Say “hello” to Jovi Armotrading! Our new Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Engagement and Participation Officer.

At Together As One, we aim to create positive experiences for all young people with a range of support needs. That’s why we partnered with NHS Frimley to create this new role. Jovi’s job is to ensure young people with special needs can learn, enjoy and engage in any activity.

Safiya caught up with Jovi to learn about her experience and passion to support children.

Tell us about yourself

Born and raised in Slough, I went to Baylis Court School, an all-girls secondary school, and loved it. In my final years, I volunteered at a week-long summer camp. This kickstarted my interest in supporting SEND children. Fuelled with a drive to learn more about autism and neurodivergence, I went on to study psychology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Long term, I’d love to train to be an educational psychologist. But, I need to get myself a PhD first!

 How did you get into working with SEND children and young people?

As mentioned, I volunteered for a summer camp called Lighthouse in Burnham when I was 16. I noticed people wearing different uniforms. I realised they were part of the Beehive Foundation supporting SEND children, so I made a mental note and kept my eye on them. The following year, I applied and joined as a one-to-one volunteer with the foundation. I was part of the Short Breaks initiative which gave parents and carers of SEND children much-needed respite during the summer holiday. I supported children with autism, ADHD, dyspraxia and global developmental delay. This was a pivotal moment for me as I first realised the diversity in all the young people.

What made you decide to join TAO?

I love TAO’s history of social cohesion to bring people together and celebrate diversity. They’ve had a huge impact on the community. And, I knew a lot of people that went to TAO events and used their services while I was at school. TAO is a very reputable charity, so it was exciting to see a new role pop up that I knew I’d be perfect for.

I was particularly impressed they included young people, some with SEND, on my interview panel. The children had a say in every step of my hiring process. It shows TAO recognises the need to bring more SEND support to the area and their passion and drive to do so.

I’ve always loved working with children, so I am really honoured to be a part of TAO. I hope I can help children become more comfortable in society.

What have been your highlights of working with TAO so far?

It’s only been 7 weeks, but I’ve met lots of people already! I’ll have to split my highlights into two parts.

The first is the team. I absolutely love them. The staff are amazing and driven. They each have great relationships with the young people, which is so important to give the right sort of support.

The second part is the children. I’ve started doing great home visits. I’ve enjoyed interacting with the young people and parents to learn what they like and dislike. Support for parents is lacking not only in Berkshire but across the UK. So, it’s been wonderful to be able to provide some relief. Each parent is excited about the future and getting more support for their children. It’s worth mentioning that schools are also keen and think what we’re doing is a great initiative.

Your role is all about empowering young people, what makes you feel empowered?

I empower myself by being selective about people and environments. I prioritise those that make me feel appreciated, confident and respect my knowledge. That goes for both personally and professionally. 

What activities and/or hobbies bring you joy?

Dancing is my workout of choice! I like doing Zumba classes to keep myself fit and social dancing like salsa and bachata. I’m not very good, but I enjoy giving it a go. Being outdoors and in nature also brings me lots of joy.

Growing up, I went to the Caribbean every year to visit my family in St Kitts and Nevis. This fuelled my love of travel. I’ve also travelled to various places in Europe, like Spain and Portugal, plus Senegal in Africa. South America and seeing more of Africa are definitely on my bucket list.

What do you think makes a good and connected community?

The foundations of a good community are acceptance and willingness to learn. When people celebrate diversity, are open-minded and willing to get involved in other cultures – that’s when you create a connected and welcoming community.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Even though it doesn’t seem like it right now, everything will fall into place. When you’re not sure about what direction you want to take after university, stay driven and you will get to where you’re meant to be. Apply for all the roles that fire you up – even if you only meet 80% of the job criteria. Your passion will take you further than you think. If you keep up the right attitude, momentum and follow your interests then you’ll reach a place that you’re proud of. Just go for it.

In her new role, Jovi will provide children with space to express themselves to reach their full potential. She will be making services for SEND children and young people in Slough more accessible.

Get in touch with Jovi at 07709525687 or email her at [email protected].