>>The first of three features on the trade’s welfare charity

Two years ago Gillian Barker was a high flier at Safeway but she made the decision to get out and do some good for the retail industry she has worked in all her life.
She resigned from her position as fresh food director to take up the director general’s role at the trade’s welfare charity, Caravan.
Currently 40% of workers in the grocery industry know about the charity, but it is Barker’s mission to increase awareness. Part of her week is dedicated to promoting the charity and explaining its important work to supporters and potential supporters.
“So many people leaving work in our industry find themselves in dire straits through no fault of their own. Caravan looks after these people who live in poverty.”
There are 1,300 people receiving £674 per year from Caravan, but another aspect to Barker’s week is to look at applications from potential beneficiaries.
“People are always unbelievably grateful for the money, or sometimes more practical support such as a new fridge or wheelchair,” says Barker. Through the week she
often gets telephone calls that bring tears to her eyes.
“Last Christmas a woman called to say Caravan has made her life worth living again. It’s almost certainly a lifeline for many people - when you’ve only got £3.45 to live on after paying for the essentials, £13 makes a hell of a difference.”
Barker says that she gets tremendous satisfaction from her job, which is never dull.
“There’s no typical week for me - a lot of people just think it’s all about fundraising. It’s a huge part of my week, especially at this time of the year when I’ve been busy drumming up support for our various events, but running a charity is just like running a business.”
Gillian Barker, director general