It’s time for tea again! Earlier this month you met Youth Worker Danny Smallwood and today we’re sitting down with another one of our newer team members, Specialist Care Leaver Caseworker Lizette Villaverde. Lizette works with our young people who are leaving care, ensuring that they are kept informed of their rights and entitlements and that they are being appropriately supported under the Leaving Care Act.
I think I’ve met my sugar quota with the tea…
Great, now down to the serious stuff…
How did you end up here and what was your first day like?
I had been working as a social worker for almost nine years and have been very drawn to working with young people as well as the international community. Dost’s holistic attitude really attracted me to the organisation and I was very impressed by the work ethos of the team and how they approached working with individuals and communities.
My first days at Dost were lovely and miles away from what I was used to in terms of the pace and pressure of the work environment. The best part was seeing the youth club in action and being able to meet a diverse group of individuals who seemed to get along well and enjoy their environment.
What countries have you worked in and how does your experience of working in other countries compare to the UK?
I’ve done voluntary work in India and Nepal as well as social work in the USA. Although working under different legislation, the practice models between the USA and UK are similar and face similar pressures in my experience.
India and Nepal provided a landscape where the need was incredibly high and the young people were eager to receive any support services. What stands out in contrast is the lack of resources and organisation. I really had to make an adjustment about how to approach systems as my previous experience was with “first world” matters.
A balance needed to be struck in regards to what was needed and what could be put in place over a longer period of time, such as an educational curriculum. Coming from a different background, one can really develop appreciation for what tends to be taken for granted.
What attracted you to the role of working specifically with care leavers?
A few years ago several local authorities started to merge Leaving Care Teams with the Asylum Teams, so my work with care leavers really began at this point. As I loved working within the Asylum Team I was initially resistant to this change; however I came to appreciate the overlap of support services between the needs of care leavers and asylum seekers especially working with the period of transition approaching adulthood. This is a crucial period for people who have previously been looked after children with an abundance of support services who then have a great deal of this support cut off once they reach 18 years of age.
What do you like best about working with Dost youth?
Every individual comes with their own strengths, needs and story. I’ve enjoyed getting to know them on a one to one basis as well as witnessing how they work together as a diverse community group. They have a general open and caring attitude which creates a family environment and in fact, some young people do view Dost groups as part of their extended family networks. They are a joy to work with!
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I’ve been working the odd job since I was at least 14 years old from working in retail and waitressing to door to door fundraising, fast food, nursery assistant… the list goes on! However the worst work environment (that, being fair, I never really gave a chance to) was telemarketing. I believe I made it through two days induction before I bid my farewells. I really prefer face to face interaction!
What’s the best/most exciting/most interesting thing that’s ever happened to you?
Exciting and interesting things are taking place all the time, but if I had to choose I would have to say that taking a year off to travel and volunteer is highly ranked on that list! It really helped to shape how I viewed the world and myself as a part of it.
Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I was dead set on going to art school but had a Sociology teacher who changed my life in my last year of high school. Now I just enjoy creative ventures on the side!