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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Chief encounters: Kerry Reilly on faith, social action and Island Malt Whisky

This feature is over 9 years old

The YMCA chief dishes on her new top role and her love of Austen and Bond

What is your morning routine?
It really depends on what is in the diary for that day. Sometimes I drop my kids at school before work (they are 7 and 9). Sometimes I head into the office via train and sometimes I am out and about visiting local YMCAs in which case I will usually travel directly from the house. If I’m up early enough I have breakfast at home, otherwise it is breakfast on the go – not good I know!

Why do you work in the third sector?
The value base of an organisation is important to me. I have worked for the YMCA for over 20 years because I see how Christian social action makes a real change to individuals. I also like the flexibility of the voluntary sector and the fact that we can often respond quickly to changing needs. A voluntary organisation can be very close to the ground and to the people we work with, which makes us more accountable and able to respond to needs. I think there is a lot of creativity and innovation in our sector

What are you working on just now?
I started in my post on 5 January, so right now I am doing a lot of 1:1 meetings with staff and with local YMCAs. We have 32 local YMCAs across Scotland working in over 100 communities, so that is a lot of visits and cups of coffee!

How many hours do you normally work in a day?
Again that depends on what I am doing. I am very guilty of responding to emails at all hours –quite often my husband will ask me who I am emailing at 11pm at night, and is it really urgent!

Chief encounters: Kerry Reilly on faith, social action and Island Malt Whisky

It doesn't matter if someone is a paid employee or a volunteer – if they are part of the team then they will have a contribution to make

Do you prefer working with volunteers or paid employees?
I don’t prefer one over the other. I try to take a team approach to whatever I am doing and it doesn't matter if someone is a paid employee or a volunteer – if they are part of the team then they will have a contribution to make.

Is it better to work for a big charity or a small charity?
I guess it depends on how an organisation is structured and how institutional or otherwise it has become. I like flexibility and to be close to the people we work with, but that can happen in big and small charities. YMCA is the biggest and oldest non uniform youth work organisation in the world – but we work through locally autonomous YMCAs, so they stay connected and focused on the needs of their communities.

What motivates you?
Lots of things – my faith, seeing the difference our work makes, being creative, colleagues, work challenges, change, family, motivating others.

Do you ever wonder ‘what would my predecessor do’?
I love the history and values of the YMCA and am a bit of a YMCA trivia buff – so yes, I do think about those that have gone before and the stories that have brought the YMCA to where it is today.

How do you inspire people?
By valuing people and their contribution, working with their strengths and skills.

Have you got thoughts on what you will do when you retire?
Retirement – what’s that? Definitely not!

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Don’t be so impetuous.

Describe yourself as a drink…
It would definitely have to be a peaty Island Malt Whisky, smooth with a long finish!

What’s your favourite film?
Anything Bond or Jane Austen.

Brian Denis Cox or Brian Edward Cox?
Brian Edward Cox. When I switch off I am definitely a film and theatre person rather than documentaries.

Kerry Reilly is the national general secretary for YMCA Scotland



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Dianne Laing
over 9 years ago
How could you spell whisky wrongly?
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