They truly are the unsung heroes of the Royal Air Forces Association. At the last count, over one and a half thousand volunteers spanning the length and breadth of the United Kingdom and abroad are working each day to keep the branches and branch clubs of the Association alive and kicking. It is a tough job at the best of times and the current pandemic has not made it any easier. So what motivates our trustees?
‘The driving force for my wanting to take an active part in a branch was payback.’
David Hewings is Secretary of Bognor Branch. He joined the Branch back in 2010 having served in the RAF, then as an RAFVR(T) Officer and, particularly, as a Gliding Instructor at several of the Corps’ Volunteer Gliding Schools.
‘I am very much in debt for the experience and satisfaction being a member of the RAF family has given me and still does,’ he says. ‘I have a passion for the RAF and I still wanted to be involved. Being a part of the branch has allowed me to do that.’
As well as giving something back, many of our trustees are inspired by the prospect of meeting others, learning new skills or just keeping themselves occupied. Susan Kidston joined the Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Committee in 2013:
‘It is tempting when I get home from work to just sit down and do nothing! However, being passionate about RAFA gives me the motivation to dedicate my time whether that is just a few minutes or a few hours. Volunteering for RAFA brings me into contact with a variety of different tasks meaning I am often doing something different, interesting and varied, which I thoroughly enjoy.’
One of Susan’s proudest moments came when she was awarded an Area Presidential Certificate. Another proud moment was when she was able to get up close and personal with a Typhoon on a personal tour of a 6 Squadron Typhoon aircraft at RAF Lossiemouth.
‘It was totally amazing and left me speechless. There are just no words to describe the experience. The best fast jet ever and I even got to open the canopy.’
For other trustees the role has changed significantly over the past few years. Many of our longer serving members have seen a considerable growth in responsibility, a growth that has sometimes been challenging.
‘I did not even realise I was a trustee when I started,’ David says. ‘Vikki Hall, who was then Director of Governance and Risk, did some great workshops for us and things are becoming a clearer.’
David confesses that understanding the rules can be a challenge but likens the process of running a branch to driving a car.
‘Many of us drive a car,’ he says, ‘The rules of governance are a bit like the Highway Code. We all accept they have to be there. Most of us read them when we first pass our test and we know where to go to if we are not sure. But after a while they become a normal part of what you do.’
David and Susan appreciate the huge efforts made by all our trustees but are aware of the need to encourage more of our members to come forward to help steer our branches in the future.
‘National Trustees Week is a brilliant opportunity to say thank you to all those who have given their time to help our Branches and their members. It’s also a great chance to open our door to others who might like to join in.’