Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile – Surviving violence, creating hope, rebuilding lives

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Who’s who

Meet Baobab’s dedicated team of staff, trustees and volunteers at the heart of our community.

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We have a small body of core paid staff who take on managerial and supervisory roles and a team of very skilled, part-time sessional workers and interpreters. We rely heavily on the skills, experience and generosity of our large number of volunteers who take on the roles of clinicians, key workers, caseworkers or administrators. We require that all our clinical staff are very experienced. Each clinician who works at Baobab has at least five years’ experience of working in multi‑disciplinary clinical contexts. Want to join our team? Check our jobs and volunteering opportunities.

Clinical Team

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Bitenge Makuka

Head of Groupwork, Bi‑cultural Senior Group and Support Worker
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Kevin Perkins

Senior Child and Adolescent Integrative Psychotherapist (volunteer)
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Liz Bodycote

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist (volunteer)
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Sheila Melzak

Director, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist
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Tony Jaffa

Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist (volunteer)

Social Casework Team

Administrative Team

Workshop Facilitators

Translators

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Teaching Volunteers

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I heard about Baobab from a friend who volunteers, supporting young people with writing skills. I decided this was something I could do too, and although initially I worked on literacy issues, soon our small group focused on story telling and finding ways to express important topics. I’m a writer of novels, working mostly alone, and it was a pleasure to spend a few hours each week with enthusiastic and appreciative young people.

I am a writer and lecturer with twenty years’ experience of teaching life story writing. I was attracted to Baobab by their imaginative and holistic approach. Previously, I usually worked with older people who wanted to write their memoirs but at Baobab I am working with young people who have experienced more than most people ever do. It is a privilege to help them tell their stories.

I’m a novelist, working on my seventh novel, and I also write book reviews and features, largely for the Guardian. I teach creative writing at Faber Academy on their selective course. My favourite novel of all time is Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which reveals more and more with every re-read, and literature has been my inspiration since early childhood. Sheila Melzak asked me to come and help with teaching English at Baobab. I’ve had two students, and I’ve loved the work and being part of such an incredible organisation. Baobab is both radical and humane, and its work is profoundly important.

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Baobab to me says kindness and careful attention. We all need both. At Baobab I use my previous experience as a counsellor in a GP surgery to help young people on their way using fun, conversation and a love of language. On other days I am a Coram Beanstalk Reading Helper for Year 2 and 3 at Grafton School near Baobab. Never did I think that at 71 years old I would be helping teenagers and also young children. Whatever it is that I give, I get back ten times over in joy and satisfaction and feel lucky to be part of the Baobab team.

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Trustees

The Board of Trustees at Baobab meets four times a year as a full governing body.  The Board also runs a number of sub-committees that meet regularly and report back to the full board’s quarterly meetings. 

Dr Felicity Dirmeik MB,ChB, MRCPsych, Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society graduated in Medicine from the University of Cape Town. After moving to London she subsequently trained as a Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist and Psychoanalyst. She also trained at the Tavistock Clinic and then worked as a Consultant, teaching and running clinical services in NHS teaching hospitals in London for 25 years. Her experience includes working in therapeutic communities, group work, work with individuals and couples and training medical students to work psychotherapeutically. From early in her career she was on many committees at the Institute of Psychoanalysis and later chaired a committee looking at ethical practice for the British Psychoanalytic Council, overseeing the complaints procedure.

She is currently retired after having worked in private practice as a Psychoanalyst and Psychotherapist.

Dr Elspeth Carruthers is an NHS doctor working in North London and an academic at UCL researching ways to improve access to healthcare for inclusion health groups. Prior to training in medicine at St George’s in London, she graduated with a degree in Arabic and French from Cambridge and a masters in Arabic from SOAS. She then worked for the legal charity Reprieve with a focus on human rights abuses connected with counter-terrorism policy. Elspeth has worked with people from migrant backgrounds for over a decade, including as a volunteer advocate and interpreter as well as clinical work in refugee camps in Greece. She previously served on the management committee for a migrant organisation in South London.

(biography coming soon)

Dr John Clark is semi-retired from higher education where his last role was that of a senior manager in a business school. He continues to supervise students who are preparing doctorates in the area of human resource management. John has taught management, leadership and change management to practitioners on MBA Programmes and for client-based courses. He has research interests in these fields, particularly as a reflective practitioner and action researcher. In addition to his support for Baobab, John is an active governor in local secondary schools. As the Chair of Governing Bodies he advises senior leadership teams on strategic issues.

Enla Fees works for mothers2mothers (m2m), an Africa-based NGO, leading global efforts to end paediatric AIDS and create healthy communities, by training and employing women living with HIV as frontline healthcare workers and peer-mentors. Based in London, and working with partners across Europe, North America and Africa, she leads a global advisory committee of senior executives to engage private sector actors in the growth and development of the organisation. Enla is a first-class History of Art graduate, and prior to joining m2m, led on international Marketing and Communications for British luxury design collective, Based Upon. She has held voluntary roles at the West London Mission, the Museum of Homelessness and was an Organising Committee Member and Team Leader at the ‘International Group’ drop‑in for vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers at St. James’s, Piccadilly. A passionate public speaker, Enla has spoken at the London Design Festival, London Craft Week and at corporate events with companies including MAC and Warner Bros. Alongside her professional role, Enla is undertaking an MSc in Development Studies, in the Department of International Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Holly Hemming is an upcoming lawyer, specialising in human rights and constitutional law. She is currently based at the Infected Blood Inquiry. Her previous experience includes the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and key human rights cases against governments and multinational corporations, with an international QC. She previously studied Law at the University of Cambridge, completed a Masters at the University of Oxford and studies at Harvard University. The latter focused on war crimes and genocide, and her legal focus is on the intersection between civil liberties, fundamental rights and asylum. As an indigenous Pacific Islander, she has also worked in de-colonising law, including reports to leading British museums on the subject of repatriation of cultural objects, including treasured items. She undertakes pro-bono work, including for unrepresented and vulnerable litigants and was the recipient of the Princess Diana scholarship for the Bar.

Dr Tony Jaffa is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist.  After a long and successful clinical and managerial career in the NHS he now works in private practice and voluntarily.  He has been providing consultation and assessment at Baobab for ten years and has also provided assessment and therapy to young refugees in three other refugee charities. He has written a chapter on family therapy for refugee families, and has presented on his work at international conferences.
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(biography coming soon)

Dr Gill Martin qualified as a Psychotherapist in 1982 specialising in work with women who had experienced sexual abuse. In 1995, she started to work with refugees and asylum seekers and from 2001 was responsible for delivering training on that theme in Hull which had became a dispersal area for asylum seekers. In 2003, Gill set up the Haven Project Hull which offers a holistic service for refugee families and individuals, working with particularly vulnerable refugees who have come to the UK under the UNHCR gateway programme and who have been in camps for many years. She also worked one day a week between 2003-2009 in a specialist GP practice in Huddersfield offering a therapeutic service to the refugee population. She was the first Chair of Solace, a refugee mental health service in Leeds, leading the organisation for five years. She has a Masters degree in Public and Social Administration from Brunel and a Masters degree in Theoretical Psychoanalytic Studies from UCL and extensive training in the treatment of trauma.

Souzette Motombo is a qualified Advanced Social Work Practitioner specialising in social work with children and families. She has vast experience working in the frontline in local authorities, specialising in child abuse and neglect and working in collaboration with different agencies to safeguard children including the police, health and housing agencies, criminal justice, alcohol and drug agencies and the Home Office.

From 2016, Souzette started working with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who were looked after by the local authority to ensure that their holistic needs are met and they can meet their full potential as they adjust to living away from their families and home countries where they had experienced immense trauma. She is also trained in competing specialist parenting assessments including PAMS assessments for parents living with disabilities and/or intellectual difficulties. She also has a vast experience in completing other kinds of assessments including child and family assessments, connected carers/kinship assessments, and viability assessments particularly for children who can no longer remain in the care of their biological families, with experience of presenting such cases to the court arena and giving evidence.

She has management experience of managing assessment and referral teams, ensuring that referrals are addressed in a timely manner according to agency expectations and timescales using different models including the Safeguarding and Strengthening families and Signs of Safety/Signs of Wellbeing Models. Souzette is also a practice educator, practice assessor and supervisor in social work practice, training, coaching, mentoring and teaching newly qualified social workers and students.

A member of the anti-racism in practice education group, Souzette is an avid advocate for social justice in social work practice education and social work practice in general including support for equality and diversity to ensure that reflective, objective and effective social work practice is promoted.

Dr Eithne Nightingale has over 30 years’ experience of working with diverse communities and on equal opportunities within the education, cultural and museum sectors. She was Head of Community and Adult Education in Hackney before she became Head of Equality and Diversity at the V&A and is co-editor of Museums, Equality and Social Justice published by Routledge in 2012. In 2019 she completed her PhD entitled Child Migration to East London: Life stories of departure, arrival and settlement at Queen Mary University of London. She has also co-produced a series of award-winning short films on child migration (childmigrantstories.com) and her forthcoming book Child Migrant Voices in Modern Britain: Oral Histories since the 1930s is to be published by Bloomsbury in 2023. She is also a writer and photographer.
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Herman Otto is a former user of the Baobab Services and brings a critical and reflective understanding of the charity and our holistic and integrated approach. Herman studied at Greenwich University to become a civil engineer. He works for Octagon Developments as an assistant site manager dealing with the day-to-day planning and running of various multi-million-pound construction projects.

Patrons and Funders

Our work is made possible by the generosity of our funding partners, donors and patrons. Our work would absolutely not be possible without their vital support.
Meet our funders and patrons

Our Partners

Baobab is part of a large network of sister organisations and institutional partners that help us better support our young community members and fight for their rights in British society.
Meet our partners

Last updated: March 2024

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