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I have been working in the health and social care sector for the past 15 years, and am a qualified social worker and counsellor by profession. Even though the majority of my experience as a social worker was across the main divisions of Barnet Children and Families Services, I realised I was increasingly coming into contact with clients, both young and old, with some form of mental health needs.
This, along with a desire to work more therapeutically with clients led me to embark on a counselling qualification at Re-Vision, one of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) accredited training organisations. In the second year of my training I was accepted on to a placement at Mind in Camden, and it was from there that my interest in mental health really took off.
I have been working at BowHaven since May 2015, and in my current role as firstly Manager and more recently Director since February 2016. BowHaven is quite simply a truly amazing and special place, which continually sets the standard for mental health services.
It does this by not only recognising, but providing an environment where members’ well-being and recovery can take place within a context of deep and meaningful relationships, and genuine empowerment through involvement and inclusion at all levels of the organisation.
For me personally, it is an absolute pleasure and privilege to be able to lead this wonderful charity, both at the present time and into what I am sure will be a bright and exciting future.
I was born in Tower Hamlets and have lived in the area for most of my life, so being able to work for a charity that serves the needs of the local community means a lot to me. I entered the care profession at the age of 16, and have been working in Adult Mental Health services since I was 19.
During that time, I have qualified as a social worker, and have also achieved my NVQ levels 5 and 6 in Management. I joined BowHaven 8 years ago, and what immediately attracted me to the organisation, was the difference it was making to our members’ lives through not only consulting them, but also providing the support, encouragement and opportunities for them to actively participate in the running of the groups, and centre as a whole.
With the latter, there has been a long standing myth that having mental health difficulties, means that you are limited in what you can do and achieve. I am therefore proud to be part of an organisation that has always positively challenged this in the best way possible.
When I started at BowHaven, we had just the four groups. This means that as the longest serving staff member, I have seen the various transitions on the way to the current service provision of a full timetable of 10 groups, plus the one-to-one support sessions we can offer members throughout the week as well.
While transitions are no doubt not without their challenges, BowHaven has ensured that our members’ views, opinions and ultimately welfare have always been at the forefront of the organisation’s thinking. This has been key to our past and present success, and has laid a great foundation for numerous future successes to look forward to.
Having accomplished my goals of working for Morgan Stanley a top tier investment bank, and Deloitte, one of the Big Four accountancy firms, I decided it was time for me to give back to my local community.
When the opportunity for BowHaven arose, I was excited that I could be a part of this small ‘family feel’ charity. Our members require kindness, care and understanding to get back on their feet and I believe BowHaven offers a unique sanctuary to help members recover and remain well. Seeing people with difficult circumstances coming to BowHaven and flourishing, makes BowHaven a very rewarding place to work for. Being able to work at BowHaven part-time, also gives me an envious work life balance so that I can be a great mother to my daughters.
I have had a variety of jobs throughout my life and also ran my own business. It wasn’t until I had a serious illness, that meant I had to have a complete career change, that led me to BowHaven. I felt I wanted to give the support to others that I hadn’t had myself.
Encouraging social skills, it’s non-judgemental and friendly atmosphere are the elements that make the centre what it is. This is why I have always kept some level of contact with the charity.
When I temporarily left BowHaven, during that period I embarked on further health and social care studies. Through these studies I expanded my skills and improved my knowledge, which I feel has enabled me to make an even greater difference to people with mental health needs.
As a mental health service user I am glad to have the opportunity to volunteer at BowHaven, and communicate with people how I would like to be communicated with – with respect, understanding and compassion.
My early career was in the arts – one of my jobs was as Publicity Officer for the Corporation of London’s Barbican Art Gallery. I changed career to do work that was more meaningful for myself and other service users.
I first came to BowHaven 9 years ago when I worked for the NHS East London Mental Health Trust – I’m not a medical professional, I worked in a Governance capacity as the People Participation Lead for Tower Hamlets. At the time, through my work with the Trust, I provided training to BowHaven members in how to run their own meetings, and become involved in decision making – all with the aim of self-empowerment.
I currently look after the membership paperwork – one of the members even calls me the Referrals Specialist! I also take the minutes for all Trustees’ meetings.
I enjoy the caring and vibrant atmosphere of BowHaven, where the services provided by the centre are run by both the members and staff in a co-produced way, which really benefits all our members.
I have a background in community arts projects and studied Fine Art at university. I’ve always been interested in the transformative nature of art and creativity and how that intersects with mental health recovery and well being. After setting up and running community arts projects in London and further afield I came to Bowhaven in 2014 to help start the Art+ group, a weekly art group for BowHaven members.
It is my own journey through mental health and addiction issues that gave me the incentive and inspiration to help others. Art changed my life at a time of great difficulty and I see it as both my duty and privilege to help others experiencing similar issues. My ethos when setting up art groups has always been to strike that balance between therapy and self-empowerment. Every member is given the support and encouragement to follow their own creative path, based on what inspires them. An emphasis is placed on the integrity of the individual and the artwork they produce, encouraging the development of skills and as a way of expressing thoughts and emotions to aid their recovery. The result of this is artwork as individual and diverse as the group itself. We hold regular exhibitions, awards ceremonies and visits to galleries. Knowledge about art and art history is an important factor of the group too, helping members to connect to art in their everyday lives.
Along with running Art+, I currently run BowHaven’s social media accounts and help to promote BowHaven’s online presence through the website. As well as being involved in organising exhibitions and events, my focus is on raising awareness of this small but much needed and unique charity.
I am the personal trainer who works with BowHaven’s ‘Healthy Lifestyle’ and ‘Open Morning’ groups, and I have been in the profession for more than 12 years. I have worked in both commercial gyms and a specialist gym rehabilitating clients with various serious health conditions and disabilities.
I am passionate about helping people reach their goals and achieving fitness that can be maintained in everyday life. An important part of my role is also about helping people to change their lifestyle habits to ultimately enjoy and continue exercising.
It is really positive that there is increasing recognition around the link between mental health and physical health, and it is so rewarding for me to see the benefits members gain through attending the fitness sessions at BowHaven.
I have been volunteering in the mental health sector since I was 18, by using my music knowledge to guide and help clients in writing songs, recording original material and self-expression through music. I was a volunteer for 3 years until I decided to go to University to study Community Music at Goldsmiths, and the course covered all areas which included working with the elderly, children, teenagers, prisoners and vulnerable adults to help creativity and learning.
When I left University I started to provide my own music workshop sessions all over East London which consisted of singing groups and drumming workshops. Since then I have provided keyboard lessons, guitar lessons, singing lessons, songwriting workshops, poetry classes and free-for-all jamming groups all for mental health charities.
I now use those skills here at BowHaven where we learn how to play piano, write original songs, sing together but most importantly express ourselves through music. By working with vulnerable adults for the past 8 years I have learnt how important it is for us all to have a creative outlet of some kind and engaging with music is an incredible way to help someone’s drive and character. For members here at BowHaven that can be extremely important to their recovery and helps them live a more stable life.
Find out more about what we do, and how we work.
Find out more about what groups we have available.
BowHaven is a registered charity (no:1114194) and limited company (no:5756374).