Introducing you to SARAH JOHNSTON-ELLIS, Chair of the Board of Trustees

Hi, I’m Sarah Johnston-Ellis and I am the Chair of the Board of Trustees at YMCA Brighton. I have been a Board member for almost eight years and was elected to be Chair in November 2020. I joined YMCA Brighton because I wanted to work with an organisation that has strong values and works tirelessly to make a difference to vulnerable people within Brighton. I wanted to be a part of an organisation that values every person and the differences they bring and that it is this diversity that creates a vibrant community. YMCA Brighton has been providing housing and support for the local community for the last 150 years and I want to play a part in ensuring it continues to provide tailored support to clients to enable them to belong, contribute and thrive for the next 150!

2)  Why do you feel Inclusion is important?

Inclusion must be at the heart of all we do. The global pandemic highlighted how interlinked we all are, and how our strength is in our unity. During the pandemic staff were forced to adapt their usual work practices, some working remotely, others adapting their shift work and teams being separated to ensure Covid safe practices. This has had an understandable impact on our sense of belonging. As a Board we recognise that now is the time to come back together even stronger than before and that we are all uniting together across the organisation. Therefore, we want to celebrate National Inclusion Week by putting our staff at the core of our actions. I hope that throughout the week we can hear from a diverse range of voices and that we unify to progress our inclusion agenda because together we are stronger.

3)  What are you most excited about taking part in during NIW week?

I am really looking forward to being a part of this week and joining with people across YMCA Brighton to celebrate belonging to such a welcoming and inclusive organisation.

4)  Is there anything you would like to share that you have found inspiring? A book, person, art piece or something that speaks to you about inclusion?

A writer who constantly inspires me is Toni Morrison. Her work highlights the power of language. Language has the power to overcome all obstacles and break down barriers; unseen and seen. She also reminds me of the importance of finding your voice within society but also in recognising that this is not possible for everyone and that as a society we have to work together so that all voices have the space to express and the space to be heard.

5)  What do you enjoy most about your job?

What I most enjoy about being a Board member is witnessing the passion and dedication that staff members have for the people they support. The pandemic has created such demands upon staff members and the dedication and devotion that has been shown to the organisation throughout this time has been inspiring. Creating a safe environment for our clients to feel secure in, during such uncertain times, is remarkable. It has also been wonderful to see the wider community come together to support our work. This was seen in the Art and Craft fundraising project in the first lockdown that raised over 300 Art packs in just a few days. I would love to see us build on bringing the wider community into the YMCA Brighton family.

6)  What is the biggest challenge in your position

The biggest challenge in this role is ensuring that we work to enable the organisation to flourish and grow while having to balance the ever-increasing financial constraints imposed upon us. I am lucky to have such great support from my fellow board members who bring their knowledge, expertise and dedication to the organisation.

7)  Tell us one unique thing about yourself.

I am from Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud.