Avila was Director of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland from 1994 until 2015. Previously she was Regional Coordinator of the Rural Action Project (NI) – an EU Anti-Poverty initiative – and Development Officer with the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action. In 1990, Avila was appointed the first Women’s Officer for the Amalgamated Transport & General Workers’ Union (now Unite). She served on the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and on the Executive Council of the ICTU.
Avila has long been active in the women’s movement and was a founder member of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition. Avila has written extensively on community development, women’s issues and conflict transformation. The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland was a founder member of the Foundations for Peace Network, a peer network of independent indigenous funders working in contested societies.
Avila is currently working as a consultant with The Social Change Initiative, an international NGO working to strengthen civil society activism and advocacy in the areas of human rights, migration and refugee rights, and community- based peacebuilding. Avila is also a member of the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace. She was appointed Honorary Professor in the Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University and remains actively involved in the area of philanthropy and peacebuilding. Avila has a PhD from the Institute of Governance, Queens University Belfast.