“What R.A.B.I does for farmers cannot be overemphasised,” said Stuart Roberts, Vice President of the NFU, at R.A.B.I’s 159th annual awards ceremony and annual general meeting. “We are a rural community, and R.A.B.I is the bedrock of that.”
Around 230 guests, including trustees, committee members and supporters, attended the meeting in Oxfordshire. Chairman Malcolm Thomas congratulated volunteers on their support for the previous year and introduced new members of staff, including CEO Alicia Chivers.
In 2018, the charity paid out around £2.22 million in grants to 1,248 farming individuals and families.
Stuart added: “I think a big driver for people needing R.A.B.I’s support is in times of change. Whether that be changes in circumstances, health, or life stage.
“I see a lot of change at the moment. Brexit will inevitably cause big changes in our sector. We’re seeing changes in society and how we as a sector have to engage with society. Climate change and the variable weather remains a big issue.
“Where we see change, there’ll be more demand in our sector for R.A.B.I. Farming is unlike any other sector. We look out for each other, and that’s the role R.A.B.I has been playing for 159 years.”
R.A.B.I said farewell to deputy chairman James Orme and honorary treasurer Jeremy Lewis, who both depart the board of trustees after nine years.
James Orme’s experience as a lawyer has been vital to the governance of the charity. During his time with R.A.B.I, James chaired the Beaufort House management committee and, more recently, helped process the flood of applications for the Welsh Government grants.
A former partner in accountancy firm Grant Thornton UK LLP, Jeremy Lewis brought skill and knowledge to his role of R.A.B.I treasurer.
John Elliot and Jean Woolliscroft were voted onto the council as trustees, bringing with them a wealth of experience.
Chartered accountant John Elliot will take over the role of honorary treasurer. While farming in Oxfordshire, John took on roles as a non-exec director of Countrywide Farmers and NFU Mutual.
John was proposed by Jeremy Lewis, who said: “I have known John for a good many years and we trained together as chartered accountants. When I thought of a successor treasurer, he was the natural choice.”
Farmer’s wife Jean Woolliscroft brings to the board knowledge of the care sector. As a qualified physiotherapist, she worked within the NHS before moving into the charity sector with Ben – a non-profit organisation that supports people from the automotive industry. She took on the role of training organiser at the charity’s care homes, before retiring last year.
Trustee Richard Binning proposed a vote of thanks to the charity’s committee members, volunteers, and supporters for their fundraising efforts. He said: “Being involved with a county committee, I know the hard work in takes to put on all the events that happen.
“We’re incredibly lucky to have the support of corporates, church congregations, YFCs and individuals who do a full range of cycling, marathons, vintage tractor driving, and everything you can possibly conceive to raise money for the charity.”
Photos by Kevin Milner.