Dost’s new Service Manager, Dr. Helena Kaliniecka, joined the team at the end of April, taking over from outgoing Director and Founder Yesim Deveci. Now that she has been with us for a few months, we thought it was about time she took ten minutes out for a hot drink and a chat so that you could get to know her a little better. So, put the kettle on, make a cup of your favourite hot drink (and grab a biscuit if you fancy it!) and come and have a chat with Helena.
First things first… Tea or Coffee?
Mmm, cup of builder’s tea please.
Jaffa cake please if you have them, though I know that’s straying into the “is it a biscuit or a cake?” territory!
Here you go! Now down to the serious stuff…
What was it that initially attracted you to Dost..?
I was really inspired by the holistic approach Dost adopts in supporting young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds in a community context. My own grandparents experienced forced migration to the UK from Poland when they were children during WW2, and I have been brought up with a deep respect and wish to help young people with similar experiences. I enjoy working in NHS mental health services, however, I believe preventative and person-centred work needs to begin in the community, and that sometimes it is only here that we can fully explore and support the full range of people’s experiences.
I am a great believer in how Dost seeks to support young people in the areas that the young people themselves identify as important, such as accessing their rights and entitlements through casework, offering support around mental health in a community context and opportunities to develop friendships and skills through the youth programme. I was excited about the opportunity to help Dost to continue shaping and building on this great work.
…and how are you finding it so far?
Busy but exciting! I have very much enjoyed getting to know the dedicated and talented team and the young people who use our services, although attending the youth club has cemented my acknowledgement of the fact that I am completely useless at pool! I’m enjoying supporting the team in developing their practice and generally strengthening the procedures behind Dost’s very effective approach so we can provide the best support possible.
What’s your vision for the future of Dost?
I am very much hoping that we can secure further funding to develop Dost continue to carry out the full range of work we do with the young people and their families – the advice and advocacy work as well as our youth and education programme. We have a very skilled team and I am hoping to develop their psychosocial skills further so that at some point in the future we will be able to offer more specialist mental health support if necessary. I guess I would like Dost to become even bigger and better, with young people always at the heart of everything we do.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Ah, that might have been sweeping up hair in a hairdresser’s when I was a teenager. If I was very lucky I would be allowed to make a customer a cup of tea and get them a biscuit but that was about it!
What’s the best/most exciting/most interesting thing that’s ever happened to you?
I am incredibly lucky to have been able to live in Kenya for nine months in 2008 when I was working with a street children charity. I had the chance to go on a safari in Amboseli during my time there and one morning our car was surrounded by a heard of about 40 elephants. All you could hear was the rumbling of the elephants communicating to each other and the snap of the roots they were kicking up. It was very magical.
Tell us something surprising about yourself
I’m a bit of an expert in foraging wild woodland mushrooms, thanks to my Polish roots! Bit of an odd skill to have I grant you. Poles are very secretive about this activity, and my father may well kill me if I divulge any more information!