Who we are…

RAMA (formerly 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 organisation 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 organisation as the social enterprise ‘Refugee Action-Colchester CIC’ (soon to be renamed RAMA) to help us deliver ever more, much needed, support.

Maria Wilby
Director, Operational Lead & 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 am grateful to be working with people who are vulnerable through circumstances outside their control – war, famine, hostile environment policy. I learn form them daily about what is most crucial to a meaningful existence.

Meeting these individuals creates a wider understanding of the importance of a strong community and how it can help carry people through the hardest of times.

I believe passionately in acting with warmth in a system where bureaucracy has reduced humanity and empathy towards others.

Kate Khan
Fundraising, Social Media Manager, Caseworker, safeguarding

Kate plays a crucial role in bringing wider attention to the work done by RAMA 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 RAMA  (formerly 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
Chair of Directors & Partnerships Coordinator

As Partnerships Coordinator, Elizabeth is responsible for sustaining and developing links in the local community with social services, charities, health and education providers and other community groups. In this she is keen to ensure that the organisation upholds the founding principle of compassion where there is need, and non-judgemental assistance to those with nowhere else to turn. 

Formerly a languages teacher and translator, she has volunteered with refugee organisations in the UK and with grassroots organisations in France and Greece, teaching refugee students of all ages. She firmly believes that we can bridge cultural and linguistic divides through embracing the universal qualities we share, while also respecting and celebrating diversity. Effective communication is key to ensuring old and new residents find mutual benefit as our community evolves. 

Shelley Braddock-Overbury
Senior Case Worker & Safeguarding

Shelley has been a full-time Caseworker since May 2020, though she had been volunteering in a part-time capacity with RAMA 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 Coordinator

Elizabeth has been active in a variety of ways in RAMA (formerly RA-C) since her first meeting in January 2016:. These include: English conversation; helping at pop-up cafes; befriending clients; helping at Forest Schools; organising outings and recruiting volunteers to help.

From 2017, with support from many other volunteers, Elizabeth has organised the large monthly Community evenings at First Site. These were replaced by picnics when practical during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2019 Elizabeth became Community and Volunteer Coordinator and is currently focussing on expanding community activities. These activities will involve volunteers but coordination and recruitment is now carried out at the RAMA office in Queen Street.

Elizabeth has a history of being involved in local organisations that involves cooperation and collaboration from local politics and the Woodcraft Folk to a clog-dancing group. She now works closely with various local organisations that support RAMA in helping migrants become part of Colchester’s wider community.

She has been retired for over 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. Elizabeth finds that all these experiences have proved useful in working with RAMA in the Colchester community.

Phil Dunnett
Event Coordination & Management Admin

After joining as a volunteer in April 2019 Phil took on the role of Fund Raising Co-ordinator. Since then Phil’s role has expanded and now includes management admin, e.g. chairing meetings and minute taking, and event planning in general..

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 RAMA was a very worthwhile cause to support.

Colm McDonald

Joyce McIntyre
Food Bank Coordinator

Joyce McIntyre joined RAMA as a foodbank coordinator after volunteering for several months. Before coming to the UK, Joyce worked for a charity in Kenya alongside vulnerable women and children. She helped them through micro-finance, child sponsorship and empowerment through education on subjects such as health and finance. As well as providing practical assistance she was on hand to give general counsel and advice, as well as emotional and spiritual support.
“As a migrant myself I know how familiar food can bring much comfort when you’re missing home and that’s why I’m so passionate about managing the foodbank. We do our best to supply culturally specific foods for our clients as well as a friendly atmosphere where people in very difficult circumstances can feel welcomed and accepted. My work in Kenya was driven by a passion for vulnerable and struggling people. It is this same passion, together with my first hand experience of relocating to the UK that makes me sure that RAMA is where I want to serve”.

Maud-May Cuthbert

Laith Al Jobouri

Natalie Umzulu

Sue Duffy
Food Bank Coordinator

I initially joined RAMA in July 2021 as volunteer office support and became employed as Food Bank Manager on a jobshare basis in March 2022.  

Prior to this I was a volunteer at an animal sanctuary for 10 years.  My working life included roles within the Probation Service, Open Road (drug and alcohol) and NACRO (ex offenders).   I was also a foster carer for several years.
I have always followed closely the ordeal of refugees and migrants in the media and had wanted to help in a practical way.  When I moved to Colchester and discovered the RAMA community this gave me the opportunity I had been looking for.  

Simona Čerkauskienė
Director and OISC conversion lead

Zaenab Al Tak
Interpreter and Caseworker

Ruth Ronay
Office Coordinator

After joining as a volunteer in October 2021, Ruth became employed as the Office Coordinator the following May. Ruth’s role is invaluable in provide office support for the caseworkers and coordinating the recruitment of volunteers for the organisation. 

Prior to joining RAMA, Ruth worked as an archaeologist for the Museum of London, until the demands of the job caused her severe back problems. Wanting to continue her employment in the Heritage sector Ruth then became employed by the National Trust. 

The struggles and bureaucratic processes that refugees face on a daily basis compelled Ruth to volunteer for Refugee Action – Colchester.  

Hasina Uddin

Gail Cardy