A teacher grows minds; a doctor fixes the body; a social worker mends lives’ – I wrote this statement as a way of trying to contextualize a new profession in a country where there is no history of social work. I think that this is what I have been very successful at during my years in Azerbaijan – translating social change into easy visuals that help local people to understand and adopt new concepts and methods. Many people have asked me why I have stayed so long in one country, as if to be personally successful I must move around regularly – on the contrary, in order to achieve real development, I should be part of that development for as long as it takes.
Gwen Burchell visited Azerbaijan in November 1997. She was so inspired by this visit, that she returned in February 1998 to found UAFA, and has been living and working in the country ever since.
Prior to establishing UAFA, Gwen Burchell gained valuable experience working for two non-profit organisations. She worked in the fundraising department for one charity which provides care services for children with terminal illnesses and their families. She also spent two years volunteering for The Samaritans, a charity which provides emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope or at the risk of suicide. Both experiences were very influential in helping Gwen to develop UAFA’s direction and ethical foundation.
Her academic background is a BSc in Management Science (University of Kent, 1994), followed by an MSc in Social Policy & Planning, graduating from LSE in 2009.
Gwen was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2004 for her services to Special Education in Azerbaijan.