Melanie Gunetilleke

Programme Officer
Melanie is a vibrant, positive and cheerful individual. Armed with a background in Design, she brings both creative flair and practical problem-solving skills to the table. Melanie joyfully invests time in actively listening and learning from diverse perspectives, broadening her understanding beyond her personal experiences. Outside of work, she finds joy in participating in her local drama group in Essex and taking on challenging roles.
Why does working in Barking and Dagenham interest you?

Growing up outside of London, in a predominantly white area, limited my access to certain facets of my Sri Lankan heritage and culture – whether it be food, religion, or social events within my community. Regular visits to East London, especially Redbridge, were a significant part of my childhood. We would travel there to visit family friends, attend Buddhist temples, and purchase Sri Lankan groceries. While I may not have a direct connection to Barking & Dagenham, this borough reminds me of my early childhood when I first connected with my culture beyond my family and encountered more people who looked like me.

What are your ambitions for the borough?

I would love to see more growth and opportunities for the locals. While development is crucial, I believe it should be sustainable and tailored to benefit the existing residents. My vision is for this community to thrive, with its inhabitants experiencing both personal and collective growth within the borough.

What role does the community have in realising that ambition?

Barking & Dagenham stands out for fostering a genuine culture of mutual betterment. The community embodies a collective mindset rooted in collaborative support. I firmly believe in the residents’ potential to bring about positive change. Our role is to assist you in acquiring the necessary tools to effectively implement change at a local level.

What are the challenges and triumphs of your role?

Navigating my first role within the Third Sector has been a rewarding journey of growth. As a newcomer, engaging in emotionally sensitive conversations about improving assistance has brought both hurdles and triumphs. Some issues may be beyond our scope, but these discussions have also yielded valuable insights. What stands out most in this role is the opportunity to connect with residents and gain diverse perspectives. These interactions are shaping my professional development, turning challenges into stepping stones for both personal and organisational success.

"In my opinion, the best things about Barking & Dagenham are the vibrancy, diversity, and tenacity of its residents. There's a real sense of a can-do attitude here, and that's something I love."