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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Chief encounters: Matt Gilbert-Straw of New Caledonian Woodlands

This feature is almost 6 years old

Matt Gilbert-Straw of environmental and mental well-being charity New Caledonian Woodlands on what makes him tick

What makes a good day at work?

The team at New Caledonian Woodlands are an inspirational bunch and they often lay the foundation of my good days. For me, a good day is one where I get to hear how our services have improved someone’s life, share ideas with the team and carve out a bit of space to chip away at the to-do list.

How many hours do you normally work in a week?

I’m an unashamed workaholic, so I work as many hours as it takes to get the job done.

What do you procrastinate over?

In our hectic office, there is no shortage of tasks requiring my attention. I tend to put off tasks that consume lots of effort and produce little results.

What turns you into the office Victor Meldrew?

Malfunctioning IT drives me bananas. Another software update? I don’t believe it!

Matt Gilbert-Straw

Matt Gilbert-Straw

Is the third sector a calling or an accident?

Definitely a calling. I love the creative, can-do approach of this sector.

What happens during your perfect weekend?

Proper down-time. A long cycle trip with my family, or better still, camping out under the stars.

What’s your favourite film?

A bit over-the-top for some, but I absolutely love Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element.

Would we all be better off if charities did more in our society?

I certainly think so. Charities like New Caledonian Woodlands achieve great things on a tight budget. However, I think the real question is “how much could more could charities achieve if the investment in our sector matched the scale of the work we do?”

Tell us something we might not know about New Caledonian Woodlands?

In addition to the action-packed woodland weekends we are better known for, New Caledonian Woodlands runs a very successful Fruitful Futures programme; helping people overcome mental health issues and re-engage with employment.

You’re home, fully fed with your feet up – which comes first Eastenders or Facebook?

No competition... it’s Facebook. With a seven-year-old son, a Labrador and a charity that is always doing something interesting, I’ve always got something to share.

Is this a step on the ladder or your final destination?

None of us know what the future holds, but I’m really excited to be part of the New Caledonian Woodlands team and plan to be here for the foreseeable future.

What do you think are the main strengths of the Scottish charity sector?

Having been involved in the charity sector for over 20 years, I believe the defining strengths of our sector are our resilience and our passion. I’ve worked alongside people in this sector who have moved mountains.

What are the big challenges facing your charity over the coming year?

New Caledonian Woodlands is a dynamic charity with a highly motivated team. With an abundance of opportunities for new projects, the first major challenge is picking the right ones in which to invest our energy and resources. One challenge we are all excited about is the transformation of our site into a green hub.

What does your dream retirement look like?

I love the work I do and don’t spend much time thinking about retirement. As long as I’ve got family and good friends around me, I’m a happy man.

Which Brian Cox?

The physicist - he’s a clever guy.