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25th Jul, 2015

Culture, inspiration, friendship - the 28th JCI Academy in Tokyo
by Sarah Beckwith on July 25, 2015 14:15


It is hard to describe how many amazing experiences you can fit into just nine days. The experiences come thanks to the 28th JCI Academy in Tokyo and ranged from martial arts and sumo demonstrations, spending three nights with a Japanese family, visiting shrines and temples and a fabulous farewell party on a boat followed by late-night karaoke.

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JCI Academy brings together incoming national presidents from all over the world and incoming local presidents from around Japan. This year there were 76 international and 90 Japanese delegates. The academy was a whirlwind of cultural immersion, inspirational training and bonding. 

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My team for the week - Maciej from Poland, Yedi from Indonesia, Michi, Toshi, Yuki, Miyuki and Yukito from Japan and Amour from Burkina Faso.  
Yuki and Miyuki were my beautiful, funny and caring buddies

Throughout the academy, the Japanese people were incredible, always demonstrating omotenashi (the Japanese spirit of hospitality), as well as JCI Tokyo's theme's of "respect" and "surprise". We visited an elementary school, where the children had prepared to introduce themselves to us and ask us questions about our countries. We were also treated to musical performances and observed some lessons from different year groups. One evening we visited a fete, where we could try different Japanese foods, dress up in traditional clothes and watch dancing. We also did some sightseeing, learning about the history of parts of Tokyo and making our own lucky bracelet.

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Out and about with my wonderful host family the Aizawas and friends

We also worked hard, taking part in challenging exercises, guiding each other in blind soccer, working on leadership questions and undertaking overnight group work, culminating in a presentation of our vision for JCI in 2016 to the group.

If the aim of the academy is to prepare us for leading our organisations, I can safely say I come back inspired, motivated and confident in my own ability to do so. Nothing demonstrated this more than when our fantastic trainer Lars Hajslund from Denmark said to us "you're now going to jump on broken glass" or "it's time to break a piece of wood with your bare hands". I didn't hesitate and surrounded by my new friends cheering me on, I did it, proving that anything is possible. It is that "just do it" attitude I hope to bring back to JCI UK.

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Team K with our smashed wood

I feel so lucky and grateful to have had the opportunity to attend JCI Academy and to have shared it with so many amazing people. Even better is that these are the people I will be working with as national presidents next year.

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22nd Jul, 2015

Meet the Member - Jo Mackfall - JCI Barnsley
by Fiona Silvester on July 22, 2015 07:49


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Meet the lovely Jo, Deputy President from JCI Barnsley...

Which chamber are you a member of?

How long have you been a JCI member?
Two years.

What made you join?
I had recently moved back home to Barnsley after spending four year in Northampton for Uni. I moved back in with my parents, bringing my boyfriend Ton (now a fellow member!) with me, and had a very limited social circle. My parents, Laura and Nigel, are JCI Barnsley senators, so were quick to suggest I went along to an event. I attended the launch night in January 2013, and signed up on the spot.

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What is the most interesting JCI event you've been to and why?
As a Strictly Come Dancing fan, I've always wanted to learn how to do the waltz and cha-cha, and I got my chance when JCI Barnsley's training event in February last year was ballroom dancing! Definitely not the traditional PD event run by JCI chambers, but it was brilliant fun.

Had JCI presented any unusual/interesting opportunities?
I think I can be confident in saying that had I not joined JCI, I wouldn't have had the opportunity of learning to ballroom dance, play dodgeball, go on a train pub crawl, hear from inspirational people, raise money and awareness for some of the most deserving of causes and all with a bunch of people who are in it for the same reasons as you.

What is your job/career/profession/business?
I am a legal secretary at Howard and Co solicitors in Barnsley. I am now training to be a conveyancer too!

Has JCI had any impact on your job/career/profession/business?
Yes!! I attended LEAP (Leadership Excellence in Action Programme) in August 2014. It gave me the confidence to look at my capabilities in a new light, and prompted me to put a proposal to my employers to support me in furthering my career.

What's your proudest achievement?
Overcoming obstacles throughout my three years at university, both personal and academic, to prove my doubters wrong, and come out with a 2.1 degree. Walking up on stage at my graduation was a fantastic feeling.

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Which do you prefer cats or dogs?
I've never owned either.... My boyfriend's parents have a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel called Charlie though, and he is lovely so I'll say dogs!

Tell us something crazy/dangerous/inspiring/unusual you have done
Oooh this is tricky! I'd say I'm quite normal and don't have much to shout about in terms of crazy/dangerous/inspiring or unusual! This year I'm attempting to get my fitness to a point I can do a 10k run though, that's crazy enough for me!

Thanks Jo!

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15th Jul, 2015

Meet the Member - Neal Stirk (JCI Sheffield)
by Fiona Silvester on July 15, 2015 10:15


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Star of Question Time and now our Meet the Member blog, read on to find out more about Neal Stirk from JCI Sheffield...

Which chamber are you a member of?
JCI Sheffield

How long have you been a JCI member?
Around 18 months.

What made you join?
The real buzz of positivity from everyone and the "can do" attitude from all the members! It gave the me the drive to believe I can improve myself.

What is the most interesting JCI event you've been to and why?
One of JCI Sheffield's Networking Wednesday we Ryan Offutt run a workshop with us which was brilliant! It got everyone talking, everyone interacting and made everyone feel comfortable!

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Had JCI presented any unusual/interesting opportunities?
To improve my passion for photography and the one area I want to get better at, Portrait Photography! I'm in the process of organizing a shoot with the chamber and have a few other ideas with a couple of other members!

What is your job/career/profession/business?
I'm a Technical Account Manager for Resolve IT Solutions. In short I look after the network of Small to Medium business and ensure that their systems keep working how they expect.

Has JCI had any impact on your job/career/profession/business?
Its helped improve my overall confidence in my own abilities and given me more soft skills than I had before.

What's your proudest achievement?
So far, it's getting on the council team as it's completely out of my comfort zone and has pushed me to be a lot more organised than I usually am.

What's your dream car?
I'm not too much of a car man if the truth be told but I'd really like a Audi RS3 in black one day! Just need to earn that pay rise ;).

Tell us something crazy/dangerous/inspiring/unusual you have done
I last year helped out at the Big Sleep Out for Safe@last giving up 4 Friday nights and staying awake all night to ensure that those taking part were safe. I was completely knackered after them and also cleared a months of weekends simply for sleep after. 

Thanks Neal!!

Come back next week to find out more about other members.



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9th Jul, 2015

Lori's review of LEAP 2014
by James Lambert on July 9, 2015 12:18


Loredana Toader from JCI London was a delegate at LEAP 2014 and she has kindly shared her experience of LEAP below.

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I decided to go to the LEAP academy as many of my JCI friends were praising the program and said it was one of the best trainings they’ve attended. I’d never thought about leadership before and it was not something of interest to me. But it was recommended as a great JCI experience and a wonderful training so I didn’t want to miss that. I booked my place.

I got there on a Friday full of energy and open to new ideas. I was also a bit nervous as I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Also, thoughts that this might be a waste of time ran through my head. We did a fun exercise on Friday evening to warm up and get to know each other. We were also introduced through a fun interactive game to a leadership tool that gave us a glimpse into our personality.

On Saturday we got involved in various group exercises that sparked imagination and problem solving. Things seemed to move along quite smoothly then the challenge came along and as I discovered later I was not as well prepared for it as I thought.

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By the end of the day it had become really challenging -  I only understood after coming back home and reflecting that I’ve found a side of me that was a blind spot before. Attending LEAP was the first step in discovering things that were new to me but very important for my personal development.

In such a short time I learnt so much about myself. Having to solve all type of challenges with a group of people I never met before shed a new light into: how I interacted with a group, what I expected from them, and what they expected from me. I admit it was not easy but it was worth every minute of it.

Yes, I did feel out of my depth. I never thought this will happen to me on a training weekend! Looking back I’m glad it happened because it is in these most difficult and uncomfortable moments when true change happens inside you and you have gained something invaluable – a true glimpse into yourself.  And if you have to make mistakes you don’t want to make them at work. LEAP is the perfect environment to learn about yourself and others.

During the training I realised it is sometimes hard to learn this in at work as there is so much pressure to perform and not the time and space to think and get feedback. And we all know how important constructive feedback is for us to improve.

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Looking back I see that the training gave me the confidence and the desired to embark on more challenging situations. Two months after the training I decided to take a leadership position on the JCI London council and start the chamber’s own leadership program –now I’ve already run 2 successful sessions. It definitely sparked by appetite for learning more about leadership: 2 months ago I was also accepted on a bigger leadership programme in Sweden. I know that the LEAP academy was just a small step but that the true change is yet to come. I am happy I took that small step, it made a big difference in my development and confidence.

The LEAP academy training also changed the way I view my relationships at work and I definitely have more confidence when dealing with people. I view my colleagues from a different perspective and I understand their perspective which leads to less frustration and more collaboration from both sides.

How will the program change you? You have to book your ticket here to find out! 

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I think if you want to learn something new about yourself, improve your relationships at work and become more confident and knowledgeable at managing and dealing with people then definitely LEAP training it’s for you.

One thing, though. Put passion into it, open up to new ideas and don’t be afraid to look stupid or different or uncomfortable. If you feel uncomfortable then you are on a path of an amazing journey.


For more information please visit or email the LEAP team at 

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8th Jul, 2015

Meet the Member - Faisal Mooraby - JCI Swindon
by Fiona Silvester on July 8, 2015 11:12


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Today we get to meet Faisal who has been responsible for launching JCI Swindon PO.

Which chamber are you a member of?
I am a member of JCI Reading but currently relaunching JCI Swindon

How long have you been a JCI member?
5 years - time flies really quickly

What made you join?
A tweet from a brilliant Toastmaster who was also a JCI member lead me searching for the closest Chapter

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What is the most interesting JCI event you've been to and why?
There are many and the memories stay with you. I think the Global Partnership Summit in New York is probably the most memorable one. It really is a privilege to work on something truly global and this at the UN HQ

Had JCI presented any unusual/interesting opportunities?
Difficult to say but the personality shaping I've had at JCI has certainly enabled me to look at more creative ways searching for opportunities. The relaunch of JCI Swindon has been an interesting one. I don't know whether good or bad but I do get a lot of emails from "potential business partners".

What is your job/career/profession/business?
It's always changing. I was an engineer in telecoms, now I am a data analyst, programmer and BI developer. On the long run, I'd want to be a technology strategist

Has JCI had any impact on your job/career/profession/business?
Certainly! I am more confident in networking with potential businesses or even other professionals. I am more exposed digitally, through my JCI contacts.

What's your proudest achievement?
It has to be the launch of JCI Swindon. The turn-out took me by surprise. Nevertheless, the job does not end.

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If we gave you an elephant, where would you hide it?
The Tron Grid - an elephant in a mainframe computer and covered with neon-lights  - isn't this cool?

Tell us something crazy/dangerous/inspiring/unusual you have done
Crazy! It has to be the Tomatina! Squeezed amongst thousands of people on a tiny road and getting smashed with tomatoes. It was a surreal experience and quite amazed on the psychology of man!

Thanks Faisal!

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1st Jul, 2015

Meet the Member - Dina Railean (JCI Manchester)
by Fiona Silvester on July 1, 2015 17:40


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Today we are meeting another member of JCI Manchester - Dina Railean, their Membership Director.

Which chamber are you a member of?
JCI Manchester

How long have you been a JCI member?
Almost one year

What made you join?
I went to a JCI event in order to support one of my global clients who was invited to take part in a discussion panel. Around the same time I met the then President of JCI Liverpool who added me on his mailing list and kept sending me invitations to different events. I decided to learn more about JCI and started to frequent JCI Manchester events. I met a great deal of like-minded people and membership with JCI became a natural progression.

What is the most interesting JCI event you've been to and why?
JCI Manchester is a very active chamber and there are countless excellently organised and fantastically well run events which are very pertinent to our professions, ranging from Hostage Negotiations to Financial Planning and Wills & Trusts.

The two events that stood out for me are LEAP and the recent Inspiration Day hosted by JCI Manchester.

In the case of LEAP, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting fellow JCI members both from the UK and overseas, including the excellent training offered. In so far as the Inspiration Day is concerned, the two speakers namely Joy Kingsley (JCI Senator) and Professor Vikas Shah were fantastic to listen to and learn about their amazing career achievements.

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Had JCI presented any unusual/interesting opportunities?
In addition to professional development and meeting new and interesting people, JCI Manchester also provides me with excellent business opportunities.

I very much enjoy meeting people and I thought I could put this passion of mine to good use and make it mutually beneficial for my business - Express Language Solutions - and JCI. As a result, I was presented with the opportunity of becoming the Membership Director of JCI Manchester, which I gladly took.

What is your job/career/profession/business?
I am the founder and CEO of Express Language Solutions Ltd - an award-winning translation and interpreting company. Established in 2008, Express Language Solutions now accounts for a global network exceeding 3500 freelance interpreters and translators who cater for more than 150 languages.

In addition, I am a member of International Trade Committee (Liverpool Chamber of Commerce); sit on the Members' Council (Liverpool Chamber of Commerce); member of Inner Circle (Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce) and the new Membership Director (JCI Manchester).

Has JCI had any impact on your job/career/profession/business?
Absolutely. In addition to making new friends, I meet a lot of fascinating people on a regular basis from whom I learn a lot, as well as create new business relationships.

What's your proudest achievement?
Establishing Express Language Solutions Ltd. I have founded the company at the height of recession and Express Language Solutions is now proud working with global companies, financial institutions and large national/international law firms.

Where's your favourite place to eat?
San Carlo in Manchester.

Tell us something crazy/dangerous/inspiring/unusual you have done
I have recently organised Monglian interpreting services for a Welsh law firm in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Our interpreter lived 30 minutes' walk from the required venue.




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27th Jun, 2015

Young Leaders UK - Opportunity with the American Embassy!
by Sarah Beckwith on June 27, 2015 19:18


The US Embassy has contacted JCI UK looking for members aged between 18 and 30 to take part in an amazing opportunity.

Ambassador Barzun is launching a new initiative called Young Leaders UK, searching to connect with Britain's rising leaders and engage in exciting opportunities such as virtual mentorship sessions with high-level U.S. officials and selected American visitors, discussions with Embassy leaders on current issues and U.S. Embassy events and receptions.

The process to apply is simple:

Step 1. Write a short text response (not an essay, something the equivalent of a 140 character tweet) OR create a video response (again, nothing professional - videos filmed on a phone are fine. Nothing lengthy - one to two minutes is great) answering three questions:

1. What word or image illustrates what frustrates, concerns or confuses you about the United States?
2. What word or image illustrates what inspires you, what do you like, or what gives you hope about the United States?
3. What word or image comes to mind to describe the Special Relationship between the U.S. and UK?

Step 2. Send the text or video to along with name and age. Please let them know you heard about the initiative through JCI UK.

Please let JCI UK Deputy National President Sarah Beckwith know if you do get involved, we'd love to hear about your experiences!

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24th Jun, 2015

Meet the Member - Mark Smith (JCI Sheffield)
by Fiona Silvester on June 24, 2015 11:17


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Introducing Mark Smith, President of JCI Sheffield.


Which chamber are you a member of?
JCI Sheffield 

How long have you been a JCI member?
Since 2012 when I learned about an open evening on twitter that JCI was running. 

What made you join?
I loved the positivity and enthusiasm of all the people I met at that very first open evening. I could see how JCI could help me to 'meet, learn and grow' both personally and professionally.  I liked that membership sounded like good value for money and that you could go to as many meetings, workshops and sessions as you wanted to and that it was flexible. I also liked the idea of the travel opportunities JCI can offer as that was something I wanted to do more of but was always a bit apprehensive about doing! 

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What is the most interesting JCI event you've been to and why?
This is a hard question to answer! I have really liked taking advantage of the international side by going to European conference and world congress as well as visiting our JCI Sheffield's twin chamber, JCI. Mayo in Ireland.  I like meeting people from different backgrounds and with different experiences and the international program really let's you do this. I find listening to talks by successful business people very interesting and getting to ask them questions about what drives them and makes them motivated.

Had JCI presented any unusual/interesting opportunities?
A few that stick out in my mind include taking part in the community 'BEach BETTER' community project whilst at European Convention in Malta in 2014.  We had the chance to go snorkelling and to pick up litter from the bottom of the sea bed in the local bay.  It was surprising how much rubbish we found. 

What is your job/career/profession/business?
I work for children's charity SAFE@LAST as Director of Operations and Strategy.  The charity supports children and young people at risk through running away in South Yorkshire.  My role is to oversee aspects such as fundraising, volunteering, budgets and accounts, partnership working, marketing and communications so there is a lot of synergy with my involvement with JCI.

Has JCI had any impact on your job/career/profession/business?
I have made some really close friends through JCI, been able to visit countries and places I never thought I would go to and also had my view changed so it seems normal to me now to pop to another country for a long weekend of training! So JCI has widened my perspective!  Its given me the opportunity to raise the profile of the charity I work for and has helped to attract new supports, donors and volunteers from the JCI network.

In terms of professionally, JCI has had a positive impact on making new connections and networks for work which has also resulted in donations and sponsorship of the charity as well as recruiting volunteers.

What's your proudest achievement?
It has to be winning the most outstanding JCI member in the world award in 2014. I was completely lost for words and felt very proud to accept the award.

Which do you prefer cats or dogs?
I use to be a dog person when I was younger but now I love cats. I have four and they really are little people in fur coats!

Tell us something crazy/dangerous/inspiring/unusual you have done
Last year I trekked across the Sahara desert for SAFE@LAST with my good friend and fellow JCI member Dan Senter.  I can honestly say if it wasn't for JCI, I would never have had the courage, drive or determination to sign up to such a difficult challenge.  It was an amazing yet tough experience and the sense of achievement is out of this world!

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Thanks Mark!




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23rd Jun, 2015

Jo Mackfall's review of LEAP: 10 months on
by James Lambert on June 23, 2015 07:05


If someone had asked me twelve months ago if I thought I was a leader, or if I thought I had the skills, knowledge and belief to be a leader, I’d have answered both questions with a straight forward ‘no’. I would say I was a confident person, and my parents (and some friends!) may have described me as bossy at times, but I personally wouldn’t have given myself the credit to describing myself as a leader. That all changed when I spent 48 hours at the 2014 LEAP academy last August.


I remember discussing LEAP with Ben Hawley, and Tracy Anderson, JCI Barnsley’s then President and Deputy President after a training session or council meeting about this time last year. I forget which, but it was in the bar of the Holiday Inn, so could have been either as we usually end up in there! We had been talking about how much I would get out of it, how I would benefit from it, and perhaps how it would open my eyes to my options to progressing within JCI. They were keen for me to go, and so (with the little internet signal we get in that bar), I booked on that same evening.


It was a 48 hour experience I will never forget. It was exhausting, both from lack of sleep and from the sheer amount of training that got packed into the weekend, but it was inspiring and generally a blooming good weekend from start to finish. I not only came away full of skills and knowledge from the training sessions, but also a whole new bunch of JCI contacts, who each were an inspiration through the weekend.


 Jo Graduating

Fast track twelve months and here I am, JCI Barnsley 2015 Deputy President, and a trainee conveyancer. I attribute both the progression in JCI and the progression in my professional life to attending LEAP. I think it was always destined that, at some point in my JCI career, I would become a President of JCI Barnsley – it’s in my blood – but I don’t think anyone thought it would happen so soon. Without attending LEAP and having the camaraderie of the other delegates and the trainers alike, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go for it.

Jo & Tracy


JCI offer huge numbers of opportunities for members in all areas of opportunity and at all levels of the organisation. LEAP is one of those opportunities. There are still places available to attend LEAP this year and I cannot recommend it highly enough!


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Book via Eventbrite -



Jo Mackfall

JCI Barnsley 2015 Deputy President

JCI UK 2014 LEAP Graduate

JCI UK 2015 LEAP COC member



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21st Jun, 2015

What does it mean to be on National Board?
by Sarah Beckwith on June 21, 2015 19:00


If you're thinking about a National Board role in 2016, you may want to know what will be expected of you.  I'm pleased to be able to publish the attached guidance, which sets out the main roles and responsibilities of the various National Board positions, plus a rough indication of the time commitment involved.  Huge thanks to the current National Board team for their input into compiling this document.

I want to stress that these roles are not rigid.  In the past some have been combined (e.g. Admin and Membership), while some have been split (Marketing/Communications had two directors in 2012).  Ultimately many of the roles overlap and National Board will work together to deliver the outputs needed.  We will use each other's strengths and support development needs to get results and ensure everyone has a great learning experience.

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Here are some comments from current and past National Board members on why they took on particular roles and what they've got out of their experience. 

"Being on National Board is a new experience for me after being a member of JCI for 7 years.  It is interesting to see JCI from a different angle and I have learnt a lot from taking on a national board role".
Wasim Alfaisal, International Director 2015

"I took on this role because for over 12 years I have professionally been based in roles that involved building partnerships with a variety of different organisation. I have worked within the charitable sector for seven years and now within the vocational education arena which will allow me to use my professional skills to the benefit of JCI UK. I am a blue sky thinker. The answer is 'yes', the question is 'how can we do it?'. Networking and forming professional relationships is one of my biggest strengths and I genuinely enjoy doing it". 
Michael Steel, Strategic Partnerships Director 2015

"The best thing about being on National Board is hanging out with a group of great, positive, supportive people.  It's infectious".
Paul Widger, Finance Director 2014 & 2015

"I took on this role because I was excited about the impact JCI has on our members and wanted to contribute to the organisation and tell as many people as possible about it".
Michaela Schaller, Marketing Director 2014/15

"It's the contact with local board members and any potential/new members to JCI that I enjoy the most about my role.  Seeing people join the organisation and then progress into running projects or taking on local roles.  It's always rewarding supporting new and smaller chambers and seeing them grow and develop.  I love the amount of contact I get from members on a daily basis that reminds me why I love doing this role".
Fiona Silvester, Membership Director 2014 & 2015

"There is something truly special about a member coming up to you after a training event that you've organised or delivered and saying they learned something which is going to make a difference for them.  Knowing you've helped someone develop their skills and confidence is incredibly gratifying".
Sarah Beckwith, Personal Development Director 2014




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