Secretarial: I Work For...; All the support I need

MOIRA LAMBERT IS A PA AT ADFAM, THE NATIONAL CHARITY FOR THE FAMILIES AND FRIENDS OF DRUG USERS
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The Independent Culture
When I was made redundant two years ago I was anxious about finding another job. I had been working for a small, family-run business and wanted to find a job where the employers would be equally friendly. My cousin works for a housing association, and suggested a charity would be a caring and supportive environment. I applied for lots of different jobs but found Adfam was the friendliest. It's a very small company with only five full- time and five part-time staff. I felt it was the right environment for me.

I was interviewed by Ann Marshall, the director. She wanted someone who could organise fund-raising events as well as do administration. Although I'd never done fund-raising before, I do sing in a band and, to my surprise, she felt that this experience would be really valuable in terms of organising entertainments, and in fact it has been.

I was quite scared about the position at first. Most people's contact with drugs is through sensationalised stories in the media. They don't always give the full picture or accurate information. I had experienced how awful it was to find out that someone close was on drugs. When it happened to me I didn't know there was any one who could help. This experience gave me an understanding of how frightening and isolating it can be for families. Adfam gave me lots of training on drug awareness, which made the whole issue much less frightening.

My role is very varied because it's a small office. I might answer the phone to members of the press or to a mother in tears because she's discovered her child is taking drugs. It can be really stressful. But all the same it's very rewarding, you know you're making a difference to peoples lives. It's fantastic when we get letters from people saying "you have helped me so much".

I love organising the fund-raising events. We have brain-storming sessions to work out which celebrities to approach; I also help sending out letters and arranging the practical details. Our next fund-raising event, Midsummer Dreaming, is a celebrity concert at Leighton House in Kensington on 25 June. Jane Asher, Patricia Hodge, Martin Jarvis and Amanda Redman will be attending. I enjoy liaising with celebrities. Since working here I have met Ben Elton, the Two Fat Ladies and Steven Tomkinson.

Fund-raising can be difficult though: as a small drugs charity we aren't particularly attractive to the general public - not like dolphins or elephants. People don't understand how distressing it can be for families when a member has problems with drugs. Support is available for addicts, and we think friends and family have a right to support as well.

Lack of funds puts limitations on us, which can be frustrating. I can't always put people straight through to the helpline because there often aren't enough staff to handle all the calls. It's distressing when someone is upset and there is no one free to talk to them, it's not always appropriate for people to leave their number. But I do get excited when we get donations, whether it's pounds 5 or pounds 500.

Ann and I work very closely together. I think she has gradually relaxed, over time, to give me a bit more autonomy. I organise the publicity for all the fund-raising, and design all our leaflets. She is very professional, and anxious to provide the best possible service on a limited budget. It's a balancing act. It's important for a manager to be able to make unpopular decisions if it's in the best interests of the company. She keeps a very tight reign financially because people want us to use their donations responsibly to help clients.

However professional you are, you are only human and sometimes people who call us will be in desperate situations, you can't help getting upset. Everyone in the office is very supportive, there is always someone to talk to. There are still boring aspects to the job, like filing, and I still have to write letters to people asking for help. I send out hundreds of letters - it's fantastic when you get a yes, but this still means that there are 99 nos.

I would like to develop my role at Adfam, especially the fund-raising side. Adfam is a growing charity: and unfortunately there is a growing need for what we provide.

Interview by Daisy Price

Helpline number: 0171-928 8900

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