Inspirational Volunteers: Stephen's Story

Stephen Hayes, age 63, lives in Glasgow. He is married to Shivonne and they have a son, Sean aged 13 and a daughter, Clare aged 12.

"I was raised very close to Liverpool's docks, which brought sailors from all over the world and this, together with my father's tales of war service in Burma, made me aware of countries overseas with needs far different to our own.

Holiday jobs in a large local hospital gave me an interest in helping others and from the start I was eager to share information with overseas health management students. As moderator of the International Health Management MA at London's South Bank Polytechnic, I would host overseas students for spells of management experience at the various hospitals I was involved with in the UK.

In 1994, a post in NHS management brought me to Scotland. Here we formed a link with a hospital in Kathmandu to enable their nurses to train in our high dependency unit. This is when I felt a deeper engagement with the developing world and moved with my family to Karachi to manage a not-for-profit primary health care company in Pakistan. This involved running a network of 120 maternal and child health care centres and 11 hospitals, with a special focus on the remote area of North Pakistan, close to borders with China and Afghanistan.

This strong relationship with Pakistan continued when I returned to Scotland in 2002 to work in international consultancy around health management. Through my work, I have been privileged to work in a broad range of countries including Nigeria, Kenya and Tajikistan. This gave me an acute awareness of the health and associated issues, of women and children especially, in disadvantaged parts of the world.

It was during this time that I became aware of Shared Interest. International aid strikes me as important but still fails to address the issue of sustainability. This is why I was immediately attracted to Shared Interest; the focus is ultimately on supporting the development of fair trade enterprises and co-operatives in low income countries. I support their aim of encouraging businesses and therefore communities to become economically stable on a long term basis.

Shared Interest is an innovative concept in that it goes far beyond charitable giving in using an individual's savings - which may be needed again one day but can be put to good use in the interim -to finance fair trade businesses that may not be able to find financial support elsewhere. I was also drawn to the organisation's ethical basis, and mutual principles in being a co-operative, along with its transparency.

The idea of becoming a voluntary ambassador for Shared Interest was attractive because I am sure there are so many people of goodwill in the UK who would readily become investors but haven't yet heard of the organisation. Being an ambassador is rewarding in that not only is the cause worthy but the message is almost always received with courtesy and intrigue.

By giving talks, manning stalls at events and through personal contact, I continue to help promote Shared Interest in west central Scotland, while also continuing my consultancy and getting involved in other aspects of the fair trade movement here.

Shared Interest has strong support here in Scotland in terms of investment but I would like to grow the volunteer network in my local area. My own involvement has been stalled slightly due to returning to Pakistan for three years in 2008. Now that I am back, I look forward to being able to start to meet occasionally with other volunteers as a Glasgow-based group. This means that we work together in encouraging others to invest in a fairer world; whether it be their time or their money or both."