Hannah Ashford, the new CEO of North Devon Against Domestic Abuse (NDADA), on what appealed to her about joining the charity and her vision for its future growth
Welcome Hannah! Tell us a little bit about what you did before joining NDADA.
‘I’ve worked in the community sector for the past 13 years with new and expectant parents. In 2018, I founded Early Nourishment on the back of two years’ research and learning within the North Devon community, and after volunteering in Infant Feeding Support since 2013. This small project flourished into a two-district-wide support service in seven primary locations offering a broad spectrum of support to new and expectant parents.
‘The whole organisation was founded on principles of equity – ensuring that our offering was universally accessible to all. We soon learned that our role was providing much-needed early intervention, preventing vulnerable families from falling through the nets of support. I learned in this role that I have a real passion for interventions that enable parents to feel empowered and help to “break the cycle” where there may have been previous trauma or challenges in their lives.
‘I have also been a National Childbirth Trust (NCT) practitioner for 10 years. I’ve taught antenatal classes, worked on the Infant Feeding Line, helped to organise community events and served five years on the Practitioners Rep Body with two years as co-chair. The Rep Body is where NCT Practitioners can get support and share feedback on the charity. The role was great for learning about operational and strategic decision-making in a multi-million-pound charity. I will carry a lot of that learning forward into my role in NDADA.
‘Prior to working in the community sector, I worked in the insurance industry, including broker management.’
How much did you know about NDADA before taking up your new role?
‘I met a longstanding friend as a teenager who moved to my area due to being in refuge in another town. Because of the experiences she shared with me, I have always valued the refuge service.
‘I have donated clothes in the past when staff needed specific items. I was also aware of the counselling service as a friend had benefitted from that support. However, due to the private nature of much of the work, I didn’t know just how many projects NDADA offers and how much impact we have until I was in post.
What appealed to you about working for NDADA?
‘In my previous role, there were many disclosures of domestic abuse and all we could do, other than lend a listening ear, tea, and empathy, was to signpost to organisations that could offer support. When this role was advertised, I felt that this could enable me to make a more meaningful impact in helping to support those who have experienced abuse. I also love the strategic element of running an organisation, especially looking at how that can fit in with other community groups and partnerships.’
What are you looking forward to doing in your role?
‘To start with, getting to know our amazing staff team and understanding how their roles connect within the organisation. NDADA is extremely lucky to have so much skill and experience; I know I will be learning so much from them.’
How would you like to take NDADA forward as an organisation?
‘I’d like to think creatively about our place within the communities of North Devon and Torridge. Domestic abuse support reaches far beyond specialist organisations such as NDADA because it is such a common issue. I feel that working in partnership is the way forward.’
Are there any particular areas of the charity that you’d like to see grow or develop?
‘All of it! We have so much to offer. In all seriousness, I feel this is an exciting time for our charity and there are lots of areas of potential. However, what is key for me is to ensure that what we offer is what our communities want and need. We are due a strategy update and I am keen to hear from all parts of our community as well as our clients and staff team.’
Meet other members of the NDADA team here.