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Grow-Wellbeing People

Duane Chong
Programme Director
Duane Chong

Duane has extensive experience of lecturing and managing in early childhood education and care. Duane was Sure Start Programme Manager at one of the first programmes in the UK, and co-ordinated the Children First Forum at NML Liverpool, providing creative opportunities for children and young people. Duane developed and co-ordinated the early years programme for Merseyside's Find Your Talent initiative in 2006.

For ten years he lectured in early years education across Merseyside and North Wales, and collaborated with Natural Resources Wales to provide Forest School training for student teachers in North Wales.


Duane saw how important the natural environment was for providing opportunities to engage in all aspects of the curriculum but also in enhancing individual health, social and emotional wellbeing. 

Duane founded Grow-Wellbeing CIC in 2018 as a social enterprise, with the aim of supporting diverse communities to access the natural environment and, through forest school, helping to nurture future guardians of the planet.

Duane is a Forest School Level 3 Qualified practitioner and Therapeutic Forest CIC Approved Practitioner.

Sophie Pemberton
Project coordinator 

Sophie Pemberton

⁠Sophie has had a range of experience in Communications, Marketing and Administration within the public and private sector, having worked within the specialist travel industry, public health and University administration over the last ten years.⁠

She is also a qualified yoga teacher and has been teaching since 2017. Sophie has recently completed a Masters in Teaching Mindfulness Based Approaches with the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University and has been teaching Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for the last three years. ⁠

Within the Grow team, Soph
ie is responsible for the everyday running and operational side of the organisation but you will occasionally find her helping at forest school and wellbeing sessions. She is passionate about health and wellbeing and the significant impact that exposure to the outdoors and nature can have on individuals.⁠

Sophie spends most of her spare time connecting with nature, whether walking or climbing in Wales or tending to her vegetable garden.⁠

Angela Samata
Angela Samata

Angela has worked in the Arts and Mental health for 15 years, speaking publicly nationally and internationally. With a Masters in Art History and Curating, Angela is a member of Tate Liverpool’s Advisory Board and based at the Walker Art Gallery, led the John Moores Painting Prize until 2015.


She has worked with several NHS Trusts including Mersey Care and the Surrey and Borders Partnership as well as helping to create additional Mental Health services such as James’ Place.


An advocate for early intervention in health and wellbeing practice, Angela believes that by creating curiosity during a child's early years and the opportunity to explore the natural environment, we can instil good practice for their long-term mental health. 

Angela actively supports the forest school activities whenever she can; taking a lead on developing Grow-Wellbeing's involvement in green social prescribing. 

Kate Brennan
Forest School Leader
Kate Brennan

I have been working with and facilitating groups for over 30 years now. My background is theatre and community drama and I have worked with all ages and abilities to create pieces of art/drama/ movement that have expressed and questioned people’s experiences.

When I discovered Forest School about 15 years ago I was able to merge my love of the outdoors and my leadership skills in a new and exciting way. I incorporated the Forest school ethos into all of the wellbeing work that I have been involved with since and am very excited to join the Grow team and facilitate, support and learn more as I go!

Jim Loftus
Forest School Leader / Trainer 

Jim Loftus Forest School Leader & Trainer

Meet Jim! Our Forest School leader and training lead for our newly launched Level 3 Forest School leader training. ⁠
'I am an outdoor educator and facilitator with twenty five years experience in designing and implementing projects across the NHS, schools, galleries, museums, college and university. Over the last seven years I have been working across the age range as a L3 qualified Forest School Leader. I see first hand, the intrinsic benefits of the natural environment on learners. Helping others to deepen their connection with nature is a great source of professional satisfaction for me.⁠
I also really enjoy the more collaborative and reciprocal student teacher relationship that is nurtured by the Forest School ethos.⁠
I am a learner as well as an educator and I am continually augmenting my skills through research, private practice and formal tuition. In recent years I have completed courses ranging from food hygiene to dry stonewalling. My interests predominate in tool use, fire, cooking and shelter. However, as an Art and Design graduate, I also like to explore more creative and speculative outcomes.'⁠

Andrew Fitzsimons

Andrew Fitzsimons

Andrew is a former primary school teacher of over 30 years in Halewood and has a passion for outdoor learning. He has run after school growing activities and is keen for children to see how nature recycles everything and that we have to treat our planet with the respect it deserves. Making leaf mould by collecting leaves; seeing how the worms create soil in wormeries; identifying the beneficial mini-beasts which help defend plants form pests and disease; growing a range of fruit and vegetables; all give children a good grounding in nature and hopefully generate a lifetime of interest in protecting the environment.


Andrew is currently completing his RHS Level 3 in horticulture after passing his Level 2 and is mentoring a number of amateur gardeners into developing their own knowledge and skills as well as taking a more organic approach to protecting their gardens.

As a director, Andrew supports Grow-Wellbeing with the development of the growing agenda, as well as helping out at its community allotment at the Edward Kemp Gardens in Birkenhead Park.

Dominic Wilkinson 

Dominic is an experienced architect, both in public and private sector, and currently a senior manager in the School of Architecture at LJMU.

As a Director, Dominic advises on feasibility of potential land developments as Grow searches for suitable sites which can support its development and growth.

Grow Wellbeing
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