MEET THE TEAM AT WEN

Meet the team from Wen (Women's Environmental Network)

A MINUTE WITH……

Rebecca Evans-Merritt, Limborough Hub Manager

Meet….Rebecca Evans-Merritt

Rebecca has a Fine Arts background and has worked in production and education. She loves living in Tower Hamlets and enjoying all the pockets of green amongst the city.

 

 

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Usually my son, sometime before 6am! But I love being up early and being able to make the most of the day, especially when it’s sunny. I always like to try to pack as much into my day as possible, though sometimes I am probably over-ambitious and should really just go to bed when the sun goes down.

 

What three words would you use to describe your role?

Busy, varied and diplomatic.

 

What do you like most about your job?

I like that it’s very dynamic – one day I might be working on spreadsheets, the next I might be chatting to residents about the garden and on another I could be sorting out DIY. I love that I’m not tied to a computer all day as I prefer to keep moving!

 

What’s your favourite blog?/book/podcast/film & why

Since I was a child I’ve loved the film Hairspray directed by John Waters. The soundtrack is amazing, it’s camp and all the 1960s fashion is great. The message of marginalised communities rising up and fighting for representation is also really inspiring. The musical version (and stage show) is also fun, but the original film is just the best!

 

What is your guilty pleasure?

Spending too much time dancing in front of the mirror – though I kind of class it as exercise so I feel less guilty about the amount of time I spend, plus it’s fun and confidence boosting; I’d recommend it to everyone! Though don’t let perfecting your ‘mermaid arms’ make you late for things… speaking from experience.



Jennifer Weeks from Real Nappies For London (RNFL)

Jenny Weeks, Project Assistant, Real Nappies for London

Meet….Jenny Weeks

Jenny started her journey with Real Nappies for London in March 2020, after a year of using reusable nappies as a parent. Now with two children in reusables, her passion is reaching out to other families and helping them to save both money and plastic waste by making the simple switch. 

 

 

How would you describe your job to a child?

This was a great question to think about!

“A lot of babies wear nappies made of plastic, and after they are used once they go straight to landfill. They have ended up in the ocean many times, which is really bad for the fish and for the planet. What I want to do, to help our planet, is to tell everyone that babies can wear nappies made of cloth instead. Families can use them again and again, and save a lot of money (and the wildlife!)”

 

What’s your most memorable facepalm moment?

One ridiculous facepalm moment I remember was when my cousin announced her pregnancy to me by handing me a photo of her antenatal scan. For some *completely unknown* reason, I thought she had rummaged through some old family photos and found a scan of me as a baby! As soon as the words came out, I realized what a blunder I’d made, and had to ask my poor cousin to start the conversation again so I could do a proper reaction. Luckily, she thought it was hilarious. 

 

When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?

On several recent occasions, whenever my partner does a caricature of me, most likely during a silly argument. 

 

What’s the most recent app you’ve downloaded but are yet to use?

I recently came across an app called Buy Nothing – once you register, you are connected with neighbours in your local area who are getting rid of old items from their home, or have tools or garden waste to share with those in their community. I’m excited to try it out and maybe exchange some items for resources for our garden. 

 

Who would you love to meet?

*without a moment’s hesitation* David Attenborough. I feel that my sisters and I are part of the generation of children who watched both his older and latest nature programmes, and we feel his influence every day. Thanks to him, my sister pursued her career in zoology and we all love animals. If I ever met him and got to shake his hand, it would be one of the most magical moments of my life. 

 

 

JULIA MINNEAR

Julia is our Feminist Leadership Facilitator

Meet….Julia Minnear

Julia has worked in environmental organisations for 15 years and is a former Co-Director at Wen. She believes in the power of using feminist and participatory principles to achieve social and environmental justice.

What three words would you use to describe your role?

Feminist, Leadership, Facilitator. Is that cheating?! In more than three words, my role is helping Wen to embed principles of feminist leadership throughout the organisation – a brilliant challenge. My role model is Srilatha Batliwala, a social activist and author from India, who wrote an excellent handbook called “Feminist Leadership for Social Transformation” – I highly recommend it – This might sound a bit silly, but I think it changed my life!
 
 

If you could switch jobs with someone, who would it be?

Back in the day when Wen was only 4 or 5 people, me and Kate (current Co-director) used to run organic food growing courses with women’s groups in Tower Hamlets and Hackney. I have a lot of nostalgia for that type of work. I love being outside and seeing how powerful nature and gardening can be, particularly as a type of therapy. Since then, Wen’s food projects have expanded massively. It’s exciting to see people like Elle, Josh, Han, Jo, Shaheda, Julie, Clyo and the Soil Sisters team leading on that work now with so much creativity and passion. It’s really inspiring and I secretly wish I could switch jobs with them.
 
 

What is on your wish list for your next five years at Wen?

 
They say that organisations go through cycles – I think that’s probably true. With the team having expanded it feels like Wen is re-making itself at the moment. We recently did an exercise where everyone shared their personal values to see where the crossovers were. The idea is to develop Wen’s strategy in line with the energy and values of the current team. It’s a co-creative process, but it also feels like an important way to get to know each other. I’d really like us to keep finding fun and creative ways to learn, share and collaborate together. I have this vision of bread being kneaded – folding this bit into that bit, and that bit into this bit, until you have a good dough! As with bread-baking, I think time and patience are probably also key ingredients!
 
 

What are your biggest professional challenges?

 
Probably trying to overcome the idea of having to be or act in a certain way in order to be taken seriously! I think it’s the usual imposter syndrome stuff – the idea that there are other people out there that are better qualified, more knowledgeable, more skilful and more articulate than me, and that they should be doing my job! For me, Wen has been an important place for unlearning all of that. We’re not deficient, we don’t have to be perfect and it’s okay not to know! Sadly I still have to keep my inner gremlins in check on a regular basis.
 
 

Given a chance, who would you like to be for a day?

 
Someone who is living very far away from everyone else; I’m imagining being in Antarctica, or up a mountain where there is no phone signal, no Wifi, no planes overhead. It would be a lovely break!

 

 

 

Elle Mcall

Elle our Just FACT Programme Manager

Meet….Elle McAll

Elle is passionate about inclusive climate action, and believes in the unique power of food to bring people together. She has worked in the charity sector 7 years, managing a wide range of environmental projects.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The cats! I have two black cats, Rambo and Patsy who jump on the bed in the morning asking for their breakfast. While they’re having theirs, I have muesli with berries and a big spoonful of peanut butter.

 

How would you describe your job to a child?

 

This is a great challenge but hard to do! One answer could be I mostly work at a laptop and go to meetings! Another answer is – I support projects that get food to our bellies in a way that is good for our health and the environment.  This includes projects that grow food nearby, that have less plastic packaging, that don’t use polluting transport, that recycle food waste so it can be turned into something useful again…..and much more. It’s about trying to make healthy affordable food (that doesn’t harm the planet) available to everyone! (…Maybe that’s still too abstract!)

 

What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on?

 

Every day is different! As well as working on ‘Just FACT’, I’m also part of the Intersectional Feminist Working Group at Wen, and one thing I’m currently working on with the team is our 5 year action plan. It’s really exciting to be setting goals and actions that get us actively working towards being an anti-racist, inclusive, intersectional feminist organisation.

 

What’s your favourite film & why?

Thelma and Louise, which I watched for the first time in lockdown 1! It’s really funny, captivating, about female friendship and about women trapped in a patriarchal world who are asserting control over their own lives. It was made 30 years ago, but hasn’t lost it’s brilliance.

 

What is your guilty pleasure?

I do love a chocolate covered coffee bean….

Linda is our Operations Manager

Meet….Linda Tai

Linda has worked in the health and community sectors for over 10 years. Originally from Australia, she now calls East London home and is interested in building sustainable communities. Alongside her role at Wen, she is co-founder of Sunny Jar Eco Hub, a social enterprise on a mission to make low waste living easy and accessible for all.  

What gets you out of bed in the morning? 

A strong cup of tea, with a bit of soya milk, no sugar.  

What is your biggest achievement to date – personal or professional? 

My biggest achievement to date is starting a social enterprise, Sunny Jar Eco Hub, with my business partner Maud 2 years ago.  Creating Sunny Jar has enabled me to combine my interest in community health and wellbeing with my passion for sustainable living. We deliver workshops and community projects, with a mission to make low waste living easy and accessible for everyone. 

 

What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on?

My typical day can involve anything from developing Wen’s policies and processes, to managing our membership database, to helping out staff with queries. I’m currently working on our office spaces, organising furniture for our new space, Limborough Hub and reviewing our Covid-19 risk assessments.  

What do you like most about your job?

I love the variety of my work at Wen, there is always something interesting to work on and a problem to unpick.  

 

What’s the most recent app you’ve downloaded but are yet to use?

I’ve just downloaded Go Jauntly, which is a walking app. You can record your favourite walk on it and share with the community, and you can find new walks in your area that others have recorded. I’m hoping to discover new places in my local area and beyond!   

Meet… Han Smith

Han never ceases to be amazed by the power of community organising and is inspired by grassroots people power around the world! Prior to Wen, Han worked with student led campaigns network People & Planet, where they managed the University League table – ranking UK universities on their social justice and climate action. Han is currently a trainee at OrganicLea, a food growing project in the suburbs of North London. At campaign and action training camps, Han can sometimes be found running a workshop called 80’s disco stretch n’ sweat!  

Han - Wen

Han is our Just FACT Mobiliser 

When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried? 

My friend recently went to visit her parents in the rural Welsh town she is from. In the last year a new train station has been built on the rural train line where it now stops at a tiny village where there are views of rolling hills and 1 tiny white cottage. The person who lives in the cottage, unhappy at the development of the train station has written in protest on the side of their cottage, in huge perfectly formed lettering ‘WELCOME TO HELL.’ 

It’s the first thing you see from the station platform (aside from the rolling hills). My friend sent me a photo and I cried and cried with laughter for about 20 minutes. OK, I’ve started laughing all over again now! 

What gets you out of bed in the morning? 

The sounds of water and birds. The light. Wondering what the trees look like today. Curiosity for the nature outside usually.  

What’s the most recent app you’ve downloaded but are yet to use? 

Pokemon Go. My nephews (6, 4 and 3) are really really keen. I downloaded it last weekend under their pressure but also wanting to find more ways we can connect and play together.  

What is your guilty pleasure?  

I’m pretty keen to kick back on the idea that we should build guilt in to the pleasures we take. So whilst I appreciate what the phrase ‘guilty pleasures’ is commonly understood to mean, I don’t really relate to it. I know that I could say I love watching Eastenders for example, which I do. I don’t feel guilty about it though… it’s a brilliant bit of TV! 

(At the moment there’s a Black Lives Matter influenced storyline; intersecting Covid, state healthcare, controlling relatives, mental health and unhelpful white neighbours. It revolves around the character Patrick Trueman, his family and of course the people of Albert Square)  

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