Gemma Cartwright Featured in Essex Livings’ Inspiring Mums

Gemma Cartwright Featured in Essex Livings’ Inspiring Mums


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Gemma Cartwright has a pivotal role in the Southend community, supporting voluntary organisations across the region in their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

‘Since the first lockdown, along with my colleagues, we set up a residents’ helpline to support thousands of people isolating’

Scouring through Gemma Cartwright’s daily planner or CV could make even the most energetic person feel lazy. Married with two young girls, Gemma 37, has been the Development Officer at SAVS in Southend for six years. She started work at the independent charity on the very day her eldest daughter turned five-months-old. “It was tough going back to work so soon after she was born, but for me it was a good decision as it supported my mental health and I think made me a better mum,” said Gemma.

“I was made redundant from my previous role in international development just ten days after giving birth so it was a strange time.”

SAVS, also known as a council for voluntary service, works behind the scenes to help local charities and community groups thrive and reach their full potential. With the pandemic striking at the heart of our lives, their work has never been needed more. Gemma’s role sees her support voluntary sector
organisations across Southend, from small community groups up to national charities. “Over the last year my role has been extremely varied as SAVS works to support the voluntary sector’s response to the Covid pandemic,” she said. “Since the first lockdown, along with my colleagues, we set up a residents’ helpline to support thousands of people isolating or shielding with shopping, collecting prescriptions, delivering post etc. “I’ve also been working hard to help lots of new charities get their work off the ground and have supported local charities raise over £1 million for their work to benefit our community. I’ve worked to ensure lots of groups survived losing income and could stay open to deliver the vital, and in some cases life-saving support, they provide to the people of Southend.”

Gemma was born in Rochford and grew up in Southend. She has spent almost her entire life living in south Essex, apart from the years she was a student at the university of Brighton. Gemma has been with husband David, aged 36, since they were teenagers. They met when they were both 16 and were involved in local scouting organisations. All these years later the couple share two daughters together, Zoe, aged five and Nicole, aged two. Outside of her SAVS work Gemma is a trustee of the Essex Community Foundation and the volunteer chairman of the Fundraising Committee of Southend RNLI.

This is a cause close to her heart as David works as a volunteer lifeboatman. “We are all very proud of him,” said Gemma. Gemma also volunteers as a mentor with the Cranfield Trust and informally, with other local mums, she also runs collections to support a Christmas toy appeal. But what’s the most challenging aspect of it all? “I always need more time,” she says. “There is always more that could be done and not enough hours in the day or funding to support the resources we need. There are always so many great ideas, but not always the time to give them and make them happen.” So does Gemma ever get time to kick back and relax? “I’m not very good at relaxing, I’ve always got a project on of some description whether it be work related or a community initiative,” she confessed. One thing that Gemma hasn’t warmed to during the lockdown is home-schooling. “Home-schooling was impossible. I was home alone with two little ones whilst setting up and delivering our resident’s helpline as well as other work. My husband was out working at the time too which made things really tough.”

As Mother’s Day approaches, what does Gemma enjoy most about the job of being a mum? “Being a mum is the toughest but best job in the world, and no-one prepared me for the guilt of having different roles in life,” she said. “That said I hope that my children especially as they are girls see and understand that you can wear different hats if you choose to. I think it is important that they learn kindness and I hope when they are older that they’re proud of my husband and I and our roles in the local community.”

‘Since the first lockdown, along with my colleagues, we set up a residents’ helpline to support thousands of people isolating’

Jamie Langstone