With a career in teaching behind her and a long-term enthusiasm for education in special needs, trustee Catherine Thomas brings a special interest in the welfare of children and families to the Board of the Evelyn Trust.
Catherine’s husband, Stephen, was an engineer. She was inspired by her husband’s passion for the subject and, working with other trustees, Catherine was instrumental in developing links between the University of Cambridge department of engineering and clinical medicine at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. This led to the establishment over a five year period, of the Evelyn Trust University Lectureship in Engineering for Clinical Practice, which has received mainstream funding since 2014.
“After my husband passed away, I was introduced to the work of the Evelyn Trust and was fascinated to discover what tremendous work the Trust was doing to support medical research that could transform people’s lives. Since 2012 I have been a trustee and enthusiastic in support of the broader focus on projects in social care and mental health that the Trust has been developing.”
Catherine feels that, as a trustee, she has learned a great deal,
“The Board has benefitted from its hugely talented trustees and personally I’ve learned a lot from their expertise, from my involvement and from studying the applications for funding. It’s also so rewarding to go out and visit projects. These visits give me a chance to focus on the wonderful work that we support to meet the needs of local children and families. I particularly enjoyed the time I spent with the Laughter Specialists as they brightened the lives of children in hospital. And I’ve met children who’ve benefited from the music therapy we have funded for young people with autism.
“There is a great and growing gap in mental health and social care provision and the Trust is doing all it can to make a difference locally. We have supported a project for homeless people at Winter Comfort in Cambridge and just awarded funds to a local parish council to help them improve the physical and mental health of their residents by recruiting a ‘parish nurse’.”
Catherine was also closely involved with the establishment of the Evelyn Neurorehabilitation Project, an initiative to provide community rehabilitation in Cambridgeshire for people with acute brain injury.
Although in retirement, Catherine continues to work closely with children with special needs as part of a team running a pre-school playgroup that gives children valuable opportunities for fun and learning. Also, critically, the group gives parents the chance to take a break and share their experiences and insights. Throughout her life Catherine has been a keen sailor and is a now a supporter of the UK Sailing Academy, based on the Isle of Wight. “UKSA is a charity which teaches young people to sail and gives them training for a career in the sailing industry. I’m proud to support the fantastic work they do with young people, providing inspirational development for individuals who come from challenging backgrounds or have suffered disadvantage.”