Leadership diaries: A week in the life of a CEO travelling abroad

Founder and executive director Anil Patil discusses a week in his life, travelling abroad for the charity Carers Worldwide which works to support unpaid family carers in low- and middle-income countries.
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Monday

I arrived in Bangladesh last night. I’m here to visit one of our local charity partners, Centre for Disability in Development (CDD) and to meet some potential new partners.

First thing on the agenda is a Learning and Sharing Workshop about our project, attended by various stakeholders including unpaid carers, barefoot counsellors (these are carers who have received our training to become counsellors for other carers), volunteers at our Community Caring Centres and government officials.

Carers shared their experiences of being part of our project and the difference that our intervention has made to their health and well-being, reducing their loneliness and isolation. I always enjoy hearing directly from the carers we support and am constantly blown away by the transformation stories they tell and the confidence and self-esteem they developed after starting to work with us.

In the afternoon I took 30mins for my weekly call with the team back in the UK. We meet every week to share what we’ve been doing and our priorities for the week ahead.
In the evening, I met with CDD’s Executive Director before a long drive back to my guesthouse due to the notorious traffic – a 40-minute journey took 2.5hrs!

Tuesday

I always start the day with a nice big cup of tea, whilst I check my emails and WhatsApp messages.

Today I went with the CDD Carers’ Project Coordinator to meet with senior officials at the Ministry of Social Services, to tell them about our work with family carers in Bangladesh. They were really surprised to hear about it and were not aware of the needs and issues of carers. Initially they gave us just half an hour, but we ended up talking for 2.5 hours and they agreed that they would like to collaborate with us and hear our suggestions for policy development to support unpaid carers across the country.

I was elated with the positive response from the government officials. It’s so important, along with our work on the ground with carers, to share that work further and find the opportunities to influence and inspire policymakers to look into the needs of carers and do something about it.

It was pouring down with rain, so I had dinner in my room whilst communicating with our charity partners in Nepal, planning for my upcoming visit to our projects there as the next part of my trip.

Wednesday

Today I travelled to a very rural area of Bangladesh to meet with a potential new charity partner and promote a Carers Association there. The journey took around seven hours by car as well as a 45-minute ferry ride. On the ferry I was traveling with goats, chickens and people taking vegetables to sell at market, which was quite the experience.

The Carers’ Project Coordinator from CDD was with me to share their experience of working with us and the changes they have seen among the unpaid family carers they support. He also shared how their work with carers has strengthened their disability work, adding value to what they do.

More than 100 carers were waiting to meet us. Even though it was raining heavily, they all came out to see us which was so touching and inspiring.

We then travelled another 1 1/2 hours to visit another potential new charity partner. We arrived late so just time for introductions over a dinner of fish curry and boiled rice before bed, ready to meet more family carers tomorrow.

Thursday

Today I met with another 55 carers, brought together by the organisation we were visiting, to share our work, listen to their stories and lead a discussion around the issues and challenges they face as unpaid carers.

My colleague from CDD again shared their experiences supporting unpaid carers and we heard from these carers that they would like to promote a similar initiative here. They even wanted to set up a Carers Association there and then. So, after our meeting they formed an executive committee and decided what kind of memorandum they would submit to the district’s official authorities. It was very inspiring for me to see how passionate they were to make a difference to their lives using our model.

During the long journey back, I had plenty of time (when network coverage allowed) to call with colleagues to plan my trip to India, where I will be attending a State Level Carers Forum meeting and conducting some field visits. I also had time for my monthly call with our Chair of Trustees, in which we spoke about the ongoing work in each of our countries of operation, some new funding that had come in and I updated him on my visit to date and the plan for the rest of the trip to Nepal and India.

Friday

Friday is the first day of the weekend in Bangladesh and we visited one of our Community Caring Centres where they were holding their annual entertainment event. Our centres provide a safe space for children with disabilities to access education, therapy and nutritious meals, while giving their mothers some respite or a chance to get involved with one of the projects’ income generating activities.

It was just amazing to witness one of these events for myself. There were lots of fun activities, including singing, dancing, poetry recitals and games for the carers and their children to get involved in and I enjoyed joining in too.

I then visited one of our Barefoot Counsellors. It was incredible for me to hear how our training has helped her to look after her own health and well-being, as well as support others. She now talks to about 25 carers a month, calling them to see how they are and whether they need any help, or she visits her nearby Community Caring Centre where groups of carers come together.

She made us some lovely homemade sweets and snacks which was a real treat and visiting her reinforced my belief that just a little bit of information, a little bit of training, can not only empower the one person, but enable them to empower others as well.

I finished the day delivering some refresher training for the CDD staff. We covered Carers Groups assessments, our revolving fund concept within a Carers Group and livelihood support.

Then after a busy and fruitful week, I packed up for my flight to Nepal the next day.

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