19 March 2024

My Life Now - meet Jonathan

It’s been over two decades since we first set sail – what are the young people who have been on our trips up to now? The meaningful connections and transformative impact that sailing had on Jonathan inspired him to give back as a volunteer.

Jonathan Roberts smiling onboard a yacht wearing a Navy Trust gap, black Musto coat and Jacket. The beautiful green Scottish hills are in the background.

Name: Jonathan Roberts


Diagnosis/year: Stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma in 2014

When did you first sail with the Trust? Summer 2015

What do you do now? I am an Inventory Controller in the Electrical Wholesale Industry.

Explain what that means? This role mainly involves doing all the day-to-day purchasing of items. We serve a varied range of contractors within the electrical sector including residential, commercial and industrial. We are also available to the public, not just 'trade'.

Alongside the purchasing aspects of the role there are other tasks which I have to complete whether daily, weekly or monthly or even yearly. These include random stock checks, negotiating deals and extra rebates (discount) and also preparing the branch for our yearly stocktake in which everything has to be counted and recorded.

Why did you want to do this? I wouldn't say I wanted to do this; I still don't know what I want to do. This is an industry I fell into after school. I started by doing an apprenticeship in the warehouse in December 2011 and have worked my way up the scale to where I am now as the 'Buyer' in early 2019. In the summer of 2022, I was transferred to the larger branch located in Newcastle and have found the change very welcome and a new challenge.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done lately? The coolest thing I've done recently was actually by accident. A group of friends and I travelled to Munich in September for a mate's 30th birthday. After it was booked, it turned out the annual world-famous Oktoberfest celebration was taking place, and it was starting on the Saturday. We didn't have enough time to sort out costumes for the festival, but we went along anyway, managed to get a table in one of the beer tents - which are more like a small warehouse, each showcasing one of the beers that are from the area of Bavaria. It was a really amazing day, the drinks were great, the food was fantastic, and everyone was just having a great time. I would recommend Munich as a place to visit for anyone (once you're old enough, that is).

Jonathan volunteering at an end of treatment day. He is sat at a table wearing Trust branding with a big blue Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust banner behind him.Why did you need the Trust’s support in recovery?

The opportunity to go on a sailing trip was daunting at first. Having just finished treatment, going away for four days was the last thing on my mind. I'm so pleased that I decided to go. It was a great experience; you are able to meet people all in a similar position in the same age group. There's no judgment from anyone, we're all there because of the same thing. The sailing aspect of the trip is very much on the 'back burner' obviously people can get involved if they want to, but it isn't the sole purpose of the trip. I loved the sailing side of things, but what you get out from meeting others from different areas of the country is invaluable. Playing games, sharing experiences with one another, and also creating long-lasting friendships through it.

Why did you want to become a volunteer?

Once I had my return trip in 2016, I knew straight away I wanted to come back as a volunteer. The volunteers I had on my first two trips set a great example and with that I knew I wanted to come back and give something back. I absolutely love the volunteering role during these trips, I really enjoy showing the young people what I have learned i.e. knots etc. It's also great to see a group of people that haven't met each other before and are complete strangers to one another, but by the end of the week they are as thick as thieves! If I can contribute to even just one person having a good/great time during the week, it means a great deal. Whether through my actions, stories, instructions or just general banter the young person has had the best week they've had in a long time, then I take that as a great victory.

I recently volunteered at an 'End of Treatment' event to try and get as many young people as possible in a position where they are aware of the Trust, discover how we can help them and share first-hand experience of someone that has been in the same position as them, albeit several years earlier. This helps to show the young people what they are capable of at a time when they could be feeling at their lowest.

What’s your top tip for other young people? As much as would doubt that anyone would want to work in my industry as it isn't a sector that you grow up thinking 'I want to be an Electrical Wholesaler' there are however fantastic career opportunities in an industry that is secure, as electricity isn't going anywhere anytime soon. There are many different roles at branch level including driving, warehousing, sales, purchasing and lighting design. There is plenty of opportunity to develop and progress further up the ladder, especially if you join in your late teens or early 20s. It's an industry that is secure and isn't going anywhere, you can meet loads of different people and create lots of friendships and contacts through it.