Sandra Schembri is the Chief Executive of the charity The House of St Barnabas, who have just opened their non-for-profit Private Members Club at their beautiful and historic Grade I listed building in Greek Street. Since 1862 The House of St. Barnabas has worked towards helping the homeless in London. Now, under Schembri the charity is shifting its focus from sheltered housing to employment opportunities and one way is through opening a Private Members Club which has a double function as a way of providing work experience and raise funds for homeless people in London, as part of their Employment Academy.
This week, Positive Luxury get to know what gives Sandra her energy for helping others and how she keeps her life positive.
One word that describes you?
In your own words, what do you do?
I am creating an environment where tangible change in peoples lives is possible and I do not only mean for those we work with who are affected by homelessness.
Who is your greatest influence in your career/life?
I have one female and one male.
Elizabeth I – Just astounding for a women in the 1500’s Golden Age indeed.
Sergio Vieira de Mello – a man who worked for over 30 years trying to resolve conflicts around the world in some of the most unorthodox ways really showing me there is always another way, just keep looking
Which is your favourite part of your job?
People People People – I get to meet all personalities, ages and interests in this job and every single person has something they are passionate about if you give them the space to tell you. Passion is a great place to find purpose but also more importantly for me, possibilities. From there we may even work out how to change things for the better in the most interesting and exciting ways rather than business as usual.
Which is the part that you enjoy the least?
Institutional bureaucracy i.e. “Red Tape” People really can change the ways things work from the inside out and make them more human for everyone involved and I wish they would wake up and realise this. We do not have to keep things the way they are because this is how they have always been. If I had a magic wand I would put the best minds on to ways to alleviate this red tape which is slowing or in some cases halting some amazing work being done.
What is your greatest achievement?
(Apart from not dropping my motorbike on the street in my riding test whilst undertaken the u-turn, having dropped it on three occasions only two days before) To date – getting this project to opening – The House of St Barnabas.
What was your Plan B?
There was a plan? Ok – It was a very organic process and plan B has been plan A for a while until Plan A was suggested. Plan B was to operate 1 Greek Street as a venue for hire and these fees were used to pay for the Employment Academy but the two would not be integrated and it would not have even a third of the positive impact we will have with the Academy integrated into the club.
What is your most prized possession?
A compass – I get lost – a lot!
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
It fluctuates between “don’t ask – don’t get” & “ask for forgiveness rather than permission.”
Please complete the sentence… I could not live without…
My bicycle and my family. They are always showing me new things and new ways to see the world.
Favourite restaurant? In which city?
Floyd’s, in Dalston, London. Fresh, tasty daily menus and amazing cocktails
Sustainability and consumption are two words you will hardly find in the same sentence – which brands do you think are good quality and are doing their bit for people and the planet?
Patagonia – they are a responsible business, it is built into their DNA. You really do have an item for life and they build their working environments with people and good experiences in mind not as an afterthought.
Do you support a charity or cause?
The Place2Be helps young children lead happy lives through offering a place to talk not just for the kids, but parents, carers and teachers. Having grown up on a not so nice estate in north London I understand what some of these kids and families are going through. I am lucky to have quite frankly an awesome family who made sure we were utterly loved, well fed and well educated in spite of what was going on around us. Others were not so lucky and I hope one day The Place2Be will not be needed, but not yet. .
What’s on your Xmas wish-list?
A dog, a funky bicycle helmet, and a Skiing holiday.
What is your personal luxury?
Shoes – I am the cliché – I love them and I think they love me back.
What steps do you take to make your life more positive?
Yoga – I cannot touch my toes so I am determined I will get there this year. It has really helped me to focus my mind this year without consciously mediating. I always fall asleep when I try to meditate and I realise that is not really the point.
What does positive luxury mean to you?
Making a choice that benefits both people and planet in a real sense whilst being an item / experience that brings such individual joy.