Meet The Team
Mandy has just graduated having completed a PhD with the University of the West of England and the Power to Change Trust into community business leaders’ values. The research explored the reasons why people are motivated to run a community business. Her research will be used to support new and existing community businesses to be more sustainable.
Mandy led the Bath City Foundation, a sports charity based at Twerton Park. She trained as a teacher and set up two Study Centres at Bristol City FC and Bristol Rovers FC as part of the ‘Playing for Success’ initiative.
Mandy has a wealth of experience working with individuals and groups to make positive impacts on their communities. She is passionate about harnessing the power within communities to deliver vital economic, health and wellbeing outcomes.
Mandy is an avid reader, especially thrillers. She is a football fan and supports Bristol City.
Claire has been with VANS since February 2014 following a 10-year career break to raise a family who came to North Somerset in 2008. Prior to this she had been working for an investment company in London, commuting daily from South Croydon.
Volunteering plays an important part in Claire’s life, having volunteered in various capacities from as young as 14. Her current volunteering roles are as a youth club supporter and as a helper at a local weekly coffee morning.
A keen board gamer, Claire will spend a lot spare time playing board games and attending board gaming events with her family and friends. Her other interests include live music, travel and supporting her school age children in their hobbies and activities.
Bernie joined VANS in September 2018. Prior to this she worked for the local authority in Human Resources, she has a strong public sector background in HR. She has also previously undertaken volunteering with Weston HospiceCare.
Bernie leads VANS volunteering and events programme and is responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the volunteering service and development of the programme through the recruitment and training of new volunteers. Bernie is responsible for the online volunteer centre, a database of hundreds of volunteering opportunities with organisations/groups across North Somerset. Registering with the online centre gives potential volunteers access to the opportunities enabling them to add value to the local communities by connecting them with organisations across North Somerset who are looking for volunteers. In addition, she actively promotes the service through local events. Bernie is also responsible for the North Somerset Community Lottery and supporting the good causes who participate and who raise money through lottery ticket sales.
Bernie enjoys a number of social activities including theatre trips and eating out and also loves to spend time with her young grandson.
Janice has worked in marketing nearly all her life mainly for large corporates within the utility and legal sectors. More recently she had her own marketing agency and worked with a large utility service provider in Bristol and with SME’s across the South West supporting them in their marketing and business development activities.
In her current role with VANS, she is responsible for marketing communications and generating as much exposure to the VANS brand and their VCFSE partners across North Somerset using a range of different marketing techniques.
Janice has always been involved in volunteering and is currently County Junior Organiser of Gloucestershire Girls’ Golf.
Sue has worked in a variety of roles in the health service and private sector and her experience covers service improvement, data /business analysis, complaint management, patient and public involvement, training and project management.
Sue has been a volunteer with Healthwatch North Somerset where she trained to become a Volunteer Co-ordinator for ‘Enter and View’. She was a member of their Prioritisation Panel. She also helped at a local primary school with their library.
After a lengthy career in Local Government David is now working in the voluntary sector, as Equalities Co-ordinator at VANS, helping to prevent marginalisation by promoting positive values and inclusive behaviour.
His role is to encourage others to celebrate diversity and to strengthen community links across existing networks and support groups, working to widen opportunities connect and to give local people a greater say in how everyday services that impact on our day-to-day lives are provided.
He’s always had a keen interest supporting others and has been a volunteer in the past, spending time abroad on environmental and community projects, being involved in youth work and as a governor at a local school. Each experience has been different, but all of them have allowed him to grow as a person and to be actively involved in the things he cared about.
It’s the people he meets that are most interesting, alongside the variety and passion they show for the work that they do. A real positive of working for a charity is that you get to use and develop a wide range of skills in support of a good cause and to help the lives of others. It’s largely this that motivates him.
Debbie has been a Careers Advisor for 30 years and has worked on a variety of projects and in various sectors. Including National Careers Service, Working on New Deal contracts and other government programmes.
She also designed and delivered bespoke careers advice services for specific client groups including unpaid carers through Alliance Homes, people with mental health conditions through Richmond Fellowship and adults with basic skills needs with CSV.
She has always been drawn to supporting those with additional barriers to finding work, learning, and volunteering and prides herself on working in a client-centred way and treating people as individuals with unique skills and attributes who just need extra support to achieve their goals.
As a dyslexic she knows the struggles of accessing and achieving education and the frustration of wanting to learn new skills with a learning disability – she sees this as a strength as can empathise with those who struggle. Despite the difficulties she has encountered she is a qualified adult tutor and careers advisor.
She has always enjoyed working in the third sector and has secured two jobs in the past, having started in organisations as a volunteer, and is all too aware of the value volunteering has to enhance employability.
In her spare time she enjoy days out with friends visiting places of interest, doing art and craft activities, pub quizzes. She’s also a carer for her mum to help her to stay independent in her later years.
Kirsty has nearly 30 years experience of working in the voluntary sector. She began in 1992 running an advocacy service for MIND before managing an advocacy and advice service for older people in Richmond upon Thames. She then became the manager of Well & Wise healthy living centre for older people in Camden before going on to advise Age UK on social care policy and service development models. She has been a freelance consultant and trainer since 2007 working with third sector organisations on redesigning services for and making them more sustainable.
In 2014 she founded AWOC (ageing without children) dedicated to campaigning for older people without children or family support. She has volunteered at We the Curious in Bristol since 2019 and joined Voluntary Action North Somerset in May 2021 to support the Volunteer Vaccination Programme.
Kirsty is now the Ageing Well Lead at VANS and is responsible for coordinating programmes and initiatives across North Somerset.
Denise spent most of her working life for Xerox UK. During her time there, she had various roles within the company including Executive Assistant, Business Support Analyst and Engineer Schedular.
She joined the vaccination programme as a volunteer in 2021 working first at Ashton Gate and then at UWE. Denise found her time as a volunteer to be very rewarding enjoying being part of a team supporting the community, and learning new skills.
She went on to become a site supervisor with the project and in January 2022 joined the team full-time as Community Engagement Lead. In this role she brings skills from her previous working life together with those she has learned being part of the vaccination programme.
Denise is now the Ageing Well Coordinator, supporting some of the programmes and initiatives focussed on ageing well across North Somerset.
In her spare time Denise enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and gardening.
Sabah Arshad is a full-time Ph.D. student at the school of education, University of Bristol. Sabah’s primary research interest is in evaluating educational policies, with an emphasis on gender and social inequalities. Her research focuses on the role of education in terms of human capital theory. Her academic interests include the evaluation of social policies and practices, the impact of conditional cash transfers on children’s education, health and wealth outcomes, social and gender equality policies, and community-engaged learning pedagogy. Sabah holds a Bachelors degree in business administration, specialising in Finance. Sabah earned a Master of Science degree from the International Islamic University.
Along with her PhD project, she relishes providing community support and help to people in crisis, working in different part-time roles within the social and development sectors of Bristol since 2017. In her previous part-time role at a Bristol based charity organisation she was responsible for managing the fundraising events and assisting the marketing manager by supporting the website functions and updating social media profiles. She possesses strong communication and IT skills, including Microsoft Office and G Suite applications.
A bit about Tours – she has a passion for helping people, especially those who have suffered from domestic abuse.
Here at VANS, she manages Reclaim projects, a free counselling service for people who have experienced domestic abuse. In addition, she facilitates a drop-in coffee morning in Weston and Clevedon on a Friday morning for women and helps people fleeing from domestic abuse by sourcing goods for them to start a new life.
Angi joined VANS following working for a housing organisation in Somerset. She delivered many community projects and developed networks to help build capacity in the community as well as supporting older people with health and wellbeing interventions to help them remain independent in their own homes.
Her role with VANS is to support and develop the befriending alliance for voluntary & community sector organisations that provide befriending, peer support and mentoring across North Somerset. As well as working in partnership with health, local authority, funders, and commissioners, she will be working to gain a broad knowledge base and understanding of the Voluntary, Community, Faith, and Social Enterprise (VCFSE) sector across North Somerset.
In her spare time she enjoys listening to library books whilst crafting, walking gardening and DIY.
Over the last fifteen years, I have worked in the corporate sector, including banking and insurance serving in various roles ranging from relationship manager to sales manager. Before that, I completed my master’s degree in business administration. In keeping with my passion for helping people, especially minority groups who are often marginalised and isolated in society, at VANS we are using sports as a medium to connect with some of those groups, aiming to help them blend in and navigate the system. In my experience, it can be challenging for some people/groups to engage with people in their neighbourhood.
As part of my work at VANS, I have been part of mass vaccination teams and cold weather response teams. Currently, I work closely with community groups, including asylum seekers and our Ukrainian guests, assisting with activities aimed at promoting their wellbeing.
I’m passionate about physical activity, as I realise that it’s vital that we maintain our fitness and health as we age. Physical activity can be anything, as long as you move your body, and it’s a bonus if it feels like fun.
My role within VANS is to identify physical activity opportunities and make connections with disadvantaged community groups and individuals, with the aim of increasing physical activity levels, which in turn improves the feeling of overall wellness and a healthier lifestyle.
I have a background in fitness and health, working with a wide range of people, from delivering inclusive multi-sports sessions to working with an older adult to support their fitness to return to playing tennis. More recently, I’ve completed 7 years of part-time studies, obtaining a degree in Sport, Fitness and Coaching, which I feel proud of. Prior to this I had a successful career in banking, spanning over two decades undertaking various roles from a cashier to delivering small change related projects.
When I’m not working I like to play tennis and roller skate along the sea front in Weston-super-Mare.