Gareth Cheesman, Esteem Network Director
My working life started in community and church youth work. Whilst working as a community youth worker, I was trained by acet UK to deliver relationships and sex education (RSE). I then worked for 6 years for a school's work charity, delivering RSE across Chester high schools. During this time, I worked with over 5000 young people focusing on the simple message that there is hope in a better view of relationships and sex.
I joined acet UK in January 2015 and, as Esteem Network Director, I train and support eductors from charities, churches and schools in tackling the delicate issues of relationships and sex. It is my role to help them be the best they can be in this essential field. I also deliver RSE in schools across the North West and spend some time training and supporting acet UK's international partners. I feel my main motivation has always been around helping people reach their full potential. For me a vital issue in this is relationships and sex education. I am excited to see how acet UK grows over the next few years.
Paul Semakula, Schools Work Coordinator
Prior to joining acet UK, I had been studying both full time and part-time for the past 5 years, gaining a BA and an MA in theology, in addition to being a minister in my local church. During my studies, I worked within schools in the London area, supporting young people with their academic and behavioural development. Over the years, I have grown a passion for young people, having had first-hand experience with some of the many difficulties they face, both within and outside of school, and I have always had a heart to reach out to them in a more holistic way.
Having joined acet UK in 2018 as a Schools Worker, helping to deliver the Esteem programme within the London borough of Southwark. I am now working as the Training Coordinator for London and the South, delivering all of our training programs, from our full accredited training to teacher INSET days. The training enables all who work with young people to gain valuable skills and knowledge in RSE, aiding them to deliver high-quality lessons that meet the needs of their young people.
I believe it is important to see young people changed and transformed in the area of relationships and sex, as well as seeing the narrative surrounding relationships and sex becoming more positive, nurturing and healthier for our young people.
Rachel Burnell, Schools Worker
Before joining acet UK, I worked for a local pregnancy centre, delivering relationships and sex education to students in primary and secondary schools. I also work part-time as the children’s and youth leader in a West London church, so am very involved in pastoral care in the local community. Prior to this, I was a primary school teacher for a number of years and have always loved to work with young people to see them grow and flourish.
For the past six years, I have also been a foster carer, and looking after a teenager has taught me a lot about the many challenges young people face today around relationships and sex in our ever-increasingly digital world. I am really excited about the prospect of working at acet UK and making a difference in the lives of these young people. Having been an Esteem member for the past few years I have learned so much from the acet UK team about what good RSE should look like. I am extremely passionate to continue the vision of reaching all young people to help them grow in their self-esteem and ability to make healthy relationship choices.
Michelle Boreland, Schools Worker
Hi, my name is Michelle and I am really happy to be part of the team.
I am a South East London girl. Before joining acet UK, I have worked alongside children and young people of all ages from many backgrounds as a teacher, nurse, and schools worker.
I will be working with young people in London schools, many of whom are wishing to explore issues around race. I am excited to be developing the racial identity project in collaboration with the young people.
Kelly-Joy Brannan, Administrator
I joined the acet UK team in August 2019 as Administrator after graduating from a three-year Theology and Leadership School based in Redding, California. I’m passionate about helping organizations become the best they can be through excellence in administration and have 7 years of administrative experience under my belt. I have also worked with young people in many different capacities including youth work, mentoring and teaching. I love seeing young people discover their unlimited potential and thrive as they grow in confidence and self-belief.
It is a privilege to be part of an organization that is creating such positive and impactful change not just on a national level but internationally. I’m delighted to work alongside a team of people with a genuine desire to see the lives of young people transformed and love that I get to be part of the story acet UK is writing; one that I believe is leaving an incredible legacy that will benefit future generations of young people.
Ben Hockley, Finance Officer
I joined acet UK as the Finance Officer in October 2016. I have a degree in Economics from Lancaster University and have worked in Finance since January 2008. My previous job was executing the finance function for an online retailer of Christian resources, which has given me valuable experience and insight into both finance and working in the Christian world.
I am excited to now work for an organisation where having a positive impact on people’s lives all around the world is the primary objective rather than profit. It gives me great satisfaction to play a part in supporting both the delivery of our compassionate education and training here in the UK and the provision of financial support and resources for our international partners to perform their life changing work overseas.
Rachael Denley-Samson, Operations Manager
My past experience equipped me well for my extremely varied and interesting role at acet UK, where I assist our UK team of Esteem educators, support the board of trustees and CEO, and liaise with our international partners. I have been able to draw on my 6 years as an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ administrator of a small charity; the finance experience I gained from working in various management positions; the international development elements of my BSc; plus 8 years’ teaching experience!
I am passionate about the work that my role supports at acet UK. As a qualified teacher, with a heart for young people’s emotional and relational needs, I really enjoyed participating in the Esteem training course - and would highly recommend it. And, as a parent of two teenage children, I have a vested interest in supporting the next generation in developing healthy self-esteem and relationships.
Sarah Smith, Fundraising Manager
I began my journey into relationships and sex education in 2005 when I trained as a volunteer Esteem educator and started delivering lessons in schools, alongside my job as an account manager for a global HR consultancy. In 2007, I left the business world to fully invest myself in relationships and sex education, having developed a growing awareness of the need for young people to have opportunities to talk about these topics, and the need for training so that youth workers and teachers were better equipped to create these opportunities.
Since then, I've worked in Mbale in Uganda for two years, adapting the Esteem programme and delivering it to hundreds of young people there; helped to establish and grow Esteem as its own charity; delivered sessions to thousands of young people in Southwark; and trained hundreds of youth workers across the UK and beyond. During this time I have completed a wide range of relevant training myself, including the National PSHE CPD programme, and I am an accredited trainer with Open College Network.
I became the CEO of acet UK in August 2015, following the merger between Esteem and acet UK in 2014. It was a real privilege to lead the organisation for 4 and a half years, growing our work in the UK and growing the capacity of our international partners. I have now changed roles to enable me to be a foster carer! I am delighted to be continuing working for acet UK as Fundraising Manager, raising funds for all the fantastic work we are doing.
Stephanie Higgins, International Support Officer
I joined the acet UK team in June 2020 after returning from East Africa, where I was working with a grassroots girls’ empowerment organisation on programme development and monitoring and evaluation. I am passionate about pursuing God’s heart for justice and it was the year I spent working in Uganda with a Christian NGO supporting children and families in urban slum communities that first showed me the importance of enabling community-based development and mobilising churches to be at the heart of creating sustainable change. Between studying for a degree in History and English, I have spent the last four years travelling back and forth to Uganda working with a variety of programmes promoting gender equality, preventing gender-based violence and educating young people.
It is a privilege to be supporting acet UK’s inspiring local partners around the world to transform culture and promote healthy relationships. I am excited to work with a team committed to helping people reach their God-given potential both in the UK and internationally.
Catherine Healey, Chief Executive
I know that we cannot do everything, but believe we must do everything we can!
I have enjoyed over 20 years volunteering in church youth clubs and camps throughout Wales where I became known as the “sex lady” for speaking about relationships and sex education, particularly to university students.
After 20 years of community development, I then spent 10 years in international and early childhood development in South Africa starting up several charities and businesses to support them. I also developed a project to shift the lives of over 28,000 children orphaned by HIV and AIDS. I designed, developed and delivered training to over 1,000 functionally illiterate caregivers, in 4 languages and then spent the next two years organising medical clinics and running disaster relief work for the world’s poorest country, Madagascar. A keynote speaker at last year’s Humanitarian Forum and International Disaster Management show, I love inspiring strategic and transformational change!
I hosted a popular relationships radio show specifically giving advice to parents bringing up children, and have written and illustrated several books. In my spare time, I’ve had great fun painting well over 1,000 educational murals, in schools, clinics and hospitals across southern Africa, warning of the perils of HIV, TB, Malaria and Rabies and the benefits of breastfeeding.
I am passionate about fighting injustice and developing and enabling young people to reach their God-given potential.
I became CEO of acet UK at the start of 2020 and am most excited about our vision to transform culture.