Ben is learning so much in his ‘full- on’ year

Ben Rouse became High Sheriff of the Isle of Wight last April, and by the time his year-long term is completed in a few months’ time he will have attended around 250 engagements across the Island.

It’s a tough schedule, particularly for someone who also runs his own independent financial planning company, but one that he has been thoroughly enjoying. I caught up with Ben to see what he has learned from his time in the prestigious position.

He said: “You know four years in advance that you will become High Sheriff and during that time you attend a number of events that go some way towards helping you get used to it. But I have to say I still didn’t really know what to expect until I took on the role.

“Essentially, it is all about trying to get involved in the community and doing your job in terms of supporting the courts, the magistrates and judges. It is a very ‘full on’ year and I am fortunate that I have such a good team supporting me in my business.

“It has been a tremendously enjoyable time and a great honour and privilege. But really it is all about the people I meet and the Island community as a whole, and I feel I have learned so much.

“Apart from the Lord Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight, Major General Martin White, and his wife Fiona, I cannot think of anyone else who gets to see the number of things on the Island that the High Sheriff does during their year in office. It can be a visit to the IW Prison in the morning, then maybe being at the hospice or the food bank in the afternoon, through to attending an awards presentation in the evening.

“The one thing that has struck me is the huge number of charities on the Island and the people who help run them. Without the voluntary sector we really would fall apart. So many people do things out of the goodness of their hearts, and never question it or expect recognition.

“This role also serves as a reminder that there is a lot of hardship on the Island, but people just try to get on with it, even though some really struggle to cope. While spending time in the magistrates’ court I have learned to re-engage with what is happening to some people and try to understand it better.

“I would also like to think that people will keep an eye on others around them, take more interest in them, and have a chat to them. It isn’t necessarily just the elderly who need help but anyone who has happened to hit on hard times and, unfortunately, there are plenty like that out there. It is so important to help and support people who are socially isolated. If you are going through life and are lucky enough for things to have worked out for you, it is easy to forget what other people may be going through.

“That is why I don’t want my time as High Sheriff – the experiences I have had and the time people have given me — just to be a waste. When my term has finished, personally, I will be looking to see where I can become more involved in the community. I am not sure what it will be yet but there is something out there where I am sure I can have an input.”

For many engagements, Ben has worn his ‘court dress’ and carried his High Sheriff’s hat — something he was somewhat sceptical about in the beginning. But he smiled: “People have been so nice and complimentary about it and want to know what it’s all about. So I say, maybe with caution, that I quite enjoy wearing it now — it’s special, and an honour to
wear it.”

‘So many people do things out of the goodness of their hearts, and never question it or expect recognition’

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