Amy Sherwood

Senior Policy Planner for Asia

Guest blogger for FCDO Editorial

Part of FCDO Outreach

13th January 2017 London, UK

New Year’s Resolution – Giving up… time?

At this time of year I am reminded of Christmas 1989. Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed. The eyes of the world were on Romania. The media focused on the infamous children’s homes – all in utter disrepair, filled with neglected, wide-eyed children in their cots. This was the moment when something changed for me. I couldn’t enjoy Christmas knowing children my age were suffering. I made a New Year’s resolution to help, in whatever way I could.


I saved money until I had enough to travel to Romania. From the age of 14, I went every summer and volunteered in the largest children’s home in the country. It was in the Hungarian-speaking part of Transylvania – remote and under-resourced. At 18 I moved to Romania. I learnt Hungarian and spent my days teaching life skills, trying to better equip the children for life outside the institution. When Romania joined the EU, the children’s homes closed. The focus of my volunteering shifted, I set up a community centre and we began to work with a broader group, in particular the Roma.


Today, I volunteer for a local youth project. Many of the children face challenges at home or school. There are days that require a lot of grace and patience. However, it is wonderful when you see the young people being children again, belly-laughing and for a moment, forgetting their personal struggles. By the end of a session, I feel exhilarated, I’ve had fun too and little by little, I see positive changes in their behaviour.


One of our most precious commodities is time, particularly with our busy work-lives, family commitments and wanting to make time for our hobbies/friends. But if we can carve out some time to ‘give-up’, does the cost outweigh the benefit?

I have long associated volunteering and participating in community activities with well-being. There are even studies on the subject, e.g. Well-being: the impact of volunteering.

The benefits of volunteering are:

    • Making friends
    • Helping a cause one cares about
    • Improving someone else’s quality of life
    • Boosting self-confidence
    • Happiness and increased productivity
    • Lower blood pressure!
    • Improving the environment
    • Working as a team
    • Developing resilience

The FCO is a collegiate and friendly environment. Volunteering is part of our culture. Before Christmas we collected food to donate to the Westminster Chapel Food Bank. There was a lot of joy in our office as the Food Bank box filled up. Giving is good for you. Happiness and self-confidence helps us to do better at work.

Thanks to social media, I’m able see the former-children’s home kids in Romania raising families of their own and standing on their own two feet. I also enjoy popping to my local coffee shop, and being served by people who came through the youth project. Volunteering in the way I’ve done it won’t suit everyone, but seeing the results keeps me happy and feeling positive about life. What’s your New Year’s resolution?


I am Senior Policy Planner for Asia; I also cover Climate Change, Energy and Prosperity. My previous roles in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have focused heavily on Eastern Europe and Central Asia. One of these roles was Deputy Head of Mission at our Embassy in Chisinau, Moldova. Prior to joining the FCO, I ran an online advertising agency.

I have a degree in Geography (King’s College London) and a Masters in Central and South East European Studies (SSEES, University College London). I speak Russian and Hungarian. I am now focusing my academic development on Asia. I spent summer 2016 at Peking University, China, looking at power shifts. I am also interested in the future of the liberal international order.

I am passionate about: people, food and travel. As you will see from my blog on volunteering, I get a great deal of pleasure from working with young people. I also enjoy singing!