Sarah Smith, Chief Executive
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, 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.
I became the CEO of acet UK in August 2015, following the merger between Esteem and acet UK in 2014. It has been a real privilege to work more closely with our ACET colleagues in other countries since then and to see some of their work first hand. Although we all have slightly different focuses in our work according to the context and HIV situation, we all share the goal of reaching more people with excellent relationships and sex education that challenges and transforms culture where it needs to and is responsive to global digitalisation.
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.
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.
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.
Paul Semakula, Schools Worker
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, I help deliver the Esteem programme within the London borough of Southwark. As a Schools Worker, I get the opportunity to work directly with the young people in secondary schools, talking with them about the importance of building healthy self-esteem and having healthy relationships. I am so passionate 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.
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.
Anna Strain, International Support Officer
Before joining acet UK, I worked for Tearfund for nearly 2 years, primarily in the West and Central Africa team - working in the Central African Republic and the Sahel, where sexual and gender based violence is pandemic. Prior to that, I spent 2 years in Kampala, Uganda, and also worked for short stints in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and Kigali, Rwanda. Whilst living in East Africa, God broke my heart for women and girls living in extreme poverty; and the high prevalence of sexual violence in the communities. I started working at a drop in centre for female sex workers in Uganda, and also worked at a residential home for vulnerable and abused young women in Dar es Salaam.
I’m so excited to join acet UK, as International Support Officer, and to get to know and work alongside our international partners and see the great work they are doing around the world. I hope I can use my experience and passion for working with people who have been affected by HIV, sexual violence and harmful social norms and beliefs; and am sure I will learn a lot as well!
Esther Bonsu, Schools Work Co-ordinator (RSE)
My passion for youth work and community development began 16 years ago, whilst working in partnership on an anti-knife and gun crime project in association with the Network Alliance (Five Borough Alliance). Subsequently, I have undertaken a number of varying roles within the sector, from teaching business enterprise in a secondary school secure unit setting, to developing and strategising youth and community projects in partnership with the Greater London Authority.
I joined acet UK in January 2018, as Schools Work Co-ordinator for the Esteem project. I deliver relationships and sex education (RSE) lessons and workshops, monitor and evaluate progress, and create new resources for the work we do.
I am passionate about RSE and equipping young people to comprehend healthy relationships and sex. Alongside the amazing work I do here at acet UK, I am also an international speaker, who travels the world empowering people to embrace and uncover their God-given identity and significance. Together with acet UK, I am ardently empowered to support young people to unleash the fullness of their potential and overcome all of life’s obstacles.