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Asylum Welcome is almost entirely made up of volunteers. We also have a board of trustees and a small staff team (see below).

Last year our 150+ volunteers gave over 15,000 hours.

Our staff

Director : Kate Smart

Kate SmartKate Smart is well known in the UK refugee field having worked for a variety of refugee-assisting charities since 1994. She has experience as a service manager, researcher and policy analyst.

The heroism of people who seek to uphold human rights inspires her to keep going.

Frontline Services Manager : Almas Farzi

Almas FarsiAlmas Farzi, also known as Navid worked as a teacher and a head teacher in Iran. He has a Diploma in Management and obtained a degree in Politics with Social Policy at Goldsmith College, University of London.

Navid worked for the British Refugee Council for 14 years as an adviser and is a registered as an immigration adviser with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).

Advice and Integration Officer (adults and families) : Ildephonse Rugema

Ildephonse RugemaIldephonse Rugema worked as a Travel Consultant for many years back in his country, Burundi. He worked since 2005 in the UK refugee organisations as a Caseworker Coordinator and as a Senior Caseworker.

He also worked on the Assisted Voluntary Return project with Refugee Action London. Ildephonse Rugema is a qualified Immigration Advisor registered with the OISC (Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner) since 2006.

Youth Service Co-ordinator : Helena Cullen

Helena CullenHelena is a qualified teacher and mediator who has worked with children and young people for nearly 15 years in schools, youth groups and the community. She loves working at Asylum Welcome because of the enthusiasm and energy of the young people she works with.

Youth Activities Officer : Caritas Umulisa

Caritas UmulisaCaritas works at Asylum Welcome’s youth club and helps organise trips and activities for young people during school/college holidays. She is originally from Rwanda.

Education, Employment and Volunteering Lead : Rachel Wiggans

Rachel WiggansRachel has worked in the voluntary sector for many years, including volunteering for Asylum Welcome. She worked for six years at Refugee Resource and her varied background includes community education and supporting people to find work.

Rachel is very happy to be working with Asylum Welcome’s dedicated volunteers.

Please note that I work part time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays

Volunteer Co-ordinator : Luci Ashbourne

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Fundraising and Development Manager : Dr. Gilberto Estrada Harris


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Finance and Contracts Manager : Jackie McDowell

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Office Manager : Saeed Saif Noaman

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Our Trustees

Marcus Thompson

MarcusMarcus retired from international development work in 2010. He concluded his career in various managment roles with Oxfam as coach to other Oxfam programme managers.

Dr. Tina Leonard

Tina LeonardTina worked as a medical research scientist with a particular interest in evidence-based decision making, disseminating good practice and improving the quality and effectiveness of services and organisations. Tina has been a volunteer with AW since 2008, mainly helping with fundraising and other ‘behind the scenes’ activities.

Tony Samuel

Tony Samuel Tony has been supporting Asylum Welcome with its Fundraising programme since 2015. Tony was recently Director of Fundraising and Communications at Freedom from Torture, raising funds through a wide range of fundraising projects to help survivors of torture who are refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. Before that Tony worked for a range of small and large charities, including Oxfam in the 1990s, and for a number of marketing agencies. For 10 years Tony was also a Trustee of Asylum Aid in London, which provided legal support to asylum seekers in the UK.

Catherine Briddick

Catherine BriddickCatherine Briddick is the Martin James Departmental Lecturer in Gender and Forced Migration at the Refugee Studies Centre, University Oxford. She has over ten years’ experience researching, providing legal advice and engaging in legal advocacy on issues relating to gender, forced migration and human rights in the UK.

Matthew Sherrington

Matthew SherringtonMatthew Sherrington is a consultant and coach with over 25 years’ experience of charity marketing and leadership, having worked with Oxfam, Greenpeace USA and as a consultant for many other charities, big and small, in the UK and internationally. He and his family have lived locally in East Oxford for 25 years.

David Gibbons

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Clare Miller
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Val Johnson

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Refugee Community Leadership

Asylum Welcome supports refugees who have the vision and commitment to organise community activities to improve the wellbeing of other refugees. They provide amazing support to people who would otherwise be isolated. The feedback that they give us helps ensure that Asylum Welcome's work stays relevant.

Asylum Welcome is working with the following refugee community leaders.

Dr. Ashraf Abbas Abdelfatah

Ashraf has a masters in law, and is working as a teacher in Oxfordshire. He is active in the Sudanese social group "The Doctors of Cowley Road". 

Grace Lukonyomoi

Grace devotes a lot of her time and energy to supporting women at the BKLuwo group, which was originally founded by Filda her mother.

Hassan Elmi

Hassan plays a leading role in the Somali community in Oxford. He is also passionate about football and runs 'East Oxford United': a youth team that reflects the diversity of East Oxford.

Nuha Abdo

Nuha Abdo is a sociologist from Syria who worked with Danish Refugee Council in Damascus for 3 years before coming to the UK in 2016. Since arriving in Oxford she has set up a Syrian women's group and is active in assisting recently arrived Syrian families to settle in the city.

Hadi Al Nouri

Hadi arrived in Oxford in 2015 and works hard to build a network in which all Syrians feel equally welcome, whatever their background. He used to own a travel agency in Syria and now he puts this experience to good use by organising days out for Syrian families.



Acacio Marques

Acasio is an active member of Oxford's East Timor community and is committed to addressing problems of isolation in that community.