Kerstin Kestner grew up in Bangladesh and India, “but my passport says I’m German”. She moved from overseas to join the Leys Youth Programme (now Thrive Leys) in January 2015 to journey with the young people growing up in the estate.

Kerstin is a full-time youth worker with Thrive Leys where her degree in Social Work helps her to mentor young girls to empower them to reach their potential.

Kerstin says, “Being young is an amazing and significant time of your life. It’s a time when you are shaping your views of the world and discovering your identity. The Leys is full of amazing, energetic and smart young people. If we think of their lives as a football match, I want to be their cheerleader and coach. I want to be part of their match, whether they are winning or losing, whether they have gotten a red card or they have scored a goal. And I want to introduce them to the biggest and best cheerleader and coach of all – Jesus.”

Kerstin loves football, swimming, and travelling (especially to warm places).

Dan Barker first joined Thrive as a volunteer, mentoring a young person from the estate and helping run summer activities.

We spotted his talent for helping young people develop skills and confidence so were delighted when he joined us in February 2017 from Oxfordshire County Council where he specialised in engaging and supporting vulnerable young people labelled as NEET (not in education, employment or training).

Dan says, “Thrive has already had significant impact in Barton and that’s something I wanted to be a part of. Having spent time working with vulnerable young people, I’m now able to do that as part of the community and the Thrive team.

“I wanted to see young people overcome the challenges they face and realise and achieve their potential. I’m excited to support young people in Barton fulfil their full potential, find purpose in life and develop as leaders.”


Matt Warmington joined Thrive in September 2017 and leads the team in South Abingdon.
Matt grew up in Oxford and has spent most of his life in Blackbird Leys, so he understands what it feels like to grow up on an estate.

Matt says, “I spent most of my time hanging out on street corners or playing football till it got dark. That’s what I was good at. At the age of 15 I was due to drop out of school and not take my GCSE’s. But then I met a guy through a mentoring program who invested his time and effort in me. I went on to take all my GCSE’s and become an Assistant Youth Worker at the age of 17 and I later won Apprentice of the Year for the country.

“I knew from that point that I wanted to see young people become empowered and grow in self-esteem.”

Matt has lots of experience of working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and has qualifications in Mentoring, Advice and Guidance, Detached Work and Social Care.
“I believe that Jesus has a heart for these young people. He promises in Jeremiah 29:11, ‘For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ My heart is to see young people become leaders and be set free from things that inhibit them, so that they can reach their God-given potential.”

Matt is married to Charlotte and enjoys football, basketball, American football and travelling.

Want to get in touch with one of our team? Contact us.

What others are saying about Thrive

“All Thrive staff who work in Barton also live in Barton so this gives a real sense of embracing the young people they work with, some of whom will be those most socially excluded from everything else that takes place locally. Their Young Leaders, Mentoring and Outreach projects have seen some amazing results and they have succeeded where others before them have failed.”

Sue Holden, Company Secretary, Barton Community Association