Rising Stars in Charity 2016

 Introducing our Rising Stars winners in the Charity category for 2016

Michelle Thorpe

UK Homes 4 Heroes

My name is Michelle Thorpe. I am a director of a charity called UK Homes 4 Heroes Pride & Passion. It is only a small charity which helps ex-service personnel. We go out on the streets to feed and clothe them. We also  house and get them back into work when possible along with just being there for them to have a shoulder to cry on or listen to them when needed. There is only two of us that run the head office.

I am also the pearly queen of Rotherhithe which I am very proud to be. I have done a lot of charity work in my life including abseiling, sky-diving, bungee jumping and lots more. I get great pleasure out of helping other people.

Sophie Richardson

Free The Children

Originally from Blackpool, Sophie came to London to study French and Linguistics at Queen Mary, University of London. After graduating, Sophie was elected Vice President Education and Welfare 2010-11 and President 2011-12 of Queen Mary Students’ Union, representing 16,000 students.

She also served on the National Union of Students’ National Executive Committee as the Higher Education representative. Since then she has worked at Disneyland Paris, at Hotcourses supporting young people going into Higher Education and worked on a Blackpool Council funded programme supporting young, homeless and NEET 16-19 year old women.

She currently works for Free The Children and WE Day as Manager of Speakers and Facilitators, the WE Schools delivery team. Sophie is also an alumna of UpRising and PwC’s leadership programmes and volunteers as a governor at Thornton Heath Nursery School.

Sophie is passionate about equality, young people and the transformative power of education.

Samantha Jones

Smart Works

As the manager of the new Smart Works centre in West London, it is my job, and my privilege, to bring our amazing Smart Works service to more women who need our help to succeed at interview and get their lives back on track.  Over the last year, I am proud to say that I have increased the number of appointments we’ve delivered by 41%, from 545 to 770, recruited and managed over 30 volunteers to deliver our service, who have together clocked up over 2000 hours of service.  Most importantly, over one in two, 59%, of the women who came to see us in West London went on to succeed at their job interview.

A visit to Smart Works takes just two hours, and during that time each woman receives a high-quality outfit, theirs to keep, and one to one coaching tailored to that upcoming interview.  Many of the women that walk through our doors have been unemployed for years.  We see single mothers with no support, women with physical and mental disabilities and ex-prisoners.  They frequently arrive nervous and feel daunted by the prospect of interview however they always leave confident, charged and lifted by the support they receive.  At Smart Works we believe every woman has many wonderful talents they can offer the world, what they lack is confidence.  My role is to assist them in unlocking their confidence so that they can showcase their skills and shine in their interview.

I have made it my mission to reach out to as many women as possible and welcome them through the Smart Works doors.  This meant rapidly building relationships with people who could refer, the Job Centres, Work Programme providers and other charities working to support women back into employment.  It has also meant building a skilled and reliable network of volunteers who could deliver an impeccable service to the women we see.  It also meant building a support network in the local community and spreading the word.

It has been a fantastic year for me and for Smart Works in West London and I am looking forward to building on this in the year ahead.

Mary Dobson


Mary founded London Young Charity Professionals (LYCP) in 2014, noting a lack of support for London-based young professionals working in the charity sector. Alongside a day job managing NSPCC Special Events, she launched the network with regular, free-to-attend networking drinks, creating an informal, friendly space for members to be able to share ideas, challenges and to support each other.

The network gained 1,500 LinkedIn members within the first six months and a stellar committee of two. Last year Mary organised ‘LYCP Inspirationals’, featuring seven sector-leading charity CEOs, including Barbara Frost, Ciaran Devane and Mark Goldring, each talking about their five greatest failures.

Sold out, and supported by The Guardian, Blackbaud & Harris Hill, the series provided an unrivalled opportunity for young professionals to be inspired and motivated by leading lights. Recently named one of Eventbrite’s top 100 movers & shakers in the Events Industry, she’s “frequently touted as one to watch!”

Frah Saeed

YMCA North London

Frah is professionally experienced Youth and Community worker who works extensively with young people and communities in the voluntary and statutory sectors as a young volunteer and qualified youth & community worker.

Frah has been working for the YMCA  for over 6 years  and has also been part of a programme called (Roots for Reconciliation) which is YMCA Europe’s initiative for stronger youth activism towards peaceful transformation of conflicts in Europe, South Caucasus and the Balkans especially considered  and was awarded as The Young Leader of the year ‘Youth Matters Awards 2015 England’.

Whilst working with the YMCA Frah has also been engaged as a Trainer and Peace Advocate for a number of organisations and national Government working groups e.g ‘Youth Spirit’ which is a youth work unit in Jordan Working on gender equality & sustainable development), which works in partnership with European Youth Foundation throughout the ‘middle east’ to strengthen equality for all in order to respond to the needs of the most disadvantaged young people.