Here is our Fireside Chat with Claire Hoyland, Project Lead at FireAid. This interview touches on the importance of accountability in the workplace, the wide variety of responsibilities of looking after a charity and how UK Fire Services are saving lives around the world through sharing their resources.

27 September 2021 by Adam Richardson, Business Liaison

 Fireside Chat with Claire Hoyland - FireAid

 

Intro: Claire is the Post-Crash Response and Resilience Officer for UK charity and founding FIRE AID member; the Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport (EASST) Claire’s responsibilities at EASST includes the management and development of FIRE AID, her role includes the coordination and delivery of a range of projects, activities, and events both nationally and internationally helping to improve emergency response and road safety. Claire joined FIRE AID and EASST in 2018. She graduated with a Business degree from the Open University whilst travelling extensively and working on various international development projects, including work with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

 

 

  • How have you been affected by COVID-19?

My answer for this is probably more positive than most people as personally, it’s been a nice time for me. My little boy, Reggie was born just as COVID-19 hit so my partner was able to work from home and we had this lovely little bubble of me, him and a newborn where we were able to spend a lot more time together.

On a work-related level, COVID-19 has had a big effect on FIRE AID. We have had to pause all our international projects and movement of any equipment. Our income has been significantly affected too as we have had to cancel two big fundraising events and we lost our core funding. However, its not all doom and gloom and as restrictions ease we have been able to start planning projects for later this year and importantly, we have recently found another core donor which will enable FIRE AID’s activities to continue.

 

Personal Questions

  • Do you have any pets?

Very recently we rescued three hens - they’re called Henrietta, Hermione and Hetty.  All H for hens -but we have no idea which is which because they all look exactly the same. One of them is troublesome and doesn’t like going back in her house but we can’t even tell which one she is as they are identical. It could even be a different hen each day, we don’t know!

  • What’s your favourite movie of all time?

Can I say two? ‘Out of Africa’ and ‘Snatch’ they’re very different films but I equally love them both.  ‘Snatch’ because it’s hilarious and ‘Out of Africa’ because, when I was younger I’d think to myself “That’s what I want when I’m older…. a farm in Africa… “, so yes, those are my two favourites.

  • Describe yourself as a teenager in 3 words?

Opinionated, determined and outgoing.

  • What is your biggest pet peeve/hate? 

This is an easy one because I absolutely hate waste; it drives me crazy.  Waste of all kinds, waste of food, waste of material items like clothes, waste of money, waste of time, just any kind of waste. I think this came from working with a charity called FareShare whose mission is to save surplus food from going to waste. Seeing how much food is wasted really angered me and got me into thinking about all the things that we as humans waste.

  • If you could be from any other decade (or era), which would it be and why?

The 70’s, because I love flares and crazy patterns, my hairs naturally very frizzy, so I could just leave it untamed. It was also a big era for feminism with lots of female leaders across the world, especially political leaders. The UK, Argentina and Portugal all had their first female prime ministers during the 70s. So my choice is based on feminism and crazy, individual fashion. 

  • If you weren’t in the fire industry – what would you be doing and why?

My dream job would be a pilot.  I was an air cadet when I was younger because I really wanted to be a pilot.  I love aeroplanes and I am also abit of an adrenalin junkie so ideally a fast jet pilot.  I love going to air shows and before COVID-19 I used to travel around the UK to go to different shows, I cant wait to be able to take Reggie, I hope he loves aeroplanes as much as me!

  • What’s on your Spotify or iTunes?

Relaxing, classical piano – I need this to keep me sane whilst trying to work full-time with a busy one year old!

  • If you could have any three people (dead or alive) over for dinner – who would they be?

Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth 1st and Catherine the Great; they were all good leaders in some way or another and I would like to learn something from them.  It would probably be a very serious dinner party but it would be really interesting.  I think I would learn a lot, just think how much they all know, all the secrets that Winston Churchill could share. I would be happy to just sit and listen to them debate.

I would be interested in what Queen Elizabeth 1st and Catherine the Great would say to each other being two strong female leaders, I wonder if their thoughts and opinions would be similar, or if they would clash.

  • What is your favourite quote and why? 

I don’t really know many famous quotes so I did abit of research and I found one that I liked. It’s Walt Disney (of all people) and he said: “The way to get started is to, quit talking and start doing”.  I think it sums me up well! I’m definitely someone that likes to ‘do’, I don’t like to sit still I believe if you don’t take action then you will never learn, grow and develop.v

  • What two things would you take to a Desert Island?

My little boy, Reggie and my partner.  I’m not sure how we would survive but at least I would have good company!

  • Name a book, movie or tv show that has positively shaped you and why?

I would say Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s: ‘War on Waste’.  It was a really eye-opening documentary that inspired me to take little steps to reduce my own waste. For example, I set myself the goal of not buying new clothes or using throw away coffee cups. It’s definitely one of the tv shows that shaped me positively and the way I live. 

  •  If you were an animal, what would it be and why?

I found this one hard so I went online and took a couple of animal quizzes and both times I got the same animal so it is official, my spirit animal is a Dolphin. The blurb says: “I am a lover of life and people, my energy and appetite for learning plus my intelligence and empathy makes me successful in almost anything.”

  • What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

When I was 10 my Dad made me a dolls house for my birthday and I remember it being a massive surprise, it is this enormous, beautiful handmade dolls house and I was so excited when I saw it.  I later found out that it was meant to be a Christmas present but it had taken him longer than he thought to make it.  It’s something that will be in the family forever now - it is honestly beautiful!

  • What's your favourite thing in your closet right now?

It’s a designer jumper from a Charity shop, which still had the label on but I got it for £2 when it was originally £150! It’s my favourite thing because its warm, cosy and a massive bargain! I don’t buy anything new - you can get such great things from charity shops.

  • If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

It would be to pause, speed up and rewind time.  Definitely, something to do with time.

 


Professional Questions

  • What's the best piece of advice you've received?

I remember one of the first days at my first ever job and my boss said to me: “I don’t mind if you make mistakes if you own up to them, learn from them and don’t make the same mistake again” and I thought yes that’s fair enough! This is something I always try to do; I think it is important to be up-front and honest with colleagues and to admit if you have made a mistake but most importantly to learn from mistakes. Although it can be hard for some people to own up, without doing this you are unlikely to learn as effectively from it, the best way to learn from a mistake is based on the experience, guidance and advice of others.

  • What time did you get to work this morning?

I work from home and I have done for a number of years so the pandemic has not changed that for me. One of the good things about that is the flexibility, I think you end up doing more work but during times that suit you so today I started work at 8am after dropping Reggie at his grandparents.

  • What does your usual day look like?

My day has changed massively since becoming a mum - for one I am usually woken up anytime between 5-6am so by the time I start work it feels like I’ve been at work for a whole day already. 

Returning from maternity leave was a big shock, trying to organise Reggie, myself and my workload has been a learning curve and switching between ‘mum mode’ and ‘work mode’ has taken a lot of getting used too, but the flexibility within my job has really helped with this transition.

One of the things I like about this job is no two days are the same and there is no real routine to my job. The role is so varied as it involves running all aspects of FIRE AID such as accounting, fundraising, social media, the website and equipment database as well as managing FIRE AID’s relationships with its members and a wide range of external stakeholders. On top of this I manage a large majority of FIRE AID’s international projects and this includes grant applications, equipment and volunteer management, customs paperwork and liaising with our in-country partners and emergency services – in general a lot of planning and report writing! I am responsible for growing and developing FIRE AID as well as running its every-day activities and projects so there is always something to keep me busy and in turn, motivated.

  • What makes you excited about the future of this industry?

Part of what’s exciting about the fire industry is how dynamic it is, a fire fighters role covers so many essential disciplines. I think it is easy to assume fire fighters only put out fires but in reality their roles are so much more. Their role is so important to the community; whether it’s responding to floods or road incidents the wide breadth of their role is so dynamic and allows FIRE AID to offer diverse projects all over the world. The variety across the industry opens up so many opportunities for FIRE AID to help others, as a result our projects are diverse and cover areas such as water and rope rescue, first aid, search and rescue and post-crash response to name a few. It means we are able to use the wide range of professional standards here in the UK and share these to countries most in need and we are able to do this in response to each countries needs.

  • What is the latest technology/invention/innovation you would like brought into the fire industry?

My biggest hope would be that the technology we have access to and the innovative ways the fire industry works in the UK, whether that be through training or equipment, is shared across the world particularly to emergency services that do not have access to modern technology and innovations.

  • What do you like about the fire industry?

When I first started working with FIRE AID and fire services around the world I was really surprised at the sense of community and the sense of sharing. It is a really friendly industry to be in, firefighters want to help other firefighters and they are very willing to give up their time and money to do so.  I think firefighters in the UK are genuinely concerned about firefighters around the world that do not have access to the equipment and training they get here in the UK.  I have seen so many relationships form between our UK- based volunteers and firefighters all over the world which have flourished and grown after the project has ended; whether that be sharing knowledge or offering support to others who have experienced trauma or suffering from PTSD. The sense of community and sharing is ongoing.

  • How does your work and family life come together?

The most important thing to me is my friends, family and to be content and to appreciate what I have.

  • What matters most to you?

The most important thing to me is my friends, family and to be content and to appreciate what I have.

  • What would you tell yourself at the age of 21?

Unfortunately, you aren’t going to solve all of the world’s problems!

  • What motivates you?

Seeing FIRE AID succeed. As I am the only member of staff I can see a direct impact between the work I put in and FIRE AID’s success and this is great motivation! I think running FIRE AID takes a lot of energy, focus and drive without me pouring this into the organisation it would stagnate so my motivation comes from seeing the organisation succeed and knowing that if I do not drive the organisation forward it might not happen.

Seeing the results of our projects is also great motivation, our projects take perfectly useable equipment which would be scrapped and donate this overseas so it motivates me to stop this valuable equipment going to waste when it is so desperately needed elsewhere. I am also motivated to see the results of our projects, I like to see data and evidence that our projects are having a positive impact; this motivates me to want to do more, to find more funding, to deliver more equipment and to save more lives. For example, in Ukraine our equipment was used to extricate and save 144 people from road traffic incidents during 2020 alone. That’s just one project, and one example so knowing the positive impact our work has on communities around the world is an essential part of what motivates me.

  • Where do you want to be in 5 years?

I love my job; it is so rewarding to be a part of an organisation that saves lives. I love that my work has a positive impact on people all over the world so I hope I will still be working with FIRE AID. Over the next 5 years I would like to develop FIRE AID to have reliable funding which would allow the organisation to employ someone else to support my role.

I would also like FIRE AID to become better known across the UK, although we are well known amongst senior managers in the fire service, MP’s, ambassadors etc a lot of serving UK firefighters do not know the breadth of our work so I would like us to be more widely known.

  • Why is the FIA important to you and the industry?

The FIA brings like-minded organisations together to have a greater influence in bringing about positive changes in the industry, this is really important to keep the industry moving forward and developing. Collaboration is so important, but it is a big challenge for commercial businesses to set aside competition and work together for the greater purpose of improving the industry - by achieving this the FIA has played an important, essential and positive role on the industry.

  • What do you want to say to the readers?

I hope listening to me hasn’t been too boring! Please have a look at FIRE AID’s website to find out more about what we do and get involved!


If you would like to get involved with Fireside Chats please contact Adam Richardson on [email protected]

*All answers given are not reflective of the FIA views and thoughts and are that of the individual who was interviewed.