Meet The Team

We are an independent community-based project committed to improving the social, emotional and sexual well-being of young people.

Niki Powers Managing Director

Niki Powers - Managing Director

I contributed to developing policy and new resources to support professionals and to encourage parents and carers to talk to their children about sex and relationships.

  • Excellent mentor
  • Creative problem solver
  • Caring and inspiring
  • Kind and compassionate
    Warmth
  • The desire to inform and empower the team
  • Make staff feel valued
  • Good leader and communicator
    Honest and upfront

I’m a good Managing Director because:

  • I have good communication skills
  • I am assertive
  • I can reflect on my own behaviour honestly and make changes when I want or need to improve on
  • I am open minded with a positive “can do” attitude
  • I have lots of good ideas
  • I always try to do the right thing even when it’s difficult
  • I care about people (young people and the team).
  • I have an MA (Honours) degree in Psychology, an MSc in Child Development and a PhD in Child Psychology all awarded at Edinburgh University.
    I am a Chartered Psychologist and an Associated Fellow registered with the British Psychology Society.

My PhD was in the development of communication in the first year of life and I studied mothers and babies in Scotland and Japan, working in partnership with Japanese colleagues at Waseda University in Tokyo.

I have previous experience of managing staff and volunteers in an after-school club setting (delivering childcare and play services for children aged 5-12) and I was also Chair Person for the after school club committee for 2 years.

I worked as a Senior Health Promotion Specialist (Sexual Health)with Lothian NHS and gained considerable experience in project management working with senior colleagues across the Lothians.

I contributed to developing policy and new resources to support professionals and to encourage parents and carers to talk to their children about sex and relationships.
I delivered a range of projects for foster carers and parents who had experienced a variety of difficulties (domestic violence, homelessness, rape/sexual assault, inequality and poverty).

I worked for a short time as a Senior Mental Health Specialist with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and delivered consultation services for residential care staff and other professionals working to improve the mental health of looked after and accommodated young people.

As a project worker working with HOT I developed the Turn Around 1-1 therapeutic support programme for young people experiencing emotional health difficulties. I developed and maintained the referral systems for this programme and I supported piloting and evaluating the programme to successfully show its effectiveness. I have a wealth of experience delivering therapeutic services for young people and I have been providing support and supervision to staff delivering therapeutic services for the last 7 years.

I love singing and dancing for fun and I like to walk and to spend time with my family and friends.

I have been doing Karate for a few years and I like watching films, listening to music, gardening (when it’s sunny) and I am trying to learn to sew, play guitar/bass/piano and to draw.

Abi Deputy Manager

Abigail Jackson - Deputy Manager

I have 20 years’ experience of working in Youth Work. I spent 7 years living and working in America for Fountain House, New York City working with Adults and Young Adults with mental health issues

  • Strong, direct and driven
  • Knowledgeable and supportive
  • Assertive and action focused
  • Energy and warmth
  • Determined and capable
  • Caring and supportive
  • Passionate and hardworking

I am a good Deputy Manager because:

  • I’m passionate about working with young people
  • I believe everyone has the right and the ability to achieve their goals
  • I listen to feedback and make changes when needed
  • I’m friendly and approachable
  • I’m super organised
  • I care about and am dedicated to supporting my team members
  • I take action and make things happen!
  • I believe in the vision and mission of HOT

I have a BSc Hons degree in Sociology and a Postgraduate Certificate in Community Education at Moray House

I am an accredited Life Coach with Results Coaching Systems

I have 20 years’ experience of working in Youth Work

I spent 7 years living and working in America for Fountain House, New York City working with Adults and Young Adults with mental health issues

I have worked with young people in a variety of settings; conflict resolution, detached youth work, youth clubs, issue-based work, play development work in Primary Schools, employment development work with young people at risk of homelessness, confidence and self-esteem development work and work with Young Carers in Edinburgh.

I recently joined Health Opportunities Team as the Deputy Manager and I’m really excited to be working with such a dedicated, driven and passionate team!

Karen Office Manager

Karen Sutherland - Office Manager

I originally trained in science, but have had a varied career path. I worked in publishing for a few years after my degree then decided to retrain and do an MSc in IT. I then worked as a researcher with a European Bioinformatics project. However, I didn’t enjoy research and missed doing a more people-oriented job.

  • Hard working
  • Calm
  • Wise
  • Supportive
  • Focused
  • Patient
  • Thoughtful
  • Knowledgeable

I am a good Office Manager because:

  • I am a good problem solver
  • I am organised
  • I keep calm under pressure
  • I pay attention to detail
  • I am logical
  • I don’t give up easily

I originally trained in science, but have had a varied career path. I worked in publishing for a few years after my degree then decided to retrain and do an MSc in IT.  I then worked as a researcher with a European Bioinformatics project. However, I didn’t enjoy research and missed doing a more people-oriented job.

I took on various temporary roles, including tutoring university students and helping out those with special needs. I also volunteered at the Number Shop in Edinburgh supporting various members of the community to increase their numeracy skills.

I joined HOT as a temporary administrator in 2010 and loved the environment, the Team and the variety of work to which I could apply my skills. Since then I have become a permanent member of staff, becoming responsible for most aspects of administration, evaluation and finance. I really value working for a charity that is so effective in improving the health and emotional well-being of local young people.

Nike Senior Project Manager

Nikechi Oruh - Therapeutic Lead

I have been working with HOT for over 10 years and I have delivered community and schools based emotional and sexual health programmes, as well as 1:1 short-term ‘Turn Around’ support.

  • Focused
  • Calm
  • Positive
  • Creative

I’m a good Therapeutic Lead because…

  • I listen
  • I care about people
  • I am warm and reflective

I have a BSc Honours in Science and Management Studies from Napier University, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Dietetics from Queen Margaret University and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy from the University of Stirling, Persona Counselling (accredited by BACP).

I have been working with HOT for over 10 years and I have delivered community and schools based emotional and sexual health programmes, as well as 1:1 short-term ‘Turn Around’ support.

I do direct work with young people in schools, youth agencies and through detached work. I deliver training and take part in the community and strategic development.

I am a ‘SHARE’ (Sexual Health and Relationship Education) trainer and an MVP (Mentors in Violence Prevention) trainer.

Prior to working at HOT, I worked as a music tutor delivering workshops with young people through the organisation Impact Arts. This provided me with a fantastic opportunity to work with young people in a range of areas, creative holiday activities, employability and young carers.

As a recording artist, I have produced and released music on several music labels, performing around the world and at several festivals.

Presenting is another avenue of personal development and I have also run and promoted several Edinburgh club nights, which enabled me to indulge my love of eclectic music. I also have enthusiasm and passion for developing talent.

I love sports, as a youth, I played football to a professional level, and currently, martial art is my great passion. I have trained for over fifteen years in the arts of JKD, Kickboxing, Kali and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. During my time at HOT, I ran a 5k, The Hairy Haggis and the Edinburgh Half Marathon, to raise money for the Feel Good groups.

paula project worker

Paula Ferguson - Project Worker

Providing time and space to help young people find their voice and to help them develop whatever skills they need to help them cope better at school, home, the world is a real passion of mine.

  • Warm
  • Kind
  • Funny
  • Hardworking
  • Reflective
  • Down to earth
  • Approachable

I am a good project worker because:

  • I care greatly about young people and their wellbeing
  • I am a strong communicator
  • I have a good sense of humour
  • I am very conscientious
  • I am a hard worker
  • I love being part of a team

After leaving school I trained as a mental health nurse. This was a very interesting role although it was very stressful and sometimes I found the stress of it all could make me feel quite anxious.

My favourite place to work when I was a nurse was in the Young People’s Unit at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. I found that the staff there tried really hard to work jointly with young people and really encouraged them to be involved in their own care and wellbeing as much as possible. It was also a really fun place to work at times, even though the young people had serious problems such as eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and early onset psychosis.

I have also studied for a BSc degree in Sociology and Social Policy. This was really good for helping me understand how smaller community-based organisations can help to empower and give a voice to people who sometimes don’t get their voices heard quite so much.

I have worked in charitable organisations since 2003, always with children or young people. In this time I have done lots of work around sexual health and relationships. However, in the last five years, I’ve spent a lot of time developing my skills to work therapeutically with young people; this has included completing a diploma in person-centred counselling at Strathclyde University.

Being part of the team at HOT really allows me to do this with creativity and thoughtfulness, as we strive to keep young people at the very centre of our work.

Andy

Andy Porteous - Project Worker

  • Energetic
  • Hardworking
  • Creative
  • Kind
  • Helpful
  • Friendly
  • Enthusiastic
  • Cheerful
  • Approachable
  • Fun
  • Great Energy
  • Warm
  • Good Ideas

I am a good Project Worker because:

  • I care about young people
  • I am hardworking
  • I never give up

Amy Macnamara

I studied BSc (Hons) in Occupational Therapy with Psychology. I then worked as an Occupational Therapist in an inpatient mental health unit in Fife with young adults which I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

  • Kind and caring
  • Energetic
  • Knowledgeable
  • Warm and approachable
  • Passionate
  • Creative
  • Funny

I’m a good Project Worker because…

  • I’m a good listener
  • I’m passionate about working with young people
  • I’m caring and kind
  • I’m fun and adventurous
  • I’m creative
  • I’m hardworking

I studied BSc (Hons) in Occupational Therapy with Psychology. I then worked as an Occupational Therapist in an inpatient mental health unit in Fife with young adults which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved working with people doing 1-1 work but my favourite part of that job was running the inpatient group work programme where we did physical activity, creative writing, life skills and guided self-discovery. 

I then went to a new job on the Isle of Bute and worked as an Occupational Therapist for the Community Dementia Team. I worked alongside doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and support workers. We supported older people to be able to remain living at home independently for as long as possible. I was also in charge of the group work programme and ran the Cognitive Stimulation Therapy groups for the Dementia service across Cowal and Bute localities.

After Island living I was ready to return to the big city (Edinburgh) and started a new job as a Multi-Systemic Therapist in the Multi-Systemic Therapy Team where I worked with families and their young people who were displaying serious antisocial behaviours and substance misuse.

I joined the HOT Team in September 2018 as a Project Worker and I’m absolutely delighted to be working with such a passionate and hardworking group of people who really want the best outcomes for young people!

In my spare time, I like to play rugby, football, go running and walk my wee dog – I like to relax and watch Netflix too.

Gemma Project Worker

Gemma Burns - Project Worker

My background is in youth work and informal education. At school, I was lucky enough to receive sexual health education from the Health Opportunities Team.

 

  • Kind, caring and gentle
  • Good to talk to and a fantastic listener
  • Willing to share knowledge
  • Reassuring and complimentary
  • Fantastic with young people
  • Warm and friendly
  • Caring and smart
  • A great team member
  • A fun person
  • Kind, warm, cheerful, calm, & enthusiastic
  • A calm energy that puts young people at ease
  • Approachable and easy to talk to
  • Super experienced, kind and thoughtful
  • An open and caring individual who brings a wealth of substance use + youth work knowledge to the team
  • Thoughtful, warm and take an interest in others.
  • A skilled worker with young people

I’m a good project worker because:

  • I am passionate about the rights of all young people and care about their well being
  • I am knowledgeable and want to keep learning
  • I love interacting with people and learning their stories

My background is in youth work and informal education.  At school, I was lucky enough to receive sexual health education from the Health Opportunities Team. I remember feeling really impressed by the way the worker made us all feel at ease and got us chatting, the conversations about what we’d learned and talked about continued into us walking home.  At that point, I knew that this is the type of work I’d love to be involved in.

After school, I began volunteering with a youth organisation as a peer educator to deliver drug and alcohol education sessions to other young people all across Scotland. 

After a couple of years of building up my knowledge and experience of working with lots of young people, I was given a full-time job within the organisation to work with marginalised young people across Edinburgh in a range of settings.

I completed the Personal Development Award in Youth Work which gave me an opportunity to reflect upon my practice and learn about youth work theory.

After working with a deaf young person, I completed an introductory course in British Sign Language to help me communicate with people who use this – I loved it and would like to continue learning this when I can (so as I can communicate more than my name and ‘Irn Bru’!).

At this time, I wanted to develop my skills in working in sexual health and took on a sessional role to deliver group work in schools around sexual health and relationships.

This experience gave me the skills and experience needed to work part-time at HOT, to run a health drop in and deliver risk-taking behaviours education (sexual health, alcohol awareness and mental wellbeing) in schools and youth settings. After gaining some experience and confidence, I decided to go to university to study Community Education.

I really enjoyed studying, but unfortunately was unable to complete the course at that time. I have a Diploma in Higher Education, but I would like to complete the course at some point.

During my time of study, I worked sessionally at HOT, ran an after-school club; and a family drop in and since then have worked in Polmont Young Offenders and within Edinburgh to raise awareness of alcohol-related issues through group work, peer education, parent sessions and professional training.

I am now back at HOT working with young people who are affected by their own or parental substance use, I have completed the Turn Around Therapeutic Training and looking forward to attending a counselling course this year to develop my skills in therapeutic work with young people.

In my spare time I enjoy baking, reading, attending the odd pub quiz and seeing live music.

 

Mel project worker

Mel Aitken - Project Worker

When I left school I had no idea what I wanted to do. A lot of my friends seemed to know exactly what they wanted to be and all I knew was that I liked acting but wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this as a job.

  • Kind and friendly
  • Helpful and warm
  • Open, friendly and bubbly
  • Enthusiastic
  • Confident
  • Creative
  • Positive

I am a good Project Worker because:

  • I am empathetic and a good listener
  • I’m enthusiastic and love what I do
  • I believe strongly in equality and young people’s rights
  • I am reliable and organised
  • I am reflective and give everything 100%.

 

When I left school I had no idea what I wanted to do. A lot of my friends seemed to know exactly what they wanted to be and all I knew was that I liked acting but wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this as a job. I started working in theatres and did various drama projects where I worked with youth groups. I began to realise that the bit I enjoyed most was working with young people. This was a light bulb moment for me and I started to volunteer at drop-in youth groups. I worked with girls groups, children’s groups and busy youth groups. I loved this and soon became a sessional worker.

 

I wanted to keep developing my skills so I went to Edinburgh Uni and studied Community Education. This course really inspired me and I enjoyed connecting with theory and politics. I did a variety of placements and learned loads. I took a real interest in equality work and being a feminist and LGBTQI+ ally became a core part of my identity.

 

When I graduated I got a job at a large children’s charity and worked across Edinburgh as a family support worker. This was an amazing role and I loved working with lots of inspiring children and young people. After 3 years I decided it was time for a change and I was lucky enough to get a job with HOT. I am really excited to work with young people and support them with their emotional, mental and sexual health. I believe strongly in young peoples voices being heard and I think it is a real privilege to be the one there to listen. You can find me at Gracemount and Liberton high schools or at the Gilmerton Drop-In.

 

In my free time, I love spending time with friends, listening to music and watching Netflix.