Chairman Victor Medina
By accident! I never intended to become the CEO of a charity, but it has been one of the most challenging, life-altering, exciting ‘accidents’, I could have made.
In 2011 I was working as a social worker in a government funded safe house for victims of trafficking. The support in the house was excellent and effective at seeing the lives of trafficked people begin to turn around. However, the support would end abruptly after a short period of time. I became increasingly frustrated and saddened by the unsurprising decline in well-being when clients found themselves isolated and unsupported facing huge ongoing risks and challenges. After half a year of wrestling with this, a faith that prompts me to invest in freedom and parents that encouraged me to step out; myself, Rachel and a small team of others, created a training programme for support workers to continue the work that started in the safe house. This would become ‘The Snowdrop Project’ which, in the three years that followed would see me leave my job, move out of my house (into a small bedroom of someone else’s home), sell my furniture and work full time without a salary; but would also see the lives of many women turn around to develop healthy relationships, start university, reconnect with lost family, live independently for the first time in their lives and re-find lost dreams and passions.
It has been a journey of a thousand exhilarating highs and devastating lows but utterly worth it. I am so excited that we now have funding and an incredible team to take this vision and mission of freedom to the next level.
Hahahaha! I’m not sure an ‘average day’ exists! It constantly varies. I could be running a staff meeting or case management meeting; having supervision with Rachel or Sue; it could be developing strategy around fundraising and organisational stability; it could be liaising with partners in other charities, grant making bodies, MPs or the commissioner’s office; it could be providing consultation or training for social workers, health services, police or our volunteers; or it could be speaking at public events. I love my job. And, although every day is varied and I have shifted to strategic leadership of the organisation, I will always try to make sure that I have time to chat to the clients and volunteers that come through our doors every day.
Can I say all of them?! No? Ok. Probably valuing the individual. It goes through everything. It means that we support each client in a way that is about them as a person, not a tick box. It means that volunteers are respected and valued for the different skills and characteristics they bring. It means that in staff meeting, we take time to know how each person is doing not only with work but life outside. And the value impacts on life outside work. Time is precious outside of work so I want to make sure that I use it well to value the individuals who are really close to me and have time to know what’s going on in their lives. When I’m with someone, I want them to feel valued for who they are in the time that we spend together.
Definitely seeing close friends and family. The people I can have a proper laugh with (maybe over a G&T) or a good deep and meaningful (with a well-made cuppa!). I love going out walking in the peaks, going to the pub and playing games, getting to the gym to work out or curling up with my housemates to watch a film and eat good food. I have a few friends in far flung places too, so end up skyping with them during a month. I love the theatre. Over the last few years I’ve acted in a number of shows at the wonderful lantern theatre including ‘The Crucible’, ‘Blithe Spirit’, ‘Macbeth’ and a Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is my home away from home, the place I can let my hair down and be me - the people there have seen me do far too many silly things for me to leave…they know too much ;) And finally my faith is important to me. It is often challenged by the things we see and hear in the charity, so it’s good to have a small church in Sheffield where I can share these ups and downs and explore who God is in a safe space.
I have 5 different stages of laughter. The last is called the llama. It has been affectionately named by my close friends and comes out at very bizarre moments.
I was one of the crazy few who helped start Snowdrop with Lara. Previously I had worked with Refugees and EU migrants in Sheffield helping with integration and resettlement. It’s been a crazy (nearly) four years but it has been amazing to see something that we’ve (literally) bled, sweat and cried over become a reality. Such a privilege.
I am not sure if there is an average day! I spend a lot of my time supporting staff, helping to plan for the future and strategise as part of the Senior Management Team. But it varies so much from supporting my own clients to helping out with Community Activities to mucking in with renovations – it really can be almost anything!
I love all of them, it was such an intense process to write each of them, each of them feels like a little bit of my passion and soul translated. But if I had to pick I think it would be valuing the individual. That’s the one that keeps me focussed on what’s right in front of me, and what keeps me in check as I lead the team.
At the moment with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, there isn’t much free time to go around! In another life I enjoy reading, knitting, watching Netflix and talking politics.
Goat Cheese – Hands down worst food ever. It tastes like goat and infects all food it is around with it's loathsome flavour.
I started at the Snowdrop Project in September 2016 as Financial Coordinator. I am a qualified Chartered Accountant, previously working in practice on a range of clients from small sole traders to large companies. I have always had a passion for the charity/ voluntary sector and have been involved in a number of community activities and social justice organisations.
My role essentially involves dealing with the financial transactions that come through Snowdrop’s door. That means paying expenses, allocating revenue to the correct funding streams, reconciling bank accounts, budgeting and forecasting. This means that every day is different, but the friendly and welcoming atmosphere in the office stays the same!
The Snowdrop value that resonates most with me is ‘valuing the individual’. I think it is very important to find out the unique story of each survivor; and I’ve seen first-hand how taking the time to invest in the individual can really turn their life around.
I like to spend as much time as possible outside in the fresh air with my family – and can often be seen carrying the scooters, bikes and footballs of my two young sons around the hills of Sheffield. I also enjoy my weekly Pilates class, music, gardening and going to the movies.
My favourite TV series is definitely Mad Men. And I am already looking forward to watching the box set for the second time round. I love the style, office politics, tempo and intricate subplots. I also quite like Don Draper.
Started working at the Snowdrop Project in September 2016. I applied and I was very lucky to be offered the post. Prior to this I worked as an Immigration Advisor for over eight years. I continue to practice Immigration Law on a consultancy basis, under the Law Society, Immigration and Asylum Accreditation Scheme. I worked with victims of human trafficking during these years and found it very rewarding. I have been committed to working to achieve social Justice throughout my career. Working to alleviate some of the societal barriers for those less privileged has always been a strong motivating factor in my career. I completed my Masters in Social Work in 2015. It was during this degree I undertook extensive research on trauma, violence against women, service provision for vulnerable women and Human Trafficking. My role at the Snowdrop Project allows me to draw on skills & knowledge gained through Social Work training and the knowledge gained in the Immigration/Asylum field.
There is so much variation in my day as the service users I support have differing levels of needs depending on their circumstances. Service user’s circumstances are changing on a daily basis. A relatively quiet day might become busy where we have a crisis, for example where someone we support is detained by the Home Office. A typical day may involve meeting with a service user, providing practical help (like calling their solicitor, dentist, helping someone move accommodation etc.), advocating on their behalf, providing emotional support, helping them understand and navigate through the housing process, the welfare system and/or sometimes just providing a safe environment for them to spend time in. I might also have supervisions with volunteer caseworkers to review the progress of a case and through these supervisions allow space for reflective learning.
Commitment to the Oppressed is the value that I connect with the most. I strongly believe that everyone is equal. All should have the right to live free from fear and be free to make their choices. The need to eliminate and/or reduce barriers to inclusion is what motivates me to strive harder for those that I work with.
I spend my free time with family and close friends. I love socialising and have acquired a taste for regular visits to the local Dessert Parla’s. Chocolate fondue is enough to make my day.
I qualified as a social worker in 2010 and previously worked in child protection in London before travelling overseas to work with street children in Zimbabwe. After returning to the UK in 2013 and moving to Bradford, I took up a post with the charity Hope for Justice helping develop their survivor support work for victims of trafficking. I met Lara in 2014 and after volunteering with Snowdrop through 2015, I came back after having my son as a Senior Caseworker in spring 2016.
An average day is very busy!! I might have a home visit or appointment with one of my complex cases or be meeting with some of our volunteer caseworkers to supervise their work with our clients. I also help to assess new referrals coming in and take part in case management meetings where we discuss all our current cases as a team. We are always trying to provide the best service we can for clients so I am involved in reviewing and designing our client support documents and policies or planning training for new volunteers.
I think ‘valuing the individual’ is probably my top value. I am fascinated by every case that comes across our path and am continually amazed by each person’s unique strength and character in overcoming their experiences. I feel incredibly valued as an individual within the Snowdrop Team so I hope I can pass this on to our volunteers and clients.
When I’m not at work, then I’m looking after an extremely energetic 1 year old! When I get the chance I love to go swimming, do a dance class or so some creative writing. I am very excited to be taking part in ‘Sheffield Come Dancing’ this year!
Reading about people who have made incredible sacrifices for their beliefs really inspires me. I recently heard about Irina Ratushinskaya who was sent to a Soviet labour camp for her poetry and faith. She wrote 200 poems whilst she was imprisoned that were smuggled out and published in the West and she campaigned for her fellow inmates to be released after she was set free. She didn’t let her suffering stop her being who she was and that’s truly inspiring!
After I completed my counselling and psychotherapy training, I was deciding where I might like to practice, when I saw Denise’s Facebook post about a Snowdrop Project renovation and forthcoming caseworker training. I was intrigued to find out more about the charity and its work and contacted Lara to ask whether there was a need for a counselling service. Indeed there was, and a few months later, Eila (who had serendipitously made a similar approach to Lara) and I were working together as volunteers to set up and develop the service. We soon began to see clients and continued to volunteer on a Friday afternoon until the Big Lottery Funding meant we could extend our time to work all day on a Friday.
Every Friday starts with a friendly catch up with Eila and other Snowdrop staff in the office, confirming appointments for the day, working through emails and getting up to speed with clients and other Snowdrop matters. We aim to see four clients each in our comfortable counselling rooms, and build in time in between sessions to write up notes, make follow-up phone calls or write letters and reports. Eila and I set aside a regular slot each week for supervision – either together, offering each other peer support, or attending external supervision appointments. It’s often a long, busy day, but really heartening to see women’s lives change positively from week to week.
Valuing the individual: As a counsellor, I connect very deeply and profoundly with each person, their stories and journeys. Although they are often full of pain and trauma, I am constantly inspired by the courage, strength, determination and hope that the women have - in spite of their ongoing challenges. It is a privilege to be a witness to their incredible resilience and recovery.
I love being outdoors – especially when the sun is shining. I love cycling and walking in the Peak District whenever I get the chance. It’s even better with friends to chat to and enjoy the wonderful scenery we’re so lucky to have on our doorstep. It’s a great way to connect with the natural world and the best kind of therapy for me. I love cooking and going to the cinema too.
The staff and clients at Snowdrop: they inspired me to challenge my fear of heights and jump out of a plane! Clients overcome enormous terrors and fears every day as they recover from their trafficking experiences, so overcoming mine to raise funds for Snowdrop was just about manageable! The parachute and tandem skydive instructor gave me huge strength too – a bit like the courage and empowerment clients feel with Snowdrop’s help. It’s incredible what we can all overcome and achieve with support. It was by far the most terrifying, yet life-affirming and exhilarating experience of my life!
I initially trained in counselling in 2006 just after completing a mental health nursing diploma. The area I worked in first of all as a counsellor was substance misuse both in a residential rehab and also a male prison. Other areas I have worked in since then include church settings, private practice and the NHS, all of which I continue to be involved in. Since my initial training I have also completed further training in Counselling for Depression, trauma, Transactional Analysis and CBT. I work in an integrative way incorporating aspects of these models and those initially trained in including Person Centred and Psychodynamic. Over the past 10 years I have acquired over 1200 hours of supervised counselling practice and am accredited with the ACC and a registered member of BACP.
It was whilst volunteering at a Sheffield safe house, City Hearts, that I met Lara and first heard of Snowdrop. However it wasn't until a few years later when reviewing a volunteering publication with a client in a GP surgery that I saw the name Snowdrop again advertising for volunteer case workers. I phoned the number which Lara answered and the discussions culminated in me sending in my CV and meeting up with another counsellor, Bernie who had approached Lara at the same time, with a view to setting up counselling for Snowdrop in 2014. We then later came on board as staff in August 2016.
The amazing thing about working at Snowdrop is that there is no typical day! I work on Fridays only and offer four counselling slots, two in the morning and two in the afternoon, so am usually seeing four clients weekly at regular times. I really enjoy building relationships with them and psychologically supporting them on their journey. The rest of the day is busy with admin, meetings, and writing reports where necessary. I tend to start earlier and finish later to allow a longer lunch break to be able to go home for the dog.
The Snowdrop value I connect most with is 'valuing the individual'. This is really at the heart of counselling; seeing the person and working with them holistically to help restore them physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Linked in with this I feel is also another value, being 'motivated by God's heart'; to be moved by compassion and love to enter the client's world and work from their frame of reference whilst also gently aiding their development of the tools necessary to safely move forwards. I am passionate about this and find it incredibly rewarding.
In my free time I enjoy walking especially in the countryside so regularly go out with friends and my dog, a chocolate Labradoodle called Enya. I really enjoy walking in the Peak District but also exploring other areas in the country. I find reading really relaxing but also a way to further counselling skills. Other things I enjoy include gardening (there's definitely an outdoor theme!), catching up with friends and cooking. My husband is mad on board games so a further free time pursuit is maintaining my quota of games played in order to keep him happy!
When reflecting on food I don't like a funny story immediately comes to mind. Whilst working and living in Italy in my twenties I went out to eat with some friends. I had only limited Italian so had to rely mostly on what food looked like when ordering. At this particular place I pointed to a chicken dish and happily took it to my table to proceed to eat it. It was only whilst eating the first mouthful did I look down and spy a tentacle coming up out of the sauce and realised to my horror it was squid and not chicken. I discovered thinking you're eating one thing and then suddenly being faced with the prospect of it being something else at the point of tasting it, is not a pleasant experience! It has certainly put me off squid for life!
When I first moved to Sheffield in 2000 I met an amazing woman who had been trafficked abroad and needed support. She is such an inspiration to me as despite what she’s been through is incredibly strong in many ways. This then prompted me to look into human trafficking more and I later found out about the Snowdrop Project. I was running a music group for pre-school children and started volunteering at the Snowdrop Project in my spare time about 3 years ago. I was helping with different things such as painting and decorating clients’ flats, looking after children while the women do a class such as sewing and befriending – going out on appointments with clients when needed, helping to run a Christmas party etc. I loved doing the varied work that all entails so much so that I now do it 4 days a week as my job which is fantastic.
I don’t know if there is an average day as my job is very varied! Anything from supporting people who are lovely enough to do some fundraising for us, painting a flat or moving a client to their new home, making sure the community activities (English classes, sewing classes, toddler group and dance classes) run smoothly, to helping volunteers in their roles.
Empowering the survivors to help them to make decisions for themselves, to move on from their past and helping them feel in control of their future. I love this as decisions are theirs to make and we can walk alongside them in support, but it empowers and enables them when they can do things themselves.
I have 3 children who need me in different ways, and I like to run. I enter a few races per year to give me the incentive to train and also to raise much needed funds for Snowdrop!
I really don’t like coconut or marzipan! I LOVE chocolate!
I was fortunate enough to undertake a placement with the Snowdrop Project during the summer of 2016, whilst I studying for my Masters in International Development. It was such a great opportunity to work with women who were so amazingly knowledgeable in this field! When this job came up I was so lucky to be able to apply. During my masters I learnt about the power of grassroots movements but to actually be able to work for a charity which has carved out it’s own space in the third sector and has the ability to influence policy is incredible.
An average day really doesn’t exist at Snowdrop! It varies day to day depending on which staff are in and what community activities we are running. But I generally am there to support the staff in office, make clients feel welcome when they come to the offices and to develop a communication strategy.
I most connect with the value of the individual. Everyone has a different story and diverse experiences; I think you can’t ever underestimate that. Individuality is wonderful and I think that’s what I love most about the Project; caseworkers sit down with their clients to discuss their needs/dreams/interests to understand them on an individual basis.
There’s definitely a food theme to my free time…I love catching up with my friends and meeting up for dinner or heading to the pub quiz on a Tuesday (where there’s also a reasonable buffet). I’m also one of four, so I really enjoy catching up with my family when we get the chance. My niece and nephew are hilarious and we love going to our favourite café to have breakfast or the cinema. We recently watched Inside Out, but I think I enjoyed it more than they did!
I love TV and film but I think my favourite TV series at the moment is definitely Planet Earth 2 or Narcos for very different reasons! Binge watching tele on a Sunday is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine!