Joanna's story

In 1998, I joined the Kensington Housing Trust as a HR Manager. The Housing Director at the time was Barbara Henderson, who has since sadly passed away. She was the Chair of the Trustee Board at Hestia, and she told me that Hestia needed some HR expertise on its trustee board. I applied.

I had the interview to become a trustee in the eaves of a tiny old house in Shepherd’s Bush. That was the start of a 12-year journey as a trustee for the organisation.

I’ve had a HR background for more than 20 years now, working across everything from housing associations to universities. I’m drawn to the HR element of organisations because HR is about people, and people are the core of any business or organisation. Without our people, Hestia couldn’t do the good work that it does. For me, HR is about aligning people with the organisational strategy and vision and finding people with the right skills and attitudes to fit into the work culture.

When I first joined, we were mainly providing bail and probation and mental health services. We’ve grown so much. When we took over fellow health and social care organisation Healthwatch, I became the representative for Hestia there. I’m still the Vice Chair at Healthwatch in central west London now.

I was on Hestia’s trustee board when we opened our first domestic abuse refuges, and when we acquired some of our HIV and AIDS support services. I’m proud to have played a small part in our evolution.

Whenever we recruit senior members of staff, we always invite someone who uses our services to be on the interview panel with us. I’ve been able to work alongside service users and get their insight on things. Speaking with them has shown to me that people really can change their lives, but it’s also shown me just how much of a positive impact our staff can have.

You have to be quite dedicated to people to even apply for a role in the health and social care field. I’ve seen that dedication from our staff. They all have their specialism, and they all change lives every single day.

Since I started with Hestia, awareness of certain crises has changed. There’s a lot more resources out there too. With domestic abuse, for example, the fact that Hestia has made it possible to go to pharmacies and use them as safe spaces to find support – it just shows a changed awareness of people’s needs, and the different ways that people can access services.

I’m honoured to have been part of the organisation while we’ve taken these innovative steps and done things that are outside the norm. However, we manage to balance being bold with being strategic. We take risks, but we mitigate them too.

A few years ago, I became the chair of the Governance and Remuneration Committee at Hestia, so I’ll be around with the organisation for a while yet. Even when that term finishes, I’ll still be a long-term supporter of the organisation.

We’ve come a long way, but through all this time we’ve kept to our core ethos: supporting people in need.