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 Christian youth work & evangelism. 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 Scripture Union associate trust, 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 churches, charities and schools in tackling the delicate issues of relationships and sex from a Christian foundation. 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. God’s calling on my life 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 children entering their teenage years, I have a vested interest in supporting the next generation in developing healthy self-esteem and relationships.
Jo Naylor, Administration Officer
Prior to joining the acet UK team in March 2016, I completed an FdA in Theology and Evangelism. I was enriched through study and the many opportunities to work within various groups in the community. Working within different small teams during those two years; as a Teaching Assistant in the professional encompass of a primary school for five years; and throughout the other varied job roles I have previously held, I feel equipped with the necessary skills to assist the fantastic team and work of acet UK.
The enthusiasm and motivation I have for this job role is fuelled by the invaluable importance of acet UK’s advocacy of the health and wellbeing of young people. As the mum of a young teenager, and through my own life experiences, the vitality of relationships and sex education is ever palpable. I am eagerly charged to help in bringing more wellbeing to the realm of relationships and sexual health, especially to young people – together with acet UK and my future study for a BA (Hons) in Christian Theology.
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.
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!