Real life: ‘Why my first job was for a social enterprise’

If nothing makes you happier than helping others, or you’re an activist in the making, have you thought about making charity work into a career?

Louise Turtle, 22, has been involved with mentoring charity Debate Mate for over four years. The organisation teaches children in deprived schools across the UK to debate and develop essential communication skills that will help them later on in life.

We caught up with Louise about what it’s really like to work for a charity and why it’s so important.

1. When did you first get into charity work? 

I first got involved in charity work at my secondary school. I was voted Chair of the Charity committee, which was a super fun role where the team and I organised events to raise money and awareness for various different causes. There lots of silly videos of us dressed up as Disney characters, hippies and house-elves that we used to hype up our next event.

2. How did you get involved with Debate Mate?

I began my work with Debate Mate as a student volunteer mentor when I was 18. What really attracted me to the organisation was the team, or what we call the Debate Mate family. The team in the office are passionate, positive and fun no matter how much work we have to do. The extended family are the mentors, who are all motivated, interesting and enthusiastic people.

I’ve been working full time with them for a year now as a programme director, and in September I’ll be a senior programme director.

debate mate

Image via debatemate.com

3. What exactly does a programme director do?

Essentially I make sure the after school debate clubs and competitions go ahead, liaising with the teachers and mentors. Last year I was responsible for the Liverpool Programme, and this year I will be responsible for the London Secondary Core Programme. We are a small team at Debate Mate and are in the process of becoming a social enterprise, so there are always new challenges and extra projects, which means my work is varied and exciting.

4. Charity jobs are notoriously underpaid. What made you choose this career over all others?

Charity work challenges you to question the status quo. For me, the current inequalities in education are something I don’t accept.  Debate Mate has a great initiative: debating really helps students advocate for themselves, which in the past has been a prerogative of independent schools.

5. Do you get the opportunity to travel at all? What is that like?

I’ve been lucky enough to go to Rwanda, Zambia and Nepal with Debate Mate as a mentor.  We teach students for three weeks in local schools, focusing on practising formal spoken English as well as the skills we do in the UK.

The best thing about teaching abroad is that you really get an insight into the culture, because the kids love to tell you! I always learn as much as a I teach on the Debate Mate trips.

This year I was the team leader in Rwanda, so that was pretty challenging. Things like wifi and ATM machines are temperamental, which slows everything down.

debate mate

Image via debatemate.com

6. What’s been your proudest moment?

Watching the school I taught two years ago in the Semi Final debate this year. They’ve improved so much!

7. Have you ever had a moment of self doubt? 

Of course, probably too many. But one of the great skills of debating is learning how to bullsh*t, basically never letting your doubts show.

8. What’s the best advice you could give to someone who wants to do what you do?

Get involved with your charity through part time work/volunteering. You’ll get to know them and they’ll get to know you. Then you have relevant experience to use as examples in the interview.

9. What are your #LifeGoals?

Next step – teaching.

By Reenat Sinay