Boys from Cumnor House Boys raise money through the triathlons series.

‘Once Restless, always Restless’

This story is a part of our 10 years of Restless Development Celebrations; Becoming Restless, Changing Development.

Restless Development is here today thanks to its incredible supporters. To celebrate 10 years since we became Restless Development Megan Andrews caught up with one of those supporters. 

Jim Sewell first got involved with us in 1990 when we were still Student Partnerships Worldwide (SPW). He went to support development by teaching and engaging with communities in Zimbabwe. Since then he’s helped raise over £2 million to ensure our work continues. 

Jim Sewell and Triathlons series co-founder, Tessa Murray

How have you been involved in Restless Development’s work since your placement back in the 90s?

I got back involved in 2006 when I met Eric Levine, who was then the CEO offered me a role for “probably just a few hours a month as a Trustee.” I joined a very different organisation. When I volunteered with SPW we didn’t get much training and it was very much sink or swim. It was an incredible experience and it gave me a love of volunteering and Africa that I still have. When I joined as a Trustee it was still a small organisation but had transformed from the one that I’d been part of 16 years before, focusing primarily on in-country volunteers training in their own communities.

I was a Trustee, and sat on on the Fundraising Committee, for nine years. I loved it and in 2015, I gave up my role at the IT company I had founded in 1994. I wanted to get more time to volunteer and support Restless Development.

From Eric promising me a few hours a month, I’m now pretty much a full time volunteer 30 years later.

I founded the Schools Triathlon series alongside Tessa Murray. A series of events that would allow young people in the UK to raise money for their peers around the world by taking part in sport. We started that 5 years ago and it has raised over £1.2million since. This year has been a challenge for obvious reasons, and we had to go online, but we’re looking forward to running the physical events again next year. 

Another thing I’d realised was that when I was working, my company used to support a different charity each year. The staff would vote on whom to support. We used to give them a donation but we never had any engagement from the charity. It frustrated me that charities and businesses didn’t seem to understand each other and the value they could add to one another. So I worked with Restless Development to create a Corporate Social Responsibility service to offer to companies. We know that young people applying for jobs right now really care about what the company gives back, it’s one of the primary things they look for so it’s vital for a business to be doing good in the world. Restless Development will work with a company, organising fun events, explaining their work and helping the company bring their own values to life. 

It frustrated me that charities and businesses didn’t seem to understand each other and the value they could add to one another.

We also founded the Entrepreneur Panel which enhances this mutual understanding so that individual givers, who are often entrepreneurs better understand how to support the charity financially and through livelihoods programmes. As part of the Entrepreneur Panel I went on trips alongside other members to Tanzania and Uganda to visit programmes. The panel has contributed to the major donor programme which has raised nearly £600k since 2015.

All three areas are critical for charity’s growth because they provide flexible funding. So from Eric promising me a few hours a month, I’m now pretty much a full time volunteer 30 years later.

Out of all your experiences with Restless Development, what has inspired you the most?

Every year I’m inspired on the days we run the Triathlons, the kids are so excited about the fundraising they have done and they want to tell you all about the creative ways they went about it. Some teams raise over £2000 and will also present on the impact that that money will have.

Through my work in fundraising I’ve also had the opportunity to visit 6 or 7 livelihoods programmes in Tanzania along with my 14 year old daughter Skye. We visited a girls programme in Dar Es Salaam where young girls, some of whom came from abusive homes, some of whom had children of their own, were brought together as a social group and helped to set up savings groups and businesses. Hearing from them the impact that Restless Development had had on them really inspired me to keep going, and it gave Skye a new understanding of how lucky she is. 

Another programme I visited had been running for ten years and had come to an end. I was able to visit some of those who’d been on the programme. Two were sitting for the local council and another was running for higher office.

That long term impact is pretty special, and it’s great to see those young people trying to make change for the rest of their community.  

You’ve been kindly supporting Restless Development for a long time. Why does investing in young people and youth leadership matter to you now?

If you train people, whether in livelihoods, sexual education, environmental impact, then those young people build a better future. That’s a no-brainer to me. The question is how best to do it and I think Restless Development are experts. 

Sometimes people don’t know how to get involved with a charity, that there are so many charities and don’t know how to ensure that their money will be well spent. Having been a Trustee at Restless, I know that every single penny is guarded and looked after. From that perspective, you know that any money you are donating is really going to the people who need it. There is a certain amount of skepticism around aid and development. But Restless Development is really about helping people help themselves. There are obviously times where aid is important, such as following natural disasters, but development is the only long term solution. 

For me, getting involved is a lot easier than people think – whether it’s a simple monthly donation, a business partnership or a fundraising activity. Without a doubt, you get as much back as you give. I’ve been helping Restless for 30 years, it’s kept me young and it keeps me restless.