Why we started

Yvonne with Major or York

Founded in 2013, the Kyra Women’s Project was the brainchild of Yvonne Copley. Yvonne was aware that after any intervention or when people are feeling vulnerable and alone, there is a need for support. Through research and after meeting with a range of organisations in York, she learned that many women had to wait a considerable length of time to receive the specialist intervention and support they desperately needed. This occurred at a time when they were vulnerable, often isolated and at risk of making poor decisions. In addition, a lack of support following formal specialist treatments diminished their effectiveness of primary intervention and outcomes.

Kyra Women’s Project began as a support centre for women, run by women, providing encouragement, companionship, information, training, and importantly, a sense of belonging.

Kyra supports women to help overcome challenges and make change in their lives. It acts as a support group to prevent a relapse in behaviour and develop new habits.

Our Trustees

Founder and CEO

I have been fortunate with my career as a teacher and trainer to have worked in an area where I have been able to support people to make change. However, I am very aware that there is a need for support after any intervention or when people are feeling vulnerable and alone.

I have had a dream to open a Women’s centre for many years to serve this purpose. When I was going through a difficult period in my life, to have had non-judgemental support and someone to listen to me would have made the journey that. I am excited to be a part of the project and look forward to seeing KYRA providing a service much needed.

Yvonne Copley

Yvonne Copley


Chair of Trustees

With over 25 years’ experience in community, charity and NHS roles, my passion for nurturing businesses has been met with great success.

I have worked in a number of organisations over the years from probation, Women’s Aid, NYCC, NHS and more recently a single provider company. I feel this has given me a good insight into how people and organisations tick and many transferable skills.

What I can promise you in my role as Chair, is that I will do my best to drive forward the vision and added value that makes Kyra a vibrant and growing organisation.

I believe that what Yvonne and other members of the board have is a passion to make things better, and a commitment to give it our best attention. I hope that we can bring about positive change, less anxiety in terms of funding, a longer term strategy and be able to offer support and advice to the wonderful volunteers and staff working tirelessly to effect change.

Lisa Barker

Lisa Barker

Chair of Trustees


Susan has over 30 years’ expertise in strategic commercial management, stakeholder engagement, marketing and international business development, working with clients across the globe including Europe, the USA, and Japan. Her expertise is derived primarily from the chemical manufacturing sector though additionally she has experience of finance having worked for a major UK bank.

Using her commercial and technical background (a graduate in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cambridge), Susan now focuses on those aspects of business for which she has a passion, having recently founded Akemi Associates. Akemi Associates provides consultancy and business development services, primarily to manufacturing clients and related stakeholders.

Susan passionately believes in the importance of education (especially of women) for building a sustainable society – and enjoys finding solutions to complex issues; being able to see the macro and the micro, the bigger picture and the detail. Yorkshire born, Susan has lived in the York area for the majority of the last 50 plus years. York is a city that she loves but recognises that it has significant challenges; Susan wants to make a meaningful contribution to the local community now that she is spending more time closer to home (with less time spent travelling away on business).

Personal interests include road cycling, squash (women’s team captain at Dunnington squash club), golf and gardening (events team volunteer for the RHS at Harlow Carr).

Susan Brench

Director and Founder, Akemi Associates

Susan Brench

Susan Brench



My background is in public sector admin, first the NHS and then Higher Education. I am the manager of a university department and involved in staffing, finance, learning and logistics. I’m a believer in the power of good organisation and good process to get things done, but I also have a pastoral role in supporting people as they navigate those processes. I recently became a Mental Health First Aider in response to the growing call for proactivity in dealing with mental ill health, something which is increasingly prevalent in our student body.

I have a strong interest in women’s issues and set up the first women’s group in my department. I have recently completed an MA in Women’s Studies and through that was able to pursue my particular interests in older women’s lived experience and visibility, and the impact that caring for elderly parents has on daughters. I joined Kyra because I was enormously impressed by its mission, its effectiveness and its people. Kyra’s openness – to people, to ideas, to possibilities –garners huge goodwill amongst its volunteers and partners. I hope that by contributing my own skills I can be part of this brilliant movement to improve the lives of women in York.

Fiona Mee Alvares

Fiona Mee Alvares



I currently work in international development in the Higher Education sector. Prior to that, I was a board member and operational manager in an international private training provider based in York and I worked for many years in Czech Republic, Germany and Brazil. When I lived in Brazil, I volunteered with vulnerable women to help them manage childcare and to develop skills. In York, I campaign for women’s networks and support women leaders. To Kyra Women’s Project, I bring 25 years’ of business and board level management experience and a great dedication to supporting people and especially women to be the best they can be.
There has been a significant growth in demand for the work of the Kyra Women’s Project and I have seen the very positive impact the Project is having on the members. Kyra is run by a highly motivated and very hard working team and I am determined to do all I can to ensure Kyra Women’s Project is sustainable, enabling it to provide vital support and services to as many women as possible for many years to come. It is a privilege to be a trustee of Kyra Women’s Project and to be part of the effort to drive Yvonne’s vision forward to the next level.

Claire McNamara

Claire McNamara



I’m a freelance copywriter and editor. I got my first job in a London advertising agency at the tender age of 19, and I spent three decades working my way around ad agencies in London and Sydney before returning to my home town of York when my first child was born.

I’ve always had a passion for working with charities. I know I’ve been lucky to have a career that’s given me so many opportunities, and this was my way of giving something back. After I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 28 I became a trustee for The Lavender Trust, the younger women’s division of Breast Cancer Care, and now I am proud and delighted to be a trustee with Kyra Women’s project. The team at Kyra are fiercely passionate about what they do and their enthusiasm and dedication are infectious. I feel very privileged to be a part of the team.

My involvement with Kyra started when I waked through their door as a service user. I was a newly single mother to two children, I’d had to leave my job because it was impossible to make it work in my new circumstances, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and I was really struggling financially. It was a really tough time, but over the course of the next few months I was given help to budget and plan, I felt listened to and supported, and I was always made to feel so welcome. I also got to see what Kyra was doing for other women, women with far more challenging circumstances than mine, and I resolved to give something back as soon as my circumstances improved.

As a service user of Kyra, I gained a real insight into how vital this organisation is for the women in and around York. I am a huge advocate of women’s rights and the need to support and empower women, and never more so than since I became a single parent. I hope I can use my skills and experience in the charity sector and the communications industry to help raise the profile of Kyra and ensure its doors are open to any woman in need of support for many years to come.

Carol Bolton

Carol Bolton



I am currently the Director of Marketing and External Engagement and a Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Tourism at York Business School, York St John University. I am passionate about education, learning, development and helping students to achieve their potential. I have a PhD from the University of Leeds in Heritage Destination Marketing and my research interests include heritage management, the marketing and branding of heritage destinations, tourism stakeholder relations, destination image and the use of space within destinations. In 2017 I published a journal article entitled “Advocating Community Integrated Destination Marketing Planning in Heritage Destinations; The Case of York” to the Journal of Marketing Management and I enjoy presenting my work at conferences both in the academic world and to industry through consultancy work.

I am responsible for providing academic leadership with accountability for co-ordinating the student experience and ensuring that students are given the business engagement and added value opportunities to succeed. I also work on the development of the course portfolio and develop and maintain partnerships with external stakeholders in order to enhance the student experience and the footprint of York Business School to the city of York and beyond.

I also work to stimulate business activity through running the York Business School Consultancy Clinic which enables students to work as consultants and gain valuable experience, additionally I run the YSJ Graduate 2 Director Programme which supports students to start their own business ventures and succeed. Throughout all of the work that I do in Higher Education I am particularly committed to helping women to achieve through learning and development, and when I became aware of Kyra through a Social Innovation Conference at York St John University which Yvonne attended I was keen to get involved and make a meaningful contribution to such a worthwhile cause.


Rebecca Biggins

Rebecca Biggins



My background is 25 years as a Chartered Management accountant working as Finance Director for a variety of companies, many in the property industry. I bring to Kyra a wealth of experience in business planning and financial control to make the maximum funds available to Yvonne and her team to deliver the excellent service they provide.

Susan Brook

Susan Brook


What we do

Our vision is to provide non-judgmental support and information to all women. Whatever their reason for seeking help we recognise that women face challenges in their lives that are distinct from those of men. Our services are tailored to support women to make the changes they need, at their own pace. Watch this short video to find out more about Kyra and to hear what it means to some of the women who have been helped by the project.

We have five objectives

  • To provide a safe, non-judgemental environment for women
  • To promote equality and inclusion
  • To address social isolation and develop sustainable support networks for women
  • To improve well-being outcomes for children and families
  • To develop partnerships with statutory, voluntary and private sector services to meet the needs of women and the community

Watch this 7 minute video

This video features the work of Kyra Women’s Project in York who are part of the Action Towards Inclusion partnership.

Action Towards Inclusion offers flexible support to help adults overcome physical, psychological, financial and skills-related barriers and progress towards employment, training, education and job-search, whilst at the same time helping to combat a range of social issues including poverty and social exclusion.


This work is funded in York, North Yorkshire and the East Riding by the Big Lottery Fund and the European Social Fund and the programme is managed by Your Consortium.
For more information please go to www.yourconsortium.org

Meet Kyra Women

Your Smile by BKG

A short poem by a member, shared at a Kyra Poetry Lunch – a fab social occasion where women leave, feeling stronger, more encouraged and their voices heard. Topics have included; my first bra, loss and grief, autumn, anger, relationships, life in the mature years and duvet days.

Ode to my distant friend... anger by BKG.

Another poem from BKG: “Many people see the word poetry and are put off, thinking it’s a bit intellectual and not for them. Kyra Poetry Lunches are more like Ruby Wax and Victoria Wood mixed with Kyra members’ voices.”

G.’s Experience Managing Stress

“It is hard when you’re stressed remembering what I have been taught over the last year and not giving up on trying…”

How I Came To Kyra by E.

“I grew as a person…..Kyra offered me much more than a course, it gave me strength to be me!”

How I feel now by K.

Read how K’s negative feelings about herself prior to starting a course had changed by the end of it.

X’s Story.

I was relieved to hear that there is a group out there to help women with their confidence and self esteem…”

A Poem from M.

“When I’m ready, if I want to. Help is there but never forced.” Read M’s poem about her Kyra experience.

The Creative Writing Course by A.

I arrived in a heightened state of anxiety….. It has reignited my enthusiasm and has enabled me to go on to do so many others things.”

A Letter From E.

Read E’s story about leaving her home and an abusive relationship, and re-building her confidence and life in a new home.

An email from Vicky

“Several people have noticed a big change in me recently; one nurse at work commented last week that I seem much more confident with myself…  So thank you Kyra for giving me back my life.!”

How Kyra Helped Me by J.

“Too often in the past I feel I’ve been judged because of my past, my mental health issues and because of my physical disability. I have now gained confidence both personally and socially.”

R’s Journey with Kyra.

Follow R’s journey with post-natal depression, her first impressions of Kyra, experiences at a course and Singing Club, and ultimately running a PND course for other women.

Reports & Statistics

Annual Report 2014

Our Annual Report for 2014 includes information about our first year of operation, the projects and services we delivered and feedback from the women we supported. Download Report

Annual Report 2015

2015 was a big year for Kyra Women’s Project. Our Annual Report provides an update on the activity of the project over the last year, and gives details of the projects and services that we delivered and feedback from the women that we have been supporting. Click here to read the report.

Annual Report 2016

For the latest 2016 report please follow this link

Our Patron

We are so pleased to have actress Penelope Wilton OBE as our patron.

Penelope who was recently presented with an Olivier Award for her role in the west end play Taken at Midnight has starred in many roles on stage and in film and television. Her credits are many and include playing Jean Ainslie in The Second Best Marigold Hotel, Isobel Crawley in Downton Abbey and Harriet Jones in Doctor Who.


Our Supporters

Kyra would not survive without the generous financial and service support of many organisations and individual donors. Without it, we would not have been able to achieve so much. Their generosity has enabled us to give women the time, safety and support to enable their lives to improve. Kyra are delighted to receive funding from The Comic Relief Local Communities Programme and would like to thank the Two Ridings Community Foundation in supporting us. logo banner