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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.

My desk: Sara Preston, Beat

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TFN caught up with Sara Preston, the young people’s participation officer Scotland for national eating disorder charity Beat, to find out more about her and her role

TFN: Hi Sara tell us a bit about your role

Sara: I coordinate Beat’s young ambassador programme which is made up of 14 to 25 year olds who have a personal experience of an eating disorder. I train and support them to become mentors, raise awareness and challenge stigma, help improve treatments for eating disorders and spread the message that eating disorders will be beaten.

TFN: Is this a new programme or is it up and running already?

Sara: It has been in place before but due to funding from Young Start we are able to grow it more in Scotland. We are developing online support at b-eat.co.uk including live chats for those still struggling. This harnesses that young people are digital natives and is a great way to reach people in remote locations or who are on waiting lists. We’ve been working in partnership with different NHS staff and I will moderate and the young ambassadors will provide peer support.

Sara keeps positive feedback and quotes from young ambassadors around her desk to act as motivation.
Sara keeps positive feedback and quotes from young ambassadors around her desk to act as motivation.

TFN: You seem really passionate about the programme. How did you end up working for Beat?

Sara: I used to volunteer with Beat and then this role came about in April.

TFN: What’s it like going from being a volunteer to a staff member?

Sara: I remember after doing my first volunteer activity for Beat, thinking: “I need to do this the rest of my life.” I was committed to do as much as I could as a volunteer, saw the benefit firsthand, and had an incredibly rewarding experiences. As a former graduate of the young ambassador scheme, to be in this role, and for this now to be my job, is really a dream. I’m personally and professionally invested. To be able to dedicate and focus my time and efforts to Beat and a cause I am so passionate about, and now be in a position to support and empower young people to find their voice – I value this over everything.

Sara always has a map nearby. Originally from Northern Ireland she studied at the University of Dundee and only recently moved to Edinburgh.
Sara always has a map nearby. Originally from Northern Ireland she studied at the University of Dundee and only recently moved to Edinburgh.

TFN: I understand you are the only Beat member of staff in Scotland?

Sara: Yes, I work remotely from the rest of the team who are based at head-office in Norwich. I share an office in Edinburgh with a number of different organisations.

TFN: Do you feel disconnected from other Beat staff?

Sara: No, not at all. It is challenging not having your team face-to-face but I don’t feel disconnected as I speak to them so regularly. I have two screens on my desk – one remotely connects to head-office where I have access to all the shared files and I use it to Skype. The other I use for just working locally and I always keep the Beat homepage loaded on it as it’s got a wealth of information on it. I visit Norwich quite often. Most recently I saw everyone in London at the House of Commons where we held our volunteer recognition awards to mark our 25th anniversary. I also meet with our volunteers and people from our key partnerships on a regular basis.

TFN: Your desk seems remarkably well organised, what do you think it says about you?

Sara: My surroundings are really important to me. I like to think my desk is quite on point. I like to think it reflects that I’m passionate, invested and value connections and relationships. Also that I like everything to have its place!

To get in touch with Sara email her at [email protected].

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