Last year, I shared the story of my career in, and passion for, transport. In the time since then, I’ve immersed myself in the community transport sector, visiting CTA members and seeing the exceptional work they do across the UK.
I’m also proud to work in the community transport sector because of its significantly favourable gender balance when compared to the commercial transport sector. As women working in this sector, and the wider transport sector, it’s important for us to share our stories. Today, on International Women’s Day, I thought I’d share mine again, this time on our blog. If anyone has any stories of their careers in transport that they’d like to share, we’d love to hear them. Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My first experience of transport was having the idea to open a social enterprise garage. This was a struggle from the beginning, not only in gaining funding and support from local and national sources but firstly convincing my CEO to take a risk on a then 24-year-old women and a gaggle of 15 young boys; it paid off and we raised £250,000 in the first year.
I then spent five years working for the National Railway Museum. During this time I met truly inspirational transportation professionals and knew this was an area of work that I not only enjoyed but I felt passionate about.
When I told my mother about this article, I realised my community transport story actually started earlier than I had thought. Before I was born, my mother moved to Central London and started a Mother and Toddlers Group. This changed her life forever, as within six months she would have met and married my father and been embraced by a new family whose lives revolved around the local community.
My grandparents had lived on our estate their whole lives and both became involved in the local Neighbourhood Association. On top of this, they managed a community shop and centre where they delivered a twice-daily club for old aged pensioners on a voluntary basis. My father became involved as chair of the Association at 21 and spent most weeks attending evening meetings. This is where he met my mother.
As both my parents worked and we lived two minutes away from my grandparents, I was lucky to enough to grow up around them. My grandmother was the Social Secretary and organised events as well as subsidised trips to the seaside, which were open to the whole community. I learned to walk on the floors of that community centre being supported by those club members and I played bingo more times than I can remember.
My overriding memory is being around seven and excited that everyone had got up early and filled the pavements of London. Then the sense of relief as we all clambered on the buses and the singing got under way. As an adult I still remember so many songs, strangers becoming new friends over a shared giggle and the passing of sandwiches between aisles. It always shocked me that in some cases this was the first time people I knew had ever seen the sea, or travelled on a bus. My family never saw this as a duty but something they just had to do.
Growing up it was normal that everyone knew my family by name and would stop them in the street to thank them. My family were at the heart of where I was from, and the community was supported by them, stayed mobile because of them and made new friends beside them.
Sadly my grandfather passed away when I was twelve. My grandmother carried on the club alone and only stopped volunteering last year; she said turning 89 that it was maybe time for someone else to have a go and that she was due a rest.
Looking at the parallels between this and my role as Director of Marketing and Development at the CTA, the similarity between me and my family makes me smile.
I now have two girls of my own, who tell everyone that their Great Nanny Nell lives in the Queen’s palace in London. I am very happy they have been able to spend time with her and see the community my family helped to grow. I hope that in some way by working at the Community Transport Association I can make my family as proud of me as I am to be related to them.