Baobab Centre For Young Survivors In Exile

What we offer

Young peoples' involvement

In our work, we hope that young people who have experienced significant disruptions in the continuity of their lives will be supported to build a new and coherent narrative for themselves. The aim of our therapeutic community model is that the young people participate with staff in the therapeutic process of helping, supporting and sometimes challenging each other, and constantly learning from each other. They do this in individual therapy, in smaller group therapy sessions and together in large therapeutic community meetings to which all staff and young people are invited. At the community meetings, anyone can talk about any aspect of his or her experience of Baobab. We encourage everyone to speak, to listen and to be heard - however difficult and frightening that might be, particularly for young people whose experience of oppression and persecution has denied them a voice. Our aim is that slowly and when they feel ready, young people will gain pleasure in taking a role of responsibility within the Baobab Community.  This might be through taking part in a working group, through attending Trustees’ meetings or through joining the recruitment panel for a member of staff. Over time, we aim for the more experienced of our young community members to take on the role of mentors to those who have more recently arrived. "When I am alone it’s too much. There is too much stuff going on inside my head. Sometimes I feel like giving up. But when you see people who understand, who are on your side, for the first time, you have courage and hope. It’s like when you are fighting a battle and you lose everyone. Then all of a sudden reinforcements come you feel that you can win. Baobab gives me the foundations and I can start building from there.” Quote from Young Person


The Board of Trustees at Baobab meets four times a year as a full governing body.  The Board also runs a number of sub-committees that meet regularly and report back to the full board’s quarterly meetings.  Our current Trustees are: Claire Helman, Chair Claire Helman, Chair of the Trustees, is the Chief Executive of Aston-Mansfield, an organisation committed to developing healthy-living, lifelong learning and community development in East London.  Claire has worked in senior management roles for a number of organisations in the voluntary, public and private sectors, both in the UK and internationally.  Her previous experience includes being Director of Policy and Development at Together, a leading mental health voluntary sector provider, and Director of Capital Volunteering, a pan London programme which tackles issues of mental health, isolation and social inclusion through volunteering. She was the International Director of Organisation Development for ActionAid, covering programmes in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Dr John Clark John Clark is semi-retired from higher education where his last role was that of a senior manager in a Business School.  He continues to supervise students who are preparing doctorates in the area of human resource management.   John has taught management, leadership and change management to practitioners on MBA Programmes and for client-based courses.  He has research interests in these fields, particularly as a reflective practitioner and action researcher.   In addition to his support for Baobab, John is an active governor in local secondary schools.  As the Chair of Governing Bodies he advises senior leadership teams on strategic issues. Melanie McFadyean Melanie McFadyean is currently studying for an MA in Conflict Resolution in Divided Societies at Kings College, London.  Prior to embarking on the course, Melanie was a lecturer in investigative journalism at City of London for fourteen years.  She has been a freelance journalist for thirty years writing for publications including The Guardian, The LRB, and Granta. She also works in TV documentary and radio.  Melanie’s work concentrates on stories about social injustice including immigration and asylum. In the past year, working with two others, she carried out an investigation into the law of joint enterprise which resulted in a report for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which won the Bar Council Legal Reporting Award 2014. Her other awards include an Amnesty International Journalism award in 2001. She has written or co-written several books among them Thatcher's Reign: A Bad Case of the Blues, Only The Rivers Run Free: Northern Ireland, The Women's War and a book of short stories: Hotel Romantika. Gill Martin Gill Martin qualified as a Psychotherapist in 1982 specialising in work with women who had experienced sexual abuse. In 1995, she started to work with refugees and asylum seekers and from 2001 was responsible for delivering training on that theme in Hull which had became a dispersal area for asylum seekers.  In 2003, Gill set up the Haven Project Hull which offers a holistic service for refugee families and individuals, working with particularly vulnerable refugees who have come to the UK under the UNHCR gateway programme and who have been in camps for many years.  She also worked one day a week between 2003-2009 in a specialist GP practice in Huddersfield offering a therapeutic service to the refugee population. She was the first Chair of Solace, a refugee mental health service in Leeds, leading the organisation for five years. She has a Masters degree in Public and Social Administration from Brunel and a Masters degree in Theoretical Psychoanalytic Studies from UCL and extensive training in the treatment of trauma. Claudia Phillips Claudia Phillips has a joint degree Education & Social Studies and a post-graduate Diploma in Social Work and Practice Teachers qualification. Claudia is now retired after over thirty years of working in an extremely demanding social work environment, working with children and young people in care, young unaccompanied asylum seekers and supporting families in the community. She has also pursued a successful career in supporting the learning and development of others and continues to teach social workers in training. As a volunteer, she has worked with several community organisations, promoting and supporting the cause of those who exists on the margins of society. In addition to being a Trustee of the Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile, Claudia is also a management member of another organisation, which provides support to African-Caribbean families in need. Dr James (Jim) Welsh Jim Welsh worked for 30 years as Amnesty International’s Coordinator for Health and Human Rights.  The focus of his work ranged from seeking and using medical evidence of torture and extra judicial execution, participating in campaigning and analysis of the medical role in the death penalty, examining human rights aspects of HIV, and advocating improved access to health care for prisoners. He participated in numerous international meetings on human rights and health.  Jim left Amnesty International at the end of 2013 and is currently an ethics fellow at a London post-graduate school.  Jim has a PhD in virology from La Trobe University (1979). He has written on health, human rights and ethics themes both for Amnesty International and in the medical literature. Dr Felicity Dirmeik Dr Felicity Dirmeik MB,ChB, MRCPsych, Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society graduated in Medicine from the University of Cape Town. After moving to London she subsequently trained as a Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist and Psychoanalyst. She also trained at the Tavistock Clinic and then worked as a Consultant, teaching and running clinical services in NHS teaching hospitals in London for 25 years. Her experience includes working in therapeutic communities, group work, work with individuals and couples and training medical students to work psychotherapeutically. From early in her career she was on many committees at the Institute of Psychoanalysis and later chaired a committee looking at ethical practice for the British Psychoanalytic Council, overseeing the complaints procedure. She currently works in private practice as a Psychoanalyst and Psychotherapist.Herman Otto Herman is a former user of the Baobab Services and brings a critical and reflective understanding of the charity and our holistic and integrated approach. Herman studied at Greenwich University to become a civil engineer. He works for Octagon Developments as an assistant site manager dealing with the day-to-day planning and running of various multi-million-pound construction projects.

Our history

The Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile was first formed in 2008 and set up as a company limited by guarantee in 2009 and later as a charity in 2010. The centre was set up by a group of clinicians - experienced human rights workers - who identified many unmet needs in the models of treatment and support offered to young asylum seekers and refugees who had experienced human rights abuses during their developmental years. Research available at the time and subsequently highlighted the benefits of a holistic, integrated child and adolescent approach in improving access, quality and outcomes for children, adolescent and young adults with educational, physical and mental health difficulties (Youth Access, 2014). It found that children did best when a variety of services were provided in one place. Our models of intervention have been influenced by a variety of theoretical frameworks. These include psychoanalytic approaches where defences and coping strategies that emerge unconsciously in one context can be explored for their appropriateness in other contexts. As an alternative to the ‘clinic’ approach where individuals come just for weekly appointments as a form of ‘treatment’, we offer an approach based on the idea of a ‘Therapeutic Community’ that place ‘examined living’ and the exploration of difficulties and opportunities of day to day interactions at the centre of our work together. Clinicians, caseworkers and group workers encourage and enable all young people to become active members of the community and to participate in community life. This involves focusing on themes such as communication, trust, authority, identity and responsibility. Our approach offers young people a sense that they are protected and acknowledged, that we ensure time to build relationships, explore moral and emotional difficulties and to mourn. After initially benefitting from the use of space in the home of one of our founding Trustees, that allowed us to establish our services, we later moved towards the end of 2010 to offices in the Manor Gardens Welfare Centre. It has meant a great deal to the young people to have a dedicated space to which they can drop in anytime for help, to use the computer, or just for a chat and a cup of tea. However, we maintain the dream that one day we will have our own building with a kitchen in which the young people will be able to prepare meals and eat together.
Company No: 6816297, Charity No: 1135407

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Location: 6 Manor Gardens, London N7 6BB, United Kingdom
Phone number:
+44 20 7263 1301
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