Five minutes with Philip Boye-Anawomah
When it comes to job satisfaction Philip Boye-Anawomah’s is high up the scale. As acting chief executive of Voluntary Action Islington, his work is about giving something back to the community he grew up in every day. And considering it was through volunteering that his parents met, it seems his career was always going to be his calling.
Voluntary Action Islington supports charities and community organisations across the borough and also helps residents find volunteering opportunities that suit them.
“Our work is two pronged,” says Philip. “Part of it is to support charities get funding, find premises, to have trustees, to have policies, to have everything in place to operate. We can also help them actually start so if people come in with an idea, we can help them register and go through all the procedures.
“Then with the volunteer centre, we advertise on behalf of charities and recruit for volunteers and advise individuals who are looking for volunteering. We advertise, but we don’t push. So if you come in wanting to do something, it’s totally down to you.”
VAI has about 1,200 volunteering roles on its books, but if a person still can’t find something the organisation use its contacts to try and find something suitable.
Philip says: “We’ve placed a guy with London Air Ambulance as a pilot. You wouldn’t advertise for that, but he just walked in and it was really obvious once we got to the bottom of it. He was thinking that he could do something with older people. He said he had strange shift patterns, with six weeks here, six weeks there. He said: “You know, I fly people on and off oil rigs” and I was like: “I’m not sure but let me see…”
London Air Ambulance was really excited because most of the people they have approach them are retired and their insurance doesn’t cover them.
“Finding the right volunteering opportunity is actually about getting behind the person and finding out what they need and what would benefit them. Sometimes there’s an assumption that you’ll be filling envelopes or doing a bit of shopping for an older person. But, you can almost design it yourself because there are so many organisations out there looking for people and looking for support.”
Before Philip joined VAI he used managed barristers’ chambers and law firms. He did this for 15 years and “sort of fell into” working in the voluntary sector.
“I was organising pro bono work, so getting barristers to work for nothing now and then, and I got involved with the volunteer centre when I was changing jobs,” he explains. “I wandered in looking to be a trustee and they just looked like they needed some help, so I just volunteered there and then and ended up working for them.
“My parents actually met while volunteering. I didn’t really know this and I’ve started to believe a lot more in fate now. You start to think, I’m here where I should be, I just didn’t have a choice I was always going to be here.
“Someone found an old Save the Children catalogue from when I was about six years old. My mum used to work there and I got roped into modelling glove puppets.
“All these things are surfacing that I’d forgotten about. But all these things have started to make me think, actually there is a reason for all this and I’m doing something that I really enjoy and it feels positive. I think it’s the right place for me.
Growing up in Islington, Philip has seen the borough change over the years.
“It’s a very diverse, exciting, small borough. You can walk around it and that’s good. It’s got everything in a very small box. And I guess what I love about it is that growing up here it feels like home. Even if it’s changed a lot, it’s still home.
“Islington has always been an area where there’s been a lot of change and it’s a welcoming area. The work that’s been done to assimilate Syrian refugees is very important and I’m glad that Islington is leading the way.
“The borough’s got a community feel and it’s full of a lot of good people – people working here, living here and passing through. I certainly feel blessed to have lived and worked here.”