Staff & Board

Staff

Susan Hunter
Chief Executive
Sandra Marsden
Membership Services Officer
Nicola Zielinski-Gray
Membership Services Officer
Susan Hunter
Chief Executive

Susan is a passionate advocate within the third sector, having worked in senior leadership roles since 2014. She has a professional background in Community Education, with more than 20 years of experience working in the youth work sector with a particular focus on community-based youth work, youth participation and children’s rights. Susan is currently the Vice-Chairperson of Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights.)

Susan believes in the transformative impact of befriending. She is committed to models of practice which promote and foster collaboration and partnership. She has worked in several membership organisations and brings a breadth of relevant experiences to Befriending Networks.

Beyond work, Susan enjoys an active lifestyle which involves hill-walking, running, and CrossFit.

Sandra Marsden
Membership Services Officer

Sandra joined Befriending Networks in April 2019 as Membership Services Officer, answering enquiries and supporting current members as well as actively making connections with new befriending organisations.

She has worked in the charity sector for over 10 years in a variety of roles,  including Volunteer Co-ordinator, Training Co-ordinator, Development Worker and Timebank Co-ordinator.  

She loves working within this environment and getting to meet a wide range of people who are doing amazing things within their community.  

Nicola Zielinski-Gray
Membership Services Officer

Nicola joined Befriending Networks in 2022 as a Membership Services Officer. 

Nicola has 18 years of experience across the Education, Disability, Recruitment and Charitable sectors in both the UK and New Zealand and is very much a people person.  She has a real passion for helping others and spreading positivity using her motivation and can-do attitude. Outside of her role at Befriending Networks she also runs a befriending project currently for another UK-based Charity so she is very skilled in supporting our members. Nicola spends her free time singing as well as creating music and podcasts. 

Nicola@befriending.co.uk

Matt Youde
Membership Development Worker (Wales)
Becky Newton
Membership Services Assistant
Victoria Galloway
Learning & Development Manager
Matt Youde
Membership Development Worker (Wales)

Matt joined the Befriending Networks team in 2023 to focus on supporting and growing our membership in Wales.

Based in Cardiff, Matt worked for more than 15 years in youth leadership, informal education, and intercultural and interreligious dialogue. He also supported an international network of organisations and activists in the peacebuilding sector. 

Having volunteered as a youth mentor and writing letters to people in prison, Matt is passionate about supporting work that brings people out of isolation. 

In his spare time, Matt is finishing a part-time degree in Celtic Studies and enjoys anything to do with the Ocean - especially sharks - as well as cooking and creative writing.

Becky Newton
Membership Services Assistant

Becky joined Befriending Networks in 2023 as Membership Services Assistant.

She has 20 years of experience working in the social care sector, predominantly supporting adults with learning disabilities. She has also worked with young people experiencing homelessness and assessed for the provision of equipment and support services in adult care. Becky came to Befriending Networks from a local charity where she helped manage a transport project, enabling people to access their place of employment or education.

Becky's career has given her a good understanding of the importance of connection and meaningful relationships in daily life. She is passionate about supporting our members in the work that they do.

Victoria Galloway
Learning & Development Manager

Victoria joined Befriending Networks in 2018 as the Learning and Development Manager, developing, designing and facilitating training events and resources.

Experienced in both the education and third-sector, Victoria is a graduate of Media and uses this design and creative awareness to construct clear, accessible and interactive resources and materials for education and training purposes. Completing her Social Innovation Masters in 2021, plans are in place for bringing new concepts and training to Befriending Networks on sustainability, collaboration methods and impact measurement. Victoria is a Mentor for the Clinton Foundation and a committee member of the Impacts and Insights Committee at Hymans Robertson Foundation.

Having worked in a classroom environment previously, Victoria loves interacting with students and developing new learning opportunities. Having done numerous voluntary roles herself, she enjoys supporting volunteers through our free training.

Angus Maclean
Quality Officer
Lynne Davies
Finance and Administration Officer
Anna Adcock
Communications Officer
Angus Maclean
Quality Officer

Angus joined Befriending Networks in 2018 as the Quality Officer, acting as the assessor for the Quality in Befriending Award as well as supporting our members who work with children and young people.

He enjoys supporting individuals and families with different needs and issues and believes befriending can challenge social isolation and create opportunities for vulnerable people.

Before joining Befriending Networks, Angus worked with a women's cooperative in Uganda, helping develop their online business, making and selling paper beads.

Lynne Davies
Finance and Administration Officer

Lynne joined Befriending Networks in September 2021 as Finance & Administration Officer and has over 30 years’ experience of working in Finance and over 11 years in the third sector in Edinburgh.  Lynne has been a volunteer at the Risk Factory since it opened in 2006.

Lynne also has a background in working with autistic children and has run projects supporting families and children with social and outdoor access. Lynne has a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and is a respite foster carer.

Anna Adcock
Communications Officer

Anna graduated from Lancaster University with a Master's degree in English Literature in 2019. She worked as a bookseller, copywriter and web content editor before joining Befriending Networks in 2023 as their Communications Officer.

Outside of Befriending Networks, Anna is also a library assistant. This role has shown her the impact that loneliness and isolation can have and has highlighted how connected communities are integral to our collective health and well-being.

In her spare time, Anna enjoys reading, crocheting and yoga.

Board

Emily Kenward
Chairperson of the Board
Mike Niles
Vice-Chair of the Board
Nikki Pattinson
Board Member
Emily Kenward
Chairperson of the Board

Emily is the Founder and CEO of Time to Talk Befriending, a Sussex-based charity, motivated to ensure that older people feel visible, valued, and connected in their community rather than invisible, forgotten and alone.

Emily is an active member of Befriending Networks. Emily joined the Board because she is keen to utilise her skills and experience for the good of the sector and raise the profile of befriending nationally.

Emily joined the Board as Member Director in September 2021, was promoted to Vice-Chair in November 2022, and appointed as Chairperson in November 2023.

Mike Niles
Vice-Chair of the Board

Mike is the former CEO and Founder of a befriending organisation. He is passionate about the health and societal benefits brought about through befriending. After leaving the charity he founded he wants to volunteer time with Befriending Networks to offer experience to help other organisations to achieve maximum impact.  
 
In addition to his experience in befriending, Mike offers expertise in communication and marketing which was an identified need in a 2023 skills audit of our board.  Mike was made an Appointed Director in September 2023 and promoted to Vice-Chair of the Board in November 2023. 

Nikki Pattinson
Board Member

Over the past 15 years, Nikki has worked in various roles within the charity sector supporting unpaid carers. She joined Carers Leeds in 2020 as a member of their leadership team. Nikki is responsible for managing a team of staff working hard to reduce the social isolation and loneliness many carers feel. Her role includes the management of two befriending projects.

Nikki brings both a keen eye for detail and can see the big picture. She has experience in writing and reviewing policy, operational leadership on the GDPR, and is passionate about high-quality consistent services. Alongside this, she is an experienced fundraiser.

Nikki has been a co-opted Member Trustee since June 2023 and serves on the Befriending Networks Board Executive.  

Bonnie Bowhay
Board Member
Stuart Gray
Board Member
Clare Watson
Board Member
Bonnie Bowhay
Board Member

Bonnie has worked for Marie Curie since January 2018 in several different roles. She was involved in setting up Marie Curie’s Check-in and Chat Befriending Service and later went on to coordinate the service and manage a large team of volunteers. Bonnie's current role is Online Community Manager. 

Her passion has always been to support people, which is one of the reasons she wanted to work for Marie Curie. This can also be displayed from personal experience as a volunteer befriender for Community Connections.

Co-opted in June 2023, as a Member Director for Befriending Networks, Bonnie combines her professional expertise in volunteer management with an interest in supporting people, improving wellbeing, and easing loneliness and isolation. 

Stuart Gray
Board Member

In 2017, Stuart founded Strathmore Community Rugby Trust with a vision to use rugby to help develop people and the communities we live in.

He is committed to opportunities that bring people together to improve their mental and physical wellbeing within an inclusive and supportive environment.

Stuart brings experience as a Chartered Management Accountant and a Chartered Manager – he is a Fellow with both organisations and has extensive local authority experience, most recently in the education service providing a broad range of non-teaching support to schools.

Stuart joined the Board in November 2023 and will be acting as Treasurer.

Clare Watson
Board Member

Clare has worked in the charity sector for the last 11 years, managing various projects supporting individuals with sight or sight and hearing loss. Clare is the Head of My Sighted Guide Improvement for Guide Dogs.

Clare brings strengths in strategic thinking and relationship building to the board of Befriending Networks. She has experience in data and risk management.

Clare is a member of our Board Executive and has been an Appointed Director since December 2021.  

Jayne Burnett
Board Member
Peggy Winford
Board Member
Julia Weir
Board Member
Jayne Burnett
Board Member

Jayne has been the manager of the befriending charity Visiting Friends in Helensburgh since 2015 and is passionate about the benefits of befriending, volunteering and the difference simple kindnesses can make to a community.

As a former nurse, she is also interested in how we best deal with the complexity of physical and mental health issues often seen in referrals and the challenges these can create for befriending services.

Jayne takes an active and involved role in the board, with a particular interest in research. She has been a Member Director since November 2022.

Peggy Winford
Board Member

Peggy currently works in public health policy at the Scottish Government on a large delivery and improvement programme. She has previously worked in social care developing legislation and policy and managing stakeholder relationships alongside responsibility for third sector funding. Before joining the Government in 2014, Peggy worked as a social care worker.

Peggy sat on the Board of Befriending Networks from 2015-2020 and returned to the board in 2022, having kept up with the work of the organisation through e-newsletters and social media since she left. 

Julia Weir
Board Member

Julia has spent around 20 years both working and volunteering in the social and health care sector in a variety of settings including community centres, a home care service and helplines, having also experienced this area from both administrative and quality assurance perspectives.

As a volunteer befriender supporting young families, she witnessed at first-hand the significant positive impact befriending can have on the lives of families and individuals, enabling them to feel supported and connected to communities.  She was delighted to be able to join the Befriending Service at Jewish Care in a paid capacity in 2019 where she is now the Befriending Coordinator and manages several members of staff.  She very much enjoys the insights and learning gained from the life experience of the service’s primarily older client group.

One of Julia’s strengths is collaborative working, appreciating that, through the creation of networks and partnerships, we can support each other to further relieve the loneliness and social isolation which is currently so prevalent.  Through tackling this together, more individuals’ wellbeing can be enhanced in an even more impactful manner.  Julia joined the Board of Befriending Networks as a Member Director in April 2024.

Rita Chadha
Board Member
Rita Chadha
Board Member

Rita works for two befriending schemes specialising in supporting older people, Tandridge Voluntary Action in Surrey, and Tower Hamlets Friends and Neighbours in East London that has been providing befriending support for nearly 80 years.

Prior to her current role Rita has worked for a broad range of charities small local organisations and national charities. Between 2006 and 2017 she served as Chief Executive of the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London, and during the pandemic was CEO of the Small Charities Coalition. 

Rita has a particular specialism in supporting charities around governance, equity issues, fundraising and working with the public sector. She is a trustee of six other charities and also a serving local councillor. 

Rita joined the Board of Befriending Networks as a member director in April 2024.