you can’t beat cuddles from your children to realise how amazingly blessed you are. I’m also aware of how quickly things can change in your life and I want to enjoy all that I have whilst I have it.
Tips? “Always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit. You’d be amazed how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two. Get a big biscuit tin.” – Caitlin Moran
We think Caroline is just fab and couldn’t want for a better Deputy Manager. Thanks for the interview Caroline…and the tip!