Making Her Mark

Trust volunteerEd enjoyed sharing her skills while working as a volunteer for the Thalidomide Trust

Edna Graham, or Ed as she likes to be known, grew up in a small village in Northern Ireland.

She was very much ‘the different one’ in her family; not just because she had been affected by thalidomide (her right thumb was removed and another finger made into a working thumb, her left wrist was twisted and her left arm is smaller than usual) but also because she was the only one of her siblings to go to a girls grammar school, while the others went elsewhere.

Even before that she was the only child in her primary school class not to be enrolled in the choir, but spent ‘choir time’ doing art instead, because she couldn’t sing.

“Being different made a real difference to my life,” she laughs, “I wasn’t good at singing but I was definitely good at art. My work was often put up on display and from those early primary school days I knew that art was what I wanted to do.”

Ed's artistic talent gave her the direction for her career

Ed did a BA in graphic design at Belfast art college, did her Masters in Birmingham and got the first job she applied for on completing her studies. Some of the colleagues she met became her business associates when they set up their own marketing and sales promotion agency.

“It was really hard work, but it paid off,” she explains, “but the agency grew and grew and we decided we’d created a monster! It was time to call it a day and I met my husband and moved to London. I continued to work in design but retired two years ago when everything began to ache and I couldn’t do as much as I used to.”

Now retired, Ed still uses her skills for volunteer work

Still a designer to the core, Ed uses her Apple Mac computer to do small design jobs on a voluntary basis. When she was accepted as a beneficiary of the Trust she was not impressed with the charity’s logo and image:-

The new Thalidomide Trust logo designed by Ed

“When you’re a designer you know when something isn’t working for an organisation, and it offends you!’’ she comments. “I felt like that about the Trust’s corporate identity and thought to myself ‘I can do something about this’”.

“When I attended my first conference at the Trust I sat at the same table as the new CEO, Deborah Jack and we got chatting. We looked at the logo on pieces of literature and I said, ‘This just isn’t impressive. It doesn’t reflect who we are. We’re much more special than this’.

Deborah was totally up for changing things and I was dying to use my skills to make a difference.

Volunteering proves very rewarding

It was great working with her because she knew what she wanted. She could stop off on her way home to London to meet with me and look at my ideas, share them with the Trust and give me feedback by email. Things moved on from there and I redesigned our logo and look. I’ve even designed the email sign-off for staff and Trustees.”

Now, when a new piece of communications comes through from the Trust Ed gets a real buzz from knowing she’s responsible for how it looks.

“Sharing my skills with the Trust has been rewarding all the way,” says Ed. “My skills were pretty obvious but the Trust’s beneficiaries all have talents and qualities that they can share to make things better. I found the experience of using what I’m good at to make the Trust look more professional, modern and engaging incredibly uplifting. For me it was definitely a win, win, win experience!”

Find out more about volunteering for the Thalidomide Trust


volunteers team