The members of our Frontline Team are listed below, along with short biographies:-
Joanna Carter – Chief Executive
Joanna is a qualified nurse and has spent most of her career in the Acute Hospital settings and most recently in Senior Management positions. She brings her ambition and drive with her to the charity and is keen to develop a new strategic vision to drive the charity forwards. Joanna lives locally and has two young children. She enjoys travelling and socialising with friends. More recently she has become the proud owner of a Pug puppy!
Laura Gillespie – Vision Loss Advisor (Central)
Laura really enjoys her job, as it involves speaking and meeting with new clients, volunteers and other members of staff throughout the charity sector. She says that there is no better feeling, than knowing you have improved a clients’ daily needs, by giving them the time and support that they require. Laura has met a lot of amazing service users during her time with the Society and if it’s taught her one thing, it would be to NEVER take her sight for granted as you really don’t know how important it is until it has deteriorated or gone forever.
Vanessa Macdonald – Vision Loss Advisor (South and East)
Vanessa has worked for HVL for nearly four years and thoroughly enjoys her work. She is a bright, receptive person and supportive towards people who suffer from any disability. Vanessa is a good listener and is able to communicate well with people from all walks of life.
She has a grown up family; her two sons live close by but her daughter lives in Auckland – this gives her and her husband a good excuse to have lovely holidays during our cold wet winters.
Lindsey Wheeler – Vision Loss Advisor (North)
Lindsey was previously an Ophthalmology Nurse employed at the Lister and QE2 hospitals and started work for the Society 10 years ago. As well as her outreach role, Lindsey is responsible for coordinating the Hospital Information and Support Scheme across the County. She loves her job and finds HVL is an excellent organisation to work for.
Sophia Ramsden – Vision Loss Advisor (West)
Sophia recently joined the team, having spent the last three years travelling and living in Asia where she was dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of street animals. Although now back in the UK, her rescue days are not over as she is currently coordinating the journey of her three cats and dog, all saved from starvation or worse on the streets of Cambodia, all the way to Hertfordshire! Prior to her travels, Sophia worked in Social Care, Health Care and Support Work for ten years. She brings with her to this varied role her caring nature, warm personality and extensive experience in working with people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities. Sophia is heading up the county-wide School Outreach Programme and also oversees the running of the Social Centre for The Blind in Hemel Hempstead.
Sue Firth – Volunteer Manager
Sue has been a volunteer with HVL for two years and started with the working age group Sight Life at its inception. Prior to that, she was employed by the local council for 16 years. Sue has lived in Welwyn Garden City for just over 30 years and also works in the local hospice shop as a volunteer and volunteer manager. As the Society has recently gained some funding to strengthen the volunteer reserve, Sue will be helping to manage this. She is looking forward to helping involve and monitor increasing numbers of volunteers and the range of services offered to service users, whilst ensuring that both groups receive the support they need.
Will Davis – Advocacy and Project Support Officer
Will delivers Advocacy services to our service users as a qualified Advocate with some years’ experience, in partnership with Herts Help Advocacy. He has worked for the homelessness charity Crisis, supporting homeless adults. He has also been a mentor with the Herts Youth Connexions mentoring programme. He serves on the committees of several local civic groups and campaigns with development charities such as ActionAid. Will is passionate about standing up for people, who for whatever reason feel excluded from society, or are not getting their rights and entitlements acknowledged. His role with us is as Advocate and Project Support Officer, this also involves developing new initiatives such as the Job Club and our online presence.
Vanessa Browell – Ear for Eyes Counsellor
Vanessa is a fully qualified NCS Accredited Counsellor/Psychotherapist. Her interest in counselling came from working in a school environment. She has trained in a variety of therapeutic approaches including Cognitive Behavioural therapy, Person Centred Counselling and Psychodynamic therapy. Vanessa also works as a voluntary bereavement counsellor for the St Albans Bereavement Network.
Siobhan Meade – Fundraising and Marketing Coordinator
A lifelong campaigner and advocate for blind and visually impaired people, Siobhan lost all her vision at 16. She grew up with extremely limited sight, studying in both mainstream and specialist schools. In 2010, she completed a Diploma in Creative Writing and Journalism in Norwich. In 2003, she trained with her first Guide Dog and has been a keen fundraiser ever since. Away from the UK, Siobhan travels to Bucharest to run workshops for blind and visually impaired Romanians. A columnist for the Great Yarmouth Mercury, Siobhan’s interest in journalism was sparked when she traveled to Brussels in 1999 to shadow Neil Kinnock. She joined the charity in September 2016 as Fundraising and Marketing Coordinator.
Debra Lavington – Office Administrator
Debra is new to the team as the Administrator and has been an FPC qualified Financial Consultant in previous positions within retail banking. She brings her caring nature to the Society and is looking forward to helping to refer clients for the support they need. She has lived in Hertfordshire all of her life and 5 years ago adopted her daughter. Her favourite pastimes are travelling and socialising with her husband & daughter.