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Wed, 14th October, 2020

Simon Larbalestier - AJC committee member

Simon Larbalestier - AJC committee member

I was involved in charitable work at an early age, helping out at Cheshire homes for quite some time, during the holidays and after school. At that time I was impressed by how folks in the community gave their time freely to help those less fortunate and hoped to be able to help in the future.

Initially when I entered the workplace I concentrated on a career and that took my spare time away. I took accountancy exams, investment exams and a chunk of an MBA but it was soon apparent that the I.T. element is what interested me so I trained in that area, staying in that environment for some twenty years before slightly changing my focus to be more involved in business intelligence and data analysis, which is what I do now.

Parallel to this change of focus which gave me back some time and because I kept damaging myself playing sports (as I wasn’t very good), I looked at what charitable activities were available that were still linked to sport but less strenuous. I played a little wheelchair basketball, found it no less strenuous but less damaging and a great leveller, so I set up a corporate team for RBC. I soon started running the corporate league, setting it up to be somewhat more automated and then was invited to joined both the JSAD (Jersey Sports Association for the Disabled) general committee and the Wheelchair sub-committee. I then became the Jersey Chairman for Special Olympics as this tied in neatly to the JSAD. At this time I was also on the RBC donations committee which was responsible for grants to charities or sports associations where staff were connected in some form.

During this time a vacancy in the AJC appeared for secretary. I was not sure if I would have the time but I had strong feelings about duplication of both assets and strategy in Jersey charities and hoped to have some influence in this area. My initial “bee in my bonnet” was the number of relatively expensive standard minibuses that were requested and I regularly put forward that charities should get together and share resources - not just minibuses of course. Although often over-ridden at the time, I am still of the opinion that sharing any such assets in the third sector should be the norm as not many have a 24/7 requirement. Obviously this year is exceptional as charities wish to ring fence their assets due to Covid but once a vaccination is in place, I think the AJC is well placed to re-visit this.

To continue, in 2016 I developed a Brain tumour. It was all rather sudden and excellent surgeons and radiologists did their bit to remove it all (touch wood). This meant I was on the receiving end of support from the Jersey Brain Tumour Charity (JBTC) here and Macmillan Cancer Support, particularly in Southampton. I could see at first hand the struggles that these charities face to provide what I feel is an excellent service and resolved to help where I could. I certainly was only a small part of the drive to raise money for these two charities but still, in 2017 RBC raised over £50,000 for Macmillan and in 2018 RBC selected JBTC and generated £45,000 of donations.

The consequences however, of having had this brain tumour meant that I initially lost the ability to speak (some say that was a bonus), writing was and is still difficult and also my cognitive skills were damaged.  RBC were strongly supportive during this time and I did return to my analysis role about six months later. Luckily my maths are embedded in my long-term memory it appears.

I stumbled along for a while but made it quite clear at AJC meetings that I should not be taking minutes but would not mind remaining on the committee. I felt that my experiences would give me a different stance on grant giving and be empathic particularly to smaller charities. The committee agreed and hence I am where you see me now.