Mark became Director of Asylum Welcome in April 2020, having previously led Oxfam, Mencap and VSO. He has worked as a trustee of and consultant to charities of all sizes. His working life has been focused on tackling exclusion, lack of opportunity and poverty. Having spent many years working on global issues, including with refugees and displaced people across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, he is pleased to have the opportunity to make a difference in a practical way closer to home. Mark studied law at Oxford and has a Masters in Social Policy from LSE.
Almas 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 Goldsmiths 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).
Dr Gilberto Estrada Harris - Fundraising, Development and Communications Manager
Gilberto is passionate about making Oxford a safe, welcoming place where people can thrive and enjoy an independent life of dignity and respect. He sees Asylum Welcome as an unfolding story—of the worst and the best of humanity brought together in one vibrant space. The weaving of powerful narratives is at the heart of his work to build support and solidarity and to help us understand who we are and how and why we do what we do; and to convey to the wider world what it is about Asylum Welcome’s work that is so moving, inspiring and worthy.
In addition to work experience as Head, Director of Studies Office, at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), and in various strategic and administrative roles at the University of Oxford, Gilberto has seven years’ research and fieldwork exposure to conflict-generated refugees though his postgraduate and doctoral research specialising in peace and conflict in Norway (International Peace Research Institute of Oslo, PRIO), Australia (The Australian National University, ANU), Oxford (Department of International Development; St Antony’s College) and the United States (New York, Washington DC and Miami). Gilberto’s research focused on the role of transnational activist diasporas and conflict-generated refugees in military humanitarian interventions in order to end massive human rights abuses taking place in their home countries (Kosovo, Haiti, Colombia, Sri Lanka).
Before Gilberto’s doctoral studies, he was the creator, writer, producer and anchor of a Mexican TV programme that delivered international political and conflict analysis. He also co-founded an umbrella civil society organisation in defence of the environment and human rights in Mexico.
Jackie joined Asylum Welcome in January 2019, having worked in finance in the voluntary sector for 10 years. She has a postgraduate diploma in Charity Finance and Management from the Cass Business School. Jackie loves being part of such a passionate, committed team and is in awe of the depth and breadth of the work carried out at Asylum Welcome.
Saeed joined Asylum Welcome in July 2018. He has a master’s degree in Business Administration; he also previously worked as a Human Resources and Training Manager and as an Organisational Restructuring Consultant. Saeed enjoys using his personal and professional experience to support the organisation and its clients.
Hari coordinates the policy and advocacy work for a number of refugee and asylum organisations in the Thames Valley area. She is passionate about campaigning for refugee rights, and has previously volunteered for a range of refugee support initiatives in the UK, France and Belgium. Hari moved into the sector after completing a PhD at the University of Birmingham, where her research concerned the activist and grassroots voluntary response to the ‘refugee crisis’ in 2015-16.
Hannah Underwood - Volunteer and Communication Coordinator
Hannah joined Asylum Welcome in July 2020, after completing an MA in Migration and Diaspora Studies at SOAS University. Alongside her studies, she started working for another charity called Wycombe Refugee Partnership, where her role also involves supporting and coordinating volunteers.
Previously, after graduating from the University of St Andrews (MA Social Anthropology and Comparative Literature), Hannah worked teaching English as a foreign language in Argentina, Uruguay and Spain. Since, she has used this skill as a volunteer, teaching refugees in the UK and abroad. Committed to empowering people who seek asylum, and enthusiastic about working with volunteers, Hannah is delighted to be part of the team at Asylum Welcome!
Simon Dawson - Adult and Family Advice Service Coordinator
Simon joined Asylum Welcome in June 2020, having previously volunteered with Asylum Welcome’s Campsfield Detention Support Team, and Adult & Family Services, as an advisor in 2016-17. He then moved to the British Red Cross Refugee Support Service where he worked as a casework coordinator across the Thames Valley for 3 years.
Simon’s passion for humanitarian work began while volunteering for a disaster response charity erecting temporary shelters for earthquake survivors in Sumatra, Indonesia, and a school building project in Haiti. His interest in displaced persons, refugee and asylum rights, developed while studying a BA in Social and Political Studies at Ruskin College and then carried through his MA in International Political Economy at the University of Warwick. Simon is delighted to have returned to Asylum Welcome and embark on this new and exciting chapter.
Prior to taking up this post, Meena worked as a senior manager at Southall Black Sisters (SBS) for 34 years. Her work primarily entailed supporting black and minority women and children escaping violence and abuse and addressing related matters such as homelessness, immigration, and mental health problems. She has extensive frontline experience in providing advice and undertaking casework including representing high risk domestic abuse cases at multi-agency risk assessment conferences, and in advising and supporting women through their immigration/asylum, criminal and civil/family legal and appeal processes. Aside from advice and casework, Meena was involved in training, policy and campaigning work. It is this wide ranging experience and depth of knowledge that she brings to this post.
Jess joined Asylum Welcome in April 2021 after working as a Casework Coordinator for both the Refugee Council and the British Red Cross in London and across the Thames Valley. She also works at Refugee Resource in Oxford as the Social Inclusion Coordinator. Before working for the Red Cross, Jess volunteered with families resettled under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme in her local community. She has a masters in Development and Emergency Practice, specialising in forced migration and human rights, and she has worked in Calais as well as across East Africa, India and Lebanon.
Siân is a recent graduate of Oxford Brookes University with an LLM in International Human Rights Law; she also has an LLB. Siân has been volunteering with Asylum Welcome since July 2019, both on the Europa Welcome Team and with AFS, and has really enjoyed the opportunities to help vulnerable people within Oxfordshire. In Siân’s spare time she also manages a pub in Oxfordshire and volunteers with young carers.
Before volunteering at Asylum Welcome, Siân volunteered with children and young people in different capacities and has always had a passion for helping vulnerable people. She is excited to be a part of Asylum Welcome’s team after having been a volunteer for so long.
Rhiannon Lovell - Huntercombe Project & Services Support Coordinator
Rhiannon previously trained as a musician, before then changing careers to work in safeguarding with children and young people. She joined Asylum Welcome in August 2019 as a volunteer adviser with Europa Welcome, before becoming the Team Administrator in October 2020. Alongside her role at Asylum Welcome, she also works in events management for one of the Oxford Colleges.
Mariam joined Asylum Welcome in April 2022. She graduated from University of London Royal Holloway in BA Comparative Literature, Culture and German and then then a post-graduate in MSc Global Migration at University College London. From 2017, Mariam worked as the Advocacy Service Manager for the Community Advocacy project at Paiwand in North-west London. She is an OISC Accredited Level 1 Immigration Advisor.
Mariam is Passionate in advocating on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers, assisting them in attaining their entitlements and rights in the UK.
Katie Forsyth - Resettlement Programme: Education, Employment and Volunteer Coordinator
Katie joined Asylum Welcome in January 2022, after completing a BA in German and Arabic at Oxford University in 2020. In the meantime she worked for the local charity KEEN, managing the Inclusive Oxfordshire project, which aims to make Oxfordshire fully accessible to disabled people.
She has also been volunteering for Jacari Oxford for 4 years, where she supports a local Iraqi family by providing English language tuition and support to integrate into the community. As part of her degree in Arabic, she spent a year living in Jordan, where she taught English to Syrian and Iraqi refugees and worked at a therapeutic ‘Kids Club’ in Amman.
Katie is really excited to join the team at Asylum Welcome and meet all of the wonderful people here!
Nuha Abdo - Refugee and Migrant Community Coordinator & Support Worker for Resettlement Programme
Nuha Abdo is a sociologist from Syria who worked with the Danish Refugee Council in Damascus for 3 years before coming to the UK in 2016. Since arriving in Oxford, Nuha set up a Syrian women’s group and is active in helping recently arrived Syrian families to settle in the city.
Jan joined Asylum Welcome as a volunteer Education Adviser in August 2020. She immediately felt aligned with the values of Asylum Welcome and through her experience and passion for education, supported clients and their families to access educational opportunities.
She believes that education is a vital pathway to personal growth and has embodied that belief in her career as a teacher, educational leader and volunteer.
She has worked in schools in Pakistan, Philippines, Hong Kong and Australia. Throughout her career Jan has always found opportunities to get involved in local charities, as a Board Member and Outreach and Fundraiser for The Children’s Academy of SW Florida, a school for children of the working poor, a mentor for vulnerable teenagers for The Smith Family in Australia, a trainer of local teachers for The Teachers Resource Centre, Karachi, Pakistan and a support parent for a local orphanage in Taipei.
Two years ago, Jan returned to the city where she was born and brought up. Jan loves Oxford and is committed to contributing to its development and success. Jan is now the Schools Advocacy Coordinator for Asylum Welcome. She, with a team of 15 volunteers are working with local schools and refugee and asylum seeker families to increase access and engagement in the home school partnership, helping families to better support their children’s education.
Aiham is a Yemeni refugee who first came to Asylum Welcome as a client. He started volunteering for Asylum Welcome in the Welcome Centre and then the Youth Service. Aiham joined us as Fundraising Assistant in February 2022.
“The entire team is trained to handle everyone as an individual and they are non-judgemental. I loved this most about Asylum Welcome. Very caring and kind staff. I always felt at home whenever I was at Asylum Welcome’s offices”client at Asylum Welcome.