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Last updated: May 5, 2012 12:13 am
Ayesha Vardag is managing director of Vardags Solicitors, specialising in family law. She is part of the organising committee for Opera at Syon for Children with Cancer (June 13-14, www.childrenwithcancer.org) and a founder member of the Hampshire Early Music Festival project (www.musicofthegoldenage.com).
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Which cause do you feel most strongly about now?
It comes down to empowering women and young people to have more of a say in controlling their own futures – and that extends beyond charity, into law. I think it very important [in divorces] that children have a voice in where they want to be and how they want to spend their time.
Will you encourage your own children to be charitable?
Yes I will. Not in terms of handouts but in terms of working on projects and getting involved with things. I think that’s something which benefits the cause, and benefits the children in terms of directly experiencing what the issues are, rather than just signing a cheque.
Should highly skilled people be encouraged to do pro bono work?
There’s so much that professionals and entrepreneurs can offer the charitable sector in terms of consultancy, networking and offering skills: accountants are an obvious one. One of the reasons my partner and I have got involved with the Hampshire music project is because he, as a former McKinsey consultant, and I, as a lawyer, are in a positions to mobilise resources to make it happen.
Do you think charities should try to play a role in politics?
Politics in the broadest sense of working with society, yes. I don’t think charities should be party political – there are far bigger objectives at stake than the pre-eminence of one party over another.
What do you get out of your giving?
On the one hand there’s the very direct, selfish pleasure of being involved in lots of things that I like doing. I love opera, so being on the committee of Opera at Syon means I’m closely involved. Giving is often seen as unselfish but I think there is a huge benefit to the giver: for business, in terms of PR or branding or whatever, or for personal lives, in terms of making friends or enriching experiences. Similarly, there’s the feeling that you’re giving something back not just in the ”good for the soul” way, but in terms of enriching one’s life in a practical way.
What changes would you make to the charitable sector?
I think a lot of charities are promoting and marketing themselves very well. But there are many that are somewhat clueless. That’s the situation in which professionals from the private sector would really do well to step in and give a hand in getting charities up to speed. Often they are just not accessing the goodwill and willingness to participate that’s out there.
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