Today marks International Women’s Day (8 March). A global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

As a homelessness charity, many of our services specialise in supporting women who are facing homelessness; from our domestic abuse programme to our supported accommodation for mothers and their babies.

Many of our services are named after inspiring women: Elizabeth, Naomi, Karis.

And many of our longest serving members of staff are incredible women.

Here, we speak to some them about why they are so dedicated to Oasis Community Housing.

Jen Gauden-Hand, Director of Housing

Tell us about your work with Oasis Community Housing?

I completed a law degree at uni before I did a gap year with Oasis Community Housing (2001-02) then started paid work in September 2002. My first job with the charity was as Housing Support Worker.

The best thing about working for the charity is having the privilege, over so many years, of seeing the short and long term impact that love, support, hope, positive relationships and a lot of hard work and perseverance can make to people’s lives. Playing a role in providing a home, hope and opportunities to people who need them.

What woman inspires you the most and why?

My mum is one of the strongest people I know, but also gentle and humble. A woman who quietly loves and supports others. A carer. Listener. Encourager. She’s spent her life looking after others, often sacrificially, with no thought for her own personal needs or wants. To me she’s an example of a normal woman putting love into action, someone doing what she can with what she has. The best mother and female role model I could have had.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s an opportunity to be grateful for, and celebrate the role women play in my life and the world more widely, as well as to learn about and be inspired by women doing amazing things to change the world!


Sally Pearson, Project Team Leader, Basis Gateshead

Tell us about your work with Oasis Community Housing?

I started working with the charity in April 2004. A friend worked here at the time and I was looking for summer work when I finished uni. I only planned to do sessional work for 3 months. I had studied Maths and IT and planned to go back and do teacher training but I decided that working at Naomi Project was a better way of working with young people.

The best thing about working at Oasis Community Housing is the variety of the job. We never know what will happen each day really which I really enjoy. Also, the wonderful colleagues I have worked with and learned from over the years.

What woman inspires you the most and why?

A lady called Jo who was my youth leader when I was a teenager. She was the one who encouraged me to apply for a job here and helped me to understand our clients and the ethos of the organisation.

Jessica Morales, Senior Support Worker, Southwark 16+ Support & Resettlement Services

Tell us about your work with Oasis Community Housing?

I initially started working for Oasis Community Housing as a bank staff member in around June 2010. Before joining the charity, I had been working as a teacher in a secondary school, then I took a break and was doing volunteering at Cafod and had a part-time nanny job.

I was directed to apply by a previous manager who I met in a children’s centre; her name is Kully Rennie and she had been the manager for No.3 in Peckham for a number of years and always spoke very fondly of the project. I was interviewed and accepted, and very quickly added to the bank staff pool. I was offered the permanent part-time position of housing support worker in January 2011.

The best thing about working at Oasis Community Housing is the support of my colleagues, the caring attitude of the organisation towards the young people we support and making a difference to the lives of those we serve.

What woman inspires you the most and why?

This was very difficult for me to answer as there are a lot of women that I admire from authors to scientists to athletes. After recent events in my family, I will talk about my mum as a woman that I admire because she overcame neglect and emotional abuse in childhood, domestic violence in her first marriage and prejudice from a very conservative society about divorced women.

My mum rose above adversity, was able to trust again, and remarried my dad, brought up all her children in a loving home breaking cycles of repeat trauma. She always encouraged us to invest in our education, especially my sister and myself as women, so that we had a university degree that would help give us a better foot in the employment sector and become financially independent.

She was generous, caring and hardworking, she promoted charity and never denied help to the homeless, she would sometimes make bundles of “lonches” to give out to the homeless if we went to the city centre and whenever anyone knocked on our door to beg for money she would give them food and drink and tried to help them the best she could.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It is a well-deserved opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women who have worked hard to open the path for our rights today, by challenging discrimination and stereotypes, to create equality and empowerment.


Jessica Burnell, Support Worker, Naomi Project

When did you start working with Oasis Community Housing?

I started working with Oasis Community Housing in 2011 … I think, it’s a while ago!

I had been in England for about a year and was working as a cleaner, I was looking for a job working with people, I had some ideas of what I wanted to do with my life, I knew I wanted to help people facing true hardship. One of my friends had been working for the charity and let me know they were hiring, I was looking for a new job with a bit more purpose.

Even when it was quite a small charity, the work has been quite diverse; I started as a relief worker, which meant I was able to project hop and I loved being involved with all of the projects. Oasis Community Housing seems to have a real knack for hiring great people so there is always someone interesting to learn from on the job, not to mention the characters you get to meet and support in the projects. There’s just never a dull moment. I like that the job breaks through the stereotypes we are sold, and I am constantly reminded that everyone has a story.

What woman inspires you the most and why?

The woman who inspires me the most is my granny, she is 95 and going strong, she has such a positive outlook on every situation and such a joy for life no matter the situation. She and my grandad have created such a legacy within our family of love and acceptance and strength, family is there to lift each other up and pull together in times of hardship. She is still so keen to do her bit to help others and has taught her family to be community minded too. She has lived through a world that has changed so much since she was born, and has embraced every change as a new challenge seemingly without fear (if she was afraid it didn’t show). She has such a clear view of what really matters and is content with what she has.

I hope that if I reach the same age I will still be as full of life as she is and that people will be able to say the same about me, that they are better off for knowing me, as this is true of her.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s great to have a day to reflect on women, what we have achieved and how far we have come. I think it is good that the day is also used to look at how circumstances are not the same for all women and how we can provide opportunities for women who have not been allowed to thrive in the same way and use our privilege to bring others up with us and challenge injustices that remain.


Paulina Pilarska-Poole, Support Worker, Naomi Project

Tell us about your work with Oasis Community Housing?

Oasis Community Housing is my second job (and always has been) and I only do one shift a week – I have a full time job as a Career Advisor. Even with Full Time work I like it so much that decided to stay!

I started working for the charity in August 2011 – back then it was called Aquila Way. I was working for the local charity with people who were refugees and asylum seekers, some of them experienced homelessness and I wanted to gain more experience working with people without a permanent address to understand their needs better. It was very clear to me from the very beginning that a stable home is crucial to a happy life. Without a permanent address people often suffer from depression and anxieties, are unable to search for work or even think positively about the future.

Currently I work at Naomi Project and I feel privileged to be able to support fantastic young women who have experienced so much in their lives. To see their growth and how they can recognise their own potential. And the lovely staff – I could not wish for a better team mates, all of us from different background but have a passion for the role, dedication and sense of humour in common.

What woman inspires you the most and why?

There are so many women that I admire but, to name one, would be Marie Curie-Sklodowska: Polish Nobel Prize winner, feminist, scientist and a mother who managed to pursue her passion in a foreign country in a male dominated world – and succeeded.

I have to say – since becoming a mother myself I more and more admire my own mum, for all the things she has done for me, her dedication, selflessness and ability to juggle family and work life as well as her passions and hobbies.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Nowadays we, as women, have so many roles to play and the pressure to be all at once. IWD is for us to celebrate us, our passions, achievements , how far we have come, not only in terms of women’s rights movements, but also to recognise the daily struggles, demands and unrealistic expectations. There is still so much to achieve.

 Find out more about the people behind the scenes of our charity >