Who we are…

Refugee Action-Colchester was originally founded in response to the suffering and exploitation of refugees and asylum seekers in Calais in the summer of 2015.

Like many people we were upset and moved on hearing of the hardship they endured, and we came together as a small group of grassroots activists committed to helping.

Engaging in that situation heightened our awareness of the largely unseen issues that displaced people continue to face on arrival in towns like Colchester and the surrounding area.

Our remit evolved to address that local need, and we have now grown into a busy organization supported by many hard-working volunteers and with strong links with our community, local government, local peer organisations, and national and international refugee and migrant support groups. We have formalised our organization as the social enterprise ‘Refugee Action-Colchester CIC’ to help us deliver ever more, much needed, support.

Philip Horner
Treasurer and Operations Manager

Philip is one of the founders of RA-C and since 2016 he has been the primary link with Calais, having volunteered there on over 20 occasions.

He now holds the position of Operations Manager, supporting the caseworkers and other staff and volunteers in the office.

Prior to joining RA-C he worked in IT for over 30 years, with his last role being an Information Security Consultant for a global IT company.

Maria Wilby
Director & Caseworker

I have always been interested in issues around justice, or the lack of it. As a migrant myself I still remember moving here as a two year old from India.

I did outreach work for the Refugee Council in the past with families form Somalia and Iraq. When the current Syrian crisis led to many more people seeking Sanctuary I knew I wanted to do more. Learning about the asylum system, the human rights system and the needs of people seeking sanctuary has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done.

Bringing warmth to  cold hearted systems that have lost the concept of service to vulnerable people is what we strive hard to achieve at RA-C. 

Kate Khan
Fundraising & Social Media Manager

Kate plays a crucial role in bringing wider attention to the work done by Refugee Action – Colchester through managing our social media platforms to promote activities and generate donations. She also oversees fundraising, event planning and sales.

She has made several visits to volunteer with Care4Calais in northern France, and was one of the founding members of RA-C, becoming a director in 2015. She brings with her extensive experience working in local government, and also in the private sector where she has supported people with mental health issues.

Kate sees her role as a natural continuation of years spent fighting racism and other forms of societal injustice.

Elizabeth Long

Elizabeth has been a director of RA-C since January 2020 and was active within the organisation for some time before that.

Currently employed full-time as a languages teacher in a local senior school, she has volunteered with refugee organisations in the UK and with grassroots organisations in France and Greece, teaching refugee students of all ages.

She is keen to ensure that RA-C, in all its varied activities, upholds its founding principle of compassion where there is need, providing non-judgemental assistance to improve the well-being of refugees, asylum seekers and anyone with no recourse to public funds.

Shelley Braddock-Overbury
Case Worker & Safeguarding

Shelley has been a full-time Caseworker since May 2020, though she had been volunteering in a part-time capacity with RA-C since April 2019.

Formerly a Business Owner in the Events Industry for 20 years, alongside being a volunteer in France and the UK in an independent role coordinating aid projects for Asylum Seekers and Refugees for the last 5, Shelley gained a good base knowledge around the difficulties  vulnerable migrants face, both within the UK and Europe.

Shelley uses her shared experiences in a professional capacity to help the most vulnerable BAME groups within our communities as part of an effective and passionate team.   

Elizabeth Curry
Community & Volunteer Coordinator

Elizabeth has been active in a variety of ways in RA-C since her first meeting in January 2016. She organised the large pre-Covid, monthly Community Meetings at First Site and is now Community and Volunteer Coordinator.

She has a history of being involved in local organisations which involve cooperation and collaboration from local politics and the Woodcraft Folk to a clog-dancing group.

She has been retired for 10 years having taught Adult Literacy, WEA classes and A levels at both the Colchester Institute and the Colchester 6th Form College over a period of 35 years.

She is proud that RA-C is being successful in helping so many migrants to feel part of Colchester’s wider community.

Phil Dunnett

After joining as a volunteer in April 2019 Phil took on the role of Fund Raising Co-ordinator, supporting Kate Khan, the Director with responsibility for Fund Raising.

During his working life in the Electricity Supply Industry Phil took on several volunteer roles, e.g. School Governor and  leading a Wildlife Trust Watch group for children. Phil is now retired and is a volunteer instructor for the Taoist Tai Chi Society.

The publicity surrounding the plight of refugees, and an inspirational presentation by Maria Wilby, convinced Phil that RA-C was a very worthwhile cause to support.