Charity Q&A: The Red Cross

By at home

redcrossWe speak to Ola Fajobi, the Corporate Head of Human Resources for the British Red Cross, about the many opportunities available at the charity that makes such a difference to people’s lives across the UK and globally.

Careers: Ola, would you like to give an outline of what you do as a charity and what your aims are, to introduce our readers to the British Red Cross?
Ola: We are a UK-wide, volunteer-led humanitarian organisation that helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.  
We enable vulnerable people in the UK and overseas to prepare for and respond to emergencies in their own communities.  And when the crisis is over, we help people recover, rebuild and move on with their lives.

Careers: So what types of employment are available at the British Red Cross?
Ola: We employ people in a wide variety of roles from a wide range of general and specialist disciplines and backgrounds. Whatever your interests, there may be a job, or a volunteering opportunity, with the British Red Cross for you.

Careers: What qualifications or experience do people need to work with the charity?
Ola: To maintain our reputation and continue to build our capacity to deliver services, we need people from all walks of life, all communities, who bring different skills and experiences to our essential work. As volunteers, as professional staff and as international delegates (the term used for overseas staff), we need a wide range of people who can commit themselves to our humanitarian cause.

Necessary experience and qualifications for our paid employment opportunities are role specific, so we would encourage you to view current vacancies on our website [] to find out the selection criteria for specific roles you may be interested in.

If you are interested in volunteering with us, there are a wide range of volunteering opportunities. These include health and social care, emergency response, first aid, refugee services, fundraising, shop volunteering, office support and humanitarian education. Anyone can volunteer. Your skills, experience, background and the time you have to give does not matter.  Volunteers are the lifeblood of the British Red Cross. Even if you have a couple of hours a week to spare, we’ll have something to suit you.

Careers:  Are there opportunities for graduates?
Ola: We do not run a formal graduate scheme in the traditional sense although we recruit a lot of graduates. We have an established intern scheme which offers an amazing range of short-term opportunities across the UK as well as long-running work experience programmes recruited locally by different sections of the British Red Cross.

Careers: What qualities do you look out for in your employees?
Ola: We are particularly keen that our employees are passionate about our work and are able to contribute to our mission and objectives in many different ways (often working alongside 33,000 volunteers in the UK.)  We ask that employees identify with and uphold the Red Cross Movement’s fundamental principles as well as British Red Cross’s values. The Movement’s seven fundamental principles are: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. The British Red Cross’s values are: compassionate, courageous, inclusive and dynamic.

Careers: Is the charity sector competitive in terms of employment?
Ola: In employment terms the charity sector has in recent years closed the gap with public sector organisations. The British Red Cross as one of the larger charities has particularly competitive employment terms. We offer a generous annual leave entitlement, flexible working options, a supportive work environment, a range of flexible benefits and many formal and informal learning and development opportunities.

Careers: As well as these benefits, how would you say working for a non-profit organisation is different to a regular company?
Ola: Our focus is on those we help in the UK and internationally as well as being accountable to our donors rather than central/local government or traditional shareholders. Our workforce get a real sense of achievement from knowing that our work tangibly contributes towards making a positive difference to the lives of individuals and communities, particularly when they are vulnerable.

All staff and volunteers who work with us can expect an individual partnership with the British Red Cross which at its core has a clear commitment to providing the highest-quality service to vulnerable people.

Careers: Are employees able to train or study for further qualifications at the British Red Cross?
Ola: Yes. The British Red Cross is demonstrably committed to learning. We actively and regularly encourage and support all our staff to continually develop.  Our track record on individual learning and development is very good.

This article was first published in Careers with Hayley Taylor in August 2011. [Read the digital edition here]

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