Meet the Team

Core staff

Michael O'Toole, Chief Executive

MichaelOToole web.jpg Michael joined Mentor in October 2014, having been the first Crown Representative for the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector between 2012 and 2014. Working within the Cabinet Office, he helped to open more public services to the voluntary sector, influencing public sector commissioning and policy, building strategic engagement between government and the sector, and helping voluntary sector organisations, especially those serving more disadvantaged groups, to win and deliver multi-million pound public service contracts.

Michael previously headed up 3SC, the social enterprise partnership representing some 1,500 members and before that led business development, marketing and communications at the information charity BSS and was a Director at Connaught plc. He has been a Trustee of three charities and led the establishment of a new charitable consortium in the children’s services early intervention sector. Email Michael.

Watch a short video of Michael talking about Mentor's work on the About Us page.

Heather McVeigh, Scotland Director

heather.jpg From a standing start in 2008, Heather has developed Mentor's Edinburgh office which now has a critical role in consultations on drug policy and practice, including a special expertise in kinship care. Mentor Scotland has grown substantially in the last eight years and is delivering a number of major projects designed to have a sustained impact on the national landscape.

Heather began her career as a lawyer and her alcohol education programme was awarded a special merit by the Howard League for Penal Reform. Email Heather.

Jeremy Sare, Director of Policy and Communications

Jeremy Sare.png Jeremy joined Mentor in October 2016 as Director for Policy and Communications, following their merger with Angelus. He was previously responsible for Communications and Operations at the Angelus Foundation, where he first starting working in 2010. Jeremy played a key role in campaigning for the Psychoactive Substances Act which has severely disrupted the supply of these new substances.

Jeremy has worked in the drugs field since 2001 when he was Secretary to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs at the Home Office. He also worked as Head of Drug Legislation and Classification. In 2007, he completed a postgraduate diploma at the London School of Journalism and became a freelance journalist writing regularly for the Guardian, British Medical Journal and New Statesman. Email Jeremy.

Gez Lawson, Development Manager (Scotland)

gez.jpg Gez has worked for Mentor UK since July 2010. He managed the highly successful peer education alcohol project which delivered alcohol education to young people across Scotland. He is currently training a group of young people as volunteer development officers, supporting them to develop their own peer led substance misuse prevention initiatives for young people across Scotland. Gez also provides support, consultation and training for young people and practitioners involved in peer education throughout Scotland. Email Gez.

Ben Thurman, Policy & Research Officer

benthurman.jpg Ben joined Mentor in 2013 to conduct research with kinship care families as part of the government-funded Relative Support project. Since then he has worked extensively on kinship care policy in Scotland, and his role has grown to incorporate Scottish and UK-wide policy relating to prevention, alcohol and drugs, and children and young people. Ben came to Mentor with experience in research and evaluation, gained from two years working in rural development and education for non-profits in India; and in journalism, having written for a variety of print and online publications. He studied history at the University of Edinburgh, where he has also worked as a Research Assistant on a number of projects since graduating. Email Ben.

Nathalie Hussa, Fundraising Officer

Nathalie Hussa crop.jpg Nathalie joined Mentor in May 2016 as Fundraising Officer after completing an internship at a children's rights organisation in Ecuador. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Kent and a Master's degree in Human Rights from University College London. Nathalie has volunteered for a number of charities and is passionate about the non-profit sector. Email Nathalie.

Emily Hicks, Policy & Communications Officer

Emily.JPG Emily joined Mentor in October 2016 following their merger with Angelus, which she joined in June 2015 due to an interest in drug countercultures. As Mentor's Communications and Policy Officer, Emily campaigns in the community and on social media to raise awareness on the harms of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), while researching and reporting on drug trends. After obtaining a postgraduate degree in Political Communications and a Bachelor's in Journalism, she decided to work on mental health issues and at secondary schools.

Jade Forester, Marketing & Communiations Officer

JadeForester.jpg Jade joined Mentor in March 2015 as Marketing and Communications Officer and is responsible for Mentor's organisational communications, including the website and social media channels. She also creates marketing materials for Mentor using graphic design tools to support the programmes, fundraising and events staff. Jade has a strong background in digital communications and community engagement for non-profits, and has a passion for third sector work, particularly the work of organisations that support and empower young people. Jade holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and War & Peace Studies from the University of Maine at Farmington, where she was actively engaged with many student organisations, including a number of social justice, human rights and peer support groups. Email Jade.

Sue Tilley, Financial Officer

Sue Tilley.jpg Sue joined Mentor in 2009 as a finance consultant. Following a career in accounting, Sue has been working in the charity sector since 1991, when she realised that her voluntary work was more fulfilling than her daytime job. She has been a Board member of various charities, both UK and International, and has been a speaker at many International conferences with a focus on strategy, governance and finance. She was one of the first intakes for an MSc in Charity Law & Finance, and her experience with both small and large charities helps to inform her work with Mentor. 

Sue's work also takes her to Brussels, where statutory accounts are prepared to EU regulations, and she has previously prepared accounts for a US registered non-profit under IRS501 regulations. 

Amanda Hood, Office Manager

Amanda joined Mentor in May 2011 after working in the public and local government sector. She is responsible for day to day running of the office and making payments etc. Amanda works four day per week and when she is not in London she enjoys travelling around Europe as well as attempting to make her flowers and vegetables grow! Email Amanda.


Programmes team (London)

Jamila Boughelaf, Head of Programmes

jamila.jpg Jamila is Head of Programmes at Mentor. She joined Mentor in 2013, managing the Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Information Service (ADEPIS) and in 2015 taking on the Centre for Analysis of Youth Transitions as well. Jamila also represented Mentor at the 2015 UNESCO, UNODC, WHO joint international expert meeting on substance use among children and young people. Since August 2015 Jamila has been a member of the European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR) and the Alliance for Useful Evidence.

Jamila's background is managing national and international projects, and major events aimed at fundraising, awareness raising or campaigning. Passionate about achieving positive social change in society, she has been involved in a wide range of youth engagement, active citizenship and human rights projects across the UK, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Jamila also spent time as a Research Assistant for Dr Maha Azzam at the Chatham House and Dr Sara Silvestri at City University. Jamila holds a BA in International Communication from the University of Milan, and a Masters in Social Sciences from City University London. Email Jamila.

Alessandra Podestà, Good Behaviour Game

alessandra.jpg Alessandra joined Mentor in May 2015 to assist with the continued development of the CAYT repository, and is now leading the Good Behaviour Game UK trial as Programme Manager for GBG. Her background is focused on implementation and evaluation of international development projects. Passionate about socio-economic issues and global affairs, Alessandra spent two years in Southern Africa working for humanitarian organisations on education and local development projects.

Prior to joining Mentor, Alessandra collaborated with a London-based microfinance charity operating in Zambia and Malawi. Alessandra holds a Master’s degree in economics and international relations at University of Pavia and an MSc in Political Economy of Development at SOAS. Email Alessandra.

Kate Zaczek, Project Aware

Kate Zaczek.jpg Kate joined Mentor in October 2016, as the Project Officer for Aware Project, following their merger with Angelus. Kate's background is in young people's support services; before joining Mentor she worked as an Education Welfare Officer for seven years. Kate holds a BA Hons in Human Resource Management and Sociology from the University of Keele and a Postgraduate Diploma in Children's Services from Nottingham Trent University. Kate is passionate about improving opportunities for young people and is dedicated to making a positive change. Email Kate.

Richard Lynas, Research Officer

richard lynas Richard is Mentor's Research and Project Officer focusing on ADEPIS and CAYT. He has worked in the third sector for 25 years and for six years in substance misuse and prevention. Following a degree in Applied Psychology, Richard moved to Romania where he worked with a national substance abuse charity. He has been trained in addiction care by the De Hoop Foundation and in the therapeutic community approach by Portage Canada.

Richard has a background in international development and global health and has worked internationally in numerous programmes, research and monitoring and evaluation roles with FRODO, Merlin, Save the Children and the Prince’s Trust. Prior to joining Mentor in 2016 Richard was a research and teaching assistant at the University of Ulster, and worked as a programme manager at Media Trust. In his spare time Richard is completing a PhD in positive youth psychology and working with another charity aiming to bring an end to child institutions in Sri Lanka. In 2012 Richard was selected to carry the Olympic torch in recognition of his work in this area. Email Richard.


Programmes team (Scotland)

Debra Anderson, Breaking Out

Debra began working for Mentor in November 2015 and works at HMYOI Polmont as the project officer for Breaking Out.

Liz Johnston, Families Together

lizjohnston.jpg Liz joined Mentor in June 2012 as a Family Support Worker for the Kinship Care project. Liz has over 20 years experience in community based health/social care services working with mostly hard-to-reach groups such as women in the sex industry, drug users, young people perceived to be at risk, people with mental health issues and parents in need of support. She’s using her experience and her expertise of the local area to develop the Families Together Kinship Care Project. Email Liz.

Yvonne Ramsay, Senior Family Support Worker

yvonne.jpg Yvonne is a former kinship carer and has worked with Mentor for many years. She was spurred on after her role as a kinship carer ended to try and offer support to others. Yvonne was also previously involved with a Kinship Care Support Group holding many roles over the years. She strives to encourage all of us to work together! Email Yvonne

Jill Colvine, Youth Worker

Jill Colvine.jpg Jill joined Mentor in November 2015 to focus on our youth provision as part of Families Together, our kinship care support programme running out of the Scotland office. 

Jill studied psychology, sociology and social care at college, and has worked in a number different youth club settings with a variety of different young people across Edinburgh over the past six years. Jill works on planning and developing the youth clubs at Mentor, working closely with the young people supporting them to engage and encouraging them to reach their full potential. Email Jill.

Kirsty Malcolm and Derek Scally, Sessional Youth Workers

Kirsty and Derek both joined Mentor in 2016 to focus on the Families Together kinship care programme in Scotland, as well as supporting other projects Mentor is running. 



Ian Macdonald – ADEPIS Consultant

Ian Macdonald.jpg Ian's interest in health education and policy began while studying a BSc in Sports Sciences and MA Sport and Culture, resulting in a varied career working across the education, public and voluntary sectors. This has included roles within young person's substance misuse services, the commissioning and delivery of public health services, and teaching in further and higher education settings.

Ian has been involved with the implementation of high profile initiatives such as the National Healthy Schools and You're Welcome programmes, and devised a variety of CPD programmes for teachers and the wider young person's workforce. He has also developed resource packs for schools based on drugs, alcohol and energy drinks. Ian previously taught public health at undergraduate and masters levels, and currently holds a role with the Open University, teaching on their sport and fitness degree programmes.

John Rees – ADEPIS Consultant

John Rees.JPG John is passionately committed to enhancing the life chances of children and young people, through school improvement and by supporting the professional development of individuals and organisations. Having taught for 12 years, latterly as a senior leader, John lead the transformation of APAUSE, a schools-based sex and relationships education programme from a 2-school research project into an effective multi-agency programme with unique evidence of health benefit and educational improvement.

John became an independent educational consultant in 2006, and has enjoyed repeat commissions with a range of Local Authorities across the UK and overseas, supporting health and educational improvement.

Meet our Trustees