Meet The Team

Niki Powers - Managing Director at Health Opportunities Team

🌸 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
  • 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.

sharon stoddart deputy manager

🏖Sharon Stoddart - Deputy Manager

I am Community Education trained, with a background in youth work. I have worked in many different environments, ranging from Streetwork to Housing Support Manager, Safeguarder Support Manager to Youth worker. I am passionate about supporting young people to stand up for their rights and believe with the right support people can achieve their goals.

hot logo purple

🥾Lynne Davies - Office Manager

Nike Senior Project Manager

⚡️Nike 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 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.

I’m a good Therapeutic Lead because…

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

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.

  • 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

🌻 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 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.

  • 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
Lorina one of our project workers

🦄 Lorina Gilroy - Project Worker

My curiosity surrounding the “hows” and “whys” of human behaviour led me to studying a BSc in Psychology at University. My degree set the foundation for my career and encouraged me to try and understand the lived experiences of others.

  • I am an approachable and friendly person
  • I am passionate about creating opportunities for all
  • I believe in equality and inclusiveness
  • I take a non-judgemental approach and try to understand other people’s perspectives, even if they are different from my own


During my time studying Psychology, I volunteered in Sri Lanka with young people in psychiatric facilities, schools and community settings who were affected by poverty and circumstance. On my return to Scotland, I continued my job working with elderly people as an Occupational Therapy Assistant however left this role to pursue working with young people, in residential care facilities who had experienced trauma or loss.

Prior to working with HOT, I worked with offenders who had learning disabilities and mental health issues. Many of the individuals I worked with were misunderstood and unheard with anti-social behaviour and deprivation consuming their lives. It became apparent to me that the inequalities people experienced due to their social and economic circumstances impacted greatly on their health and I wanted to learn more about it. This led me to study a Master’s in Public Health.

Throughout my studies, I recognised a widely unacknowledged gap between physical and mental health. To explore this further, I studied a Diploma in Holistic Massage Therapy with the School of Holistic Therapy and became an accredited Massage Therapist with the Massage Training Institute (MTI). I continue to practice Massage Therapy outside of my work with HOT.

Outside of work I spend most of my time getting mucky walking my dog Minnie. I also like being creative and make my own bath bombs, candles and oils at home.  

Lesley Paul Project worker

🐘 Lesley Paul - Project Worker

I have studied at Edinburgh University gaining my BA (Hons) in Community Education. My main passion is within the youth work field as I have a high passion to connect with young people and create a positive influence in a persons life.

  • Kind
  • Caring
  • Fun
  • Inclusive
  • A good listener
  • Approachable
  • Friendly

I have worked for many years within the Youth Work sectors and also working alongside adults and young people who live daily with mental health issues. I have provided many one-to-one supports, focusing mainly on emotional, social and mental support, but these vary from person to person depending on their individual goals and ambitions.

When I first left school, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do or what direction I wanted to take. I decided to study Acting and Performance at college and absolutely loved being part of a team and supporting my fellow actors – both on stage and in our social and personal lives.

As time went on, I took the leap to go travelling ‘for 6 months’ which very quickly turned in to 4 years! I lived in some amazing places and gained incredible memories in places such as Thailand, India, Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Vietnam but to name but a few!. I took part in a lot of volunteering on my travels and loved working with young people in and out of school settings, striving to be a positive influence in their day.

When I came home to Edinburgh I set out to go to University and study to be a Community Education practitioner. I have a lot of experience working within the mental health profession, offering 1-1 support and doing group work exercises.

My work with Penumbra gave me a lot of experience working within the mental health field and made me a confident practitioner when working towards different goals, needs and outcomes. Each support would be tailored to suit each person and I enjoyed being able to help find solutions to different needs and be a positive influence on that person. I also have a lot of experience within the youth work field and now I am thrilled to be working within Health Opportunities Team and merging the two together.

During my time at Edinburgh University, I was lucky enough to spend 10 weeks with the HOT team on placement and learnt so much during this time.

I helped facilitate the Nae Worries group and an Emotional and well-being group with EYC, as well as being part of the Craigmillar Drop-In every Thursday where I gave social, sexual and emotional support within the drop-in space. I also completed my Turn Around training in this time, as well as many other training opportunities that relate to HOT’s outcomes and values and centred around holistic and therapeutic support and CBT model’s.

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

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.

  • 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
danni spencer Health Opportunities project worker

🦋 Danni Spencer - Project Worker

I enjoy helping others and ensuring young people have a safe space to access to speak about worries. Being part of the HOT team allows me to do this. Through the ‘Feel Good’ groups, which I organise, I can work with young people around the topics previously mentioned as well as having fun!

  • I am kind, caring and fun!
  • I listen to other’s opinions and ensure they are taken into consideration.
  • I am an enthusiastic and positive person.
  • I have a lot of experience in youth work.

I have a real passion for working with young people and families.

Upon leaving school I worked as a youth worker within my local community, I had no idea what I wanted to do long term but LOVED working with and helping young people. While gaining experience in this role, I also worked across Edinburgh in many other youth provisions with service users having a variety of ages and backgrounds.

Starting in 2010, I have always worked in community-based sectors. In the 9 years I have done training and lots of work around; mental and physical health – leading a fitness-based groups to give young people the knowledge and opportunity to do exercise, drugs and alcohol misuse – working within a drop-in setting to provide knowledge and guidance on the topic, and sexual health and relationships – organising activities, in a health-focused group, for the young people to participate in and broaden their knowledge.

I went on to study a BSc (Hons) in Applied Psychology at University. Studying this course gave me the theoretical knowledge to coincide with my youth work experience – as a result, I could give young people the best environment for guidance and support.

Jude Sevestre

🐿 Jude Sevestre - Project Worker

Working with HOT enables me to do the work I love, and I’m really grateful to be in a position where I can put so much energy and care into providing support and/or guidance to young people.

  • Creative
  • Empathic
  • Kind, considerate and caring
  • Compassionate
  • Adventurous
  • Thoughtful
  • Open-minded
  • Curious
  • Make great coffee


I came to Scotland from the Netherlands a while ago, travelled on my own around the Highlands and fell deeply in love with this beautiful country. I was planning to stay for 2-3 months, however, that is now almost 13 years ago, and Scotland is now very much home. It was a lesson in self-confidence, courage, letting go, chasing adventures and getting to know myself. I’ve settled in Edinburgh in the past 7 years and love how much community, culture, art and celebration exists in this city.

I completed 3 years of training in Counselling using Transactional Analysis, and did my exam in November 2016, gaining a COSCA Post Graduate Diploma in Counselling.

I worked with clients in the volunteer sector (Gay Men’s Health, LGBT Health) for a few years providing 1 on 1 talking therapy. I worked as a volunteer Youth Worker with LGBT Youth Scotland for a year and really liked the group work we did, and the incredible young people I met there.

I completed Mental Health First Aid for Young People, as well as ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) and attended many CPD’s on working with different client groups and using different approaches.

My most recent training is in Drumming Therapy (Rhythm2Recovery), combining the power of rhythms with therapeutic work, something I’d love to develop further.

Recent work experience has been in a very different sector; I had taken a bit of a break from counselling work in the past few years and worked as a tour guide-driver, taking people on tours around Scotland and England and showing the country that I fell in love with. I enjoyed connecting with people, telling the tales of Scotland, hearing people’s story in return, whilst travelling through the beautiful Highlands.

However, I’ve had a deep wish to return to youth work and utilise the skills and training I had gained in the mental health sector, and am SO excited to work as a Project Worker with HOT, working for this incredible organisation enables me to do the work I love so much. Stories are everywhere, and the world opens up when you take time to listen.

In my spare time, I lead a drum and fire spinning performance crew, and perform at festivals throughout the country. I love rock climbing and bouldering, indoors and outdoors (mostly in warmer places than Scotland!) and enjoy mountaineering, yoga, reading, strange craft projects, costume design, camping, wild swimming and most of all… coffee.

Sam Project worker in substance use

💕 Sam - Project Worker (Substance Use)

My background is in Psychology. I studied Psychology at university for 5 years and really loved it! I love learning about human behaviour and how the brain works! I then went on to study a masters in social work but only completed the first year of it as I decided that my passion belongs with psychology! I will definitely go back and continue my studies in psychology at some point. I’m a firm believer that you should never stop learning and growing your knowledge.

  • Genuine
  • Loyal
  • Open-minded
  • Creative
  • Good listener
  • Kind
  • Resilient
  • Versatile
  • Brings humour to everything!

After uni, I worked as an assistant psychologist in a prison working with adults. I really enjoyed this role supporting people to work through issues such as; managing anger or substance use, with the goal of reducing their offending behaviour.

Whilst this role was great, I knew I really wanted to work with young people so I went on to work in a residential unit as a therapeutic support practitioner. This work was amazing! The young people were brilliant and it felt amazing to be supporting young people through the care system by providing nurture, stability and support.

After that job I worked as a Project Coordinator where I helped manage a mentoring project for young people who are care experienced. This was so much fun. It was all about matching young people up with amazing volunteer mentors who would provide weekly mentoring to young people.

One good adult was the term we used, as having at least one kind, caring, supportive and stable adult in our lives can help reduce the impact of trauma and difficult life experiences. And then here we are today! I’m now a project worker with H.O.T and I work specifically on the Substance Use team! I work hard to keep up to date will the latest research and knowledge on current substance use trends and I’m always thinking up creative ways on how I can best support young people who are struggling with their own or a parent’s substance use. My role is to work alongside young people to support them in their journeys through life and it’s a role I take seriously. I feel very lucky that the young people I work with allow me into a part of their lives and allow me to support them during difficult times. It gives me the drive to be the best I can be within my role.

When I’m not working I love going big walks with my dog. He loves playing on golf courses and chasing the golf balls. I also love baking! Sometimes I like to pretend I’m on The Great British Bake Off and I win every time!

Haley Counsellor

🥳 Haley - Counsellor

My name is Haley, and I am a counsellor here in Edinburgh with experience working with a wide variety of clients and issues, including: depression, anxiety, social issues, addiction, post-natal depression, trauma, gender identity, and eating disorders.

  • Warm
  • Empathic
  • Curious
  • Caring
  • Fun
  • Approachable
  • Good Listener

I have a Masters in Counselling from the University of Edinburgh, where I trained in the person-centred and psychodynamic approaches; while these both inform my work with clients, I orient myself as a psychodynamic practitioner. As a member of COSCA, I practice within the context of ethical guidelines and standards. I have worked with adults in private practice, as well as working as a counsellor in primary and secondary schools, as well as my work with HOT as a counsellor at Edinburgh College. I am very passionate about my work as a counsellor, and I have felt deeply privileged to sit alongside my clients journeys. I believe it is important to pay attention to the whole person, hearing about both their internal world and external landscape. Above all, I work in a therapeutic space which is characterised by empathy, acceptance and exploration. I look forward to hopefully accompanying and supporting you in a process of growth and transition!