Meet our team

Kate Belinis

Kate Belinis, is the CEO of CDA Herts since 2006.  She has worked in Hertfordshire and London for many years as CEO in the voluntary sector. Prior to her voluntary and community roles, she worked in the private sector for 20 years in the analytical/testing of retail products and quality assurance sectors.  

Her passion is in the development of sustainable communities and their infrastructure needs to enrich their communities and quality of life.  Her work and networks covers rural affairs; social enterprise; community garden, transport solutions, criminal justice system and marginalised communities including the protected groups.

Kate continues to maintain an active role in several volunteer groups and sits on several Boards in Hertfordshire: Herts Young Homeless; Ware Arts Centre; School Governor; and is Chair of Stevenage World Forum for Ethnic Communities, Herts Equality Council and MENTER (Minority Ethnic Network in The Eastern Region).

She was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant in 2011 and received the Paul Harris Fellow award for her work on integration of diverse communities by Stevenage Rotary in 2018.

Luke Donovan

Luke was born in County Wexford in 1939 and moved to England in 1957 for work.  In 1946 Stevenage had been chosen as the site of the first “new town”, part of the plan to address the housing problems of post-war London that resulted in many Irish people moving from London to Stevenage in search of a better life. So after spending a year in London Luke moved to Stevenage. On retiring in 2002, he undertook several volunteer roles with charities such as Age Concern and Irish Network Stevenage and become the Treasurer of Stevenage World Forum.  In addition to his role as a Treasurer he also manages the day to day running of the Sherma Batson Centre, where the Stevenage World Forum is based.  

As Treasurer Luke is responsible for all the financial transactions undertaken by the Stevenage World Forum and reports to funders on a regular basis.  As a charity it is important for financial accounting is robust and clear, and Luke prides himself on ensuring that this is the case.

Luke is also the Chair in Irish Network Stevenage, and whilst they provide support to all older people in the town, Luke uses his role within Stevenage World Forum to ensure Stevenage World Forum are helping Irish Network Stevenage provide the support required to the ageing Irish Population across Stevenage.

Charanjit Kang

Charanjit has lived in Stevenage since 1975, apart from about 4 years in the early 90’s. She attended Chells School in Stevenage and Hertfordshire University. Charanjit has worked extensively in the field of social work since 1994, beginning her career in Stevenage Family Centre and moving to running parenting programmes, lecturing in social work with the Buckinghamshire, Oxford and Reading Consortium. Charanjit worked in various teams in the field of Social Work and in 2006 set up her own company, Sansar Parenting working as Independent Consultant Social Worker. 

Charanjit has been a longstanding Trustee for Stevenage World Forum where the fundamental role is to promote and undertake community engagement. Charanjit strongly believes in empowering communities as this leads to better decisions-making processes. Charanjit along with the other Trustees strive to improve organisational transparency and responsiveness. This is with a view to achieve community cohesiveness and to unearth the real issues for community groups. In addition there is a focus on celebrating the cultural richness we have and embracing values and beliefs and of course, diversity.

Charanjit is a member of the Stevenage Sikh Association and takes a lead in running the Punjabi School. She has been involved in this project for over 20 years. Charanjit is very proud of this project as it also promotes community and stakeholder engagement, building confidence and having a sense of belonging.

Elaine Connolly

Elaine was born in Stevenage to Irish parents who had immigrated to the town for work.  She attended St John Southworth Catholic Primary School and then went to St Angela’s Catholic School. She began her career in Insurance and then moved into Human Resources. In 2009 she became a Trustee of Stevenage World Form focusing on cultural integration and sustainability. She also works at the Irish Network Stevenage, which is a member of the Stevenage World Forum based at the Sherma Batson Centre. This is a local charity supporting all older people in Stevenage through social engagement and home support. Through this role Elaine has obtained key skills in areas such as funding diversification, marketing, volunteer management and adult safeguarding amongst many others.  

Elaine is passionate about equality and the rights of minority groups, with this in mind she became a Stevenage Borough Councillor from 2014 to 2018 where she focused much of her time working to help improve the support to local communities and the more vulnerable residents. Working closely with statutory and non-statutory organisations Elaine has been able to help address some key concerns of local residents including poor housing, anti-social behaviour and the impact of austerity. 

Through her role as a Trustee at Stevenage World Forum Elaine has worked hard to increase the support provided to minority groups by helping to arrange cultural awareness and engagement events, support new and aspiring charitable organisations and represent the Stevenage World Forum at local stakeholder events.

Peggy Lyons

Peggy was born in Dungarvan, County Waterford and came to Stevenage in 1963. She came to stay with her sister who got her a job starting the very next day. She is a proud mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She is a retired social worker and uses her vast experience to help the most vulnerable members of our community. Peggy is heavily involved with the Stevenage Credit Union and was the Chair for over 25 years. She is the Vice Chair of Irish Network Stevenage, responsible for all their social and cultural activities.  As Trustee with the Stevenage World Forum she is heavily involved in fundraising and networking and is passionate about helping people connecting with others and with support agencies. Peggy often runs cultural appropriate activities and engages with many of the non-statutory organisations on behalf of Stevenage World Forum.  Peggy uses her local networks to gain a good understanding of the support that is available and also to help other groups access the support provided by Stevenage World Forum, this is invaluable as it is so important that Stevenage World Forum meet those hard to reach members and communities. Through this engagement she is also able to help influence decisions that are made that affect local resident.

Jasbir Jhjajj

Jas has joined as a Trustee this year (2018). She comes with a wealth of experience  which will contribute to the important work that Stevenage World Forum does for communities. Not only can she represent her own community, in her work as a carer she meets people who would also benefit from learning about the type of support and events that they can be involved in. Jas is a Director for Greenleaves Homecare which is based at the Sherma Batson Centre.

Jas lived in East Africa for 15 years, where she was a member of the Women's International Group. As part of this forum, she was involved  in considerable charity work including fundraising for local orphanages and working with people with AIDS. This is where she first gained the inspiration of helping people in need and found this very rewarding.

Jas speaks 4 Asian languages and is of Punjabi Sikh background. Her family originate from India but she is from East Africa. Jas’s experiences and knowledge of other cultures will enhance and increase the work of Stevenage World Forum.

Juddy Otti

Juddy was born in Uganda and migrated to the UK (stevenage) in 2002. She worked for the Stevenage World forum as an office coordinator for three years and this led to her  passion to support my community integrate.

Juddy became a trustee in 2012 with an ambition to ensure more participation in community engagement from the African community.

Juddy comes with vast experience, around community engagement, strategy , project delivery and capacity building. She has a vast knowledge about African cultures and experience as migrants being an African migrant herself .

Juddy strongly believes by sharing our experiences , that we are able empower each other and mitigate any common concerns .

The Stevenage World forum is a voice for all the ethnic minority on various issues in and around Stevenage, Juddy would like to say, ‘so don’t suffer in isolation , if we can’t help you we surely know someone who can.’

Gosia Poczatek

My name is Gosia Poczatek, I came to England in June 2005 to improve my English. I have started working in the restaurant but summer holidays finished quickly so I have decided to stay longer and I have started English course at the college and told my parents I will stay in England for a year. The year went so fast and I was not ready to go back as I was enjoying my job and living here. In 2007 I have started volunteering for Probation Service and looking into jobs that I was qualified for. I have always wanted to work in prison so began to look in that sector. In the meantime I met lots of people from all over the world and one of my friend from college asked me if I would like to work at school as they needed bilingual teaching assistants. When I went for an interview I have met a lovely lady from Croatia who then introduced me to her husband Michal. When I met Michal he got me involved in many community projects as well as encouraged me to set up Polish Association in Stevenage and I became a Chair. I have always tried to help Poles and other nationals to integrate and feel part of our community. One day I got introduced to Kate who is Chair of Stevenage World Forum and after while I became a trustee and I am until today.

In 2011 when I was pregnant with my son, I left Stevenage and resigned from being a Chair of Stevenage Polish Association to focus on looking after my son but I continued taking part in lots of projects organised by SWF.

I volunteer for Celebrate that has been running for many years. Celebrate it is a fantastic event that brings together people from different countries and I’m feeling privileged to be involved in it. I have met great people here and I feel home in Stevenage.

A special tribute to Sherma Batson…

It is with a heavy heart from all the Trustees to report the passing of our Founder Cllr Sherma Batson, MBE, DL, CC in early January 2017.  Her sudden passing at the age of 59, was and continues to be a shock to the communities she served with such energy, heart, passion and commitment.  She was always “there” no matter what time of day or night for the people across the cultures and topics and issues. 

She remains in our hearts and minds and in July 2017, the Together Centre was renamed Sherma Batson Centre.  This centre and SWF are part of her legacy to the people in Stevenage and Stevenage Borough Council have  posthumously conferred  the Freedom of Stevenage on Sherma. 

She worked tirelessly for all of us but with good humour and strong determination to make a difference and resolve problems.  She was a terrific role model and there are many people, especially women, who were and are inspired by her to do things for themselves.