Hi, my name is Jen and I am delighted to introduce myself as Circle’s new Children’s Resilience Worker.

What I am going to be doing: 

The Children’s Resilience Worker is a newly funded post by East Lothian Council and is based in Circle’s East Lothian team. I will be working one-on-one and in groups with children and young people (ages 8-12) who are affected by parental substance use. The projects purpose is to help build resilience and minimise the impact that family’s substance use may have on them. To achieve this I will work alongside the children and young people to reduce and manage stress in their lives, provide them with a caring and supportive relationship, help them build a toolkit of coping strategies and provide peer support through group work with other children and young people in their community.

Referrals will be received through families we work with and through a range of partnerships with professionals that the East Lothian team have built over the 10 years they have been supporting families.

How I got here:

Prepare yourself for a quick whistle stop tour of my journey before I started at Circle…

I am originally from Co. Limerick in Ireland and I moved to Edinburgh in August 2019 and I have really enjoyed living in this beautiful city – even though I have spent more time living here in a lockdown than not in a lockdown!

I have an undergraduate degree in Medicinal Chemistry from Trinity College Dublin. However, after 4 years of studying I realised that although I am a science nerd for life, chemistry and a future in a lab was not quite where I wanted to be. So, I left Ireland in January 2011 and spend just over 2 years backpacking around South East Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Travel being another passion of mine. I fell in love with New Zealand and spent the following 6 years living and working there.

For most of those 6 years I worked for a biosecurity company as an auditor and quality and technical advisor. When you say ‘biosecurity’ most people imagine the officers with sniffer dogs at the airport, unfortunately my job was not that cool! I spent most of my time travelling around New Zealand checking that products that were imported and exported were either inspected or treated (with a various array of chemical gases) correctly. This is to make sure they were not bringing in any creepie crawlies like spiders or snakes that New Zealand does not have or want or sending any creepie crawlies from New Zealand to other countries. Within any given day I could be on board a vessel full of logs before they leave for China, looking at containers with car parts arriving from Australia, or standing in an enormous cool room with thousands of bananas from Ecuador. The job was so varied and interesting, and I loved being able to see so much of the country but the part I loved the most was being able to meet and talk to new people all the time.

In 2016 I decided to go back to study part-time, and I completed a Graduate Diploma in Psychology from Massey University in NZ while I was working. In psychology I found the bridge between science and working with people that I had been missing in chemistry, which lead me to move back to the Northern Hemisphere in 2019 and complete a Masters Degree in Psychology of Mental Health from the University of Edinburgh.

Once I graduated, I started a job as a Project Worker for a charity called the Health Opportunities Team. I provided one-to-one therapeutic support to young people in schools in the South East of Edinburgh and I was also the Lead Project Worker for an anxiety support group for young people which we ran after school. My job at Health Opportunities Team finished earlier this year and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to join the team at Circle in March 2021.

I’ve only been at Circle a few weeks but its been great to get to know the team, start listening to the young people I am working with and begin to co-design plans to overcome the challenges they are facing.

If you are interested in the project, are a fellow professional in East Lothian or would like to talk about anything I’ve highlighted above then please do get in touch – Jen.Ward@Circle.Scot