Who we are…

Like many people we were upset and moved in 2015 when we heard of the hardship, suffering and exploitation being endured by refugees from all parts of the world…

We were sufficiently moved that we felt we wanted to do something to help – and so Refugee Action – Colchester was formed.

We are all local volunteers with families, work and other commitments, who meet to gather and develop ideas in ways we can make a positive action.

We believe that together we are stronger and can make a difference.

Starting from a small core group as a grassroots activists committed to helping others, we’ve developed into a flourishing Community Interest Company supported by many hard-working volunteers and we’ve built strong links with our community, local government, local peer organisations, national and international refugee and migrant support groups.

The Directors of Refugee Action – Colchester CIC are as follows…

Philip Horner
Director, Chair, Treasurer and Caseworker

I am an IT Security Consultant currently working for a major international IT consultancy firm, I have previous experience working in the manufacturing and energy sectors.

I was brought up in Wivenhoe, but spent 25 years in North Wales, returning to the area a few years ago. I have three children, two of whom are at university, and one who recently got married.  In 2016 I acquired a retired racing greyhound who gets me out and about on a daily basis. In my spare time I play tennis at Wivenhoe Tennis Club.

I became a director of Refugee Action – Colchester when the organisation set up as a Community Interest Company, and am now pleased to be Chair of the group. I am also on the committee of Brightlingsea Refugee Support Network.

Apart from assisting with everything from popup cafes to manning the information stand at various events, I have arranged a number of volunteering trips to help with the refugee situation in Calais, taking car loads of donations and helping with the sorting and distribution of aid there.

Maria Wilby
Director & Caseworker

I grew up in Essex and have lived and worked in and around Colchester for many years.

I am a Counsellor and have worked within Education and privately for some years. Currently I am a full time voluntary Case Worker for Refugee Action – Colchester.  My experience as a Counsellor and some previous outreach work for the Refugee Council equip me well for the role.

I work directly with refugees and asylum seekers providing advocacy and often liaise with other professional organisations.

I enjoy speaking at schools, colleges and universities about both the work of RA-C and the needs of the refugees.

I was awarded the 2017 Adult Volunteer of the Year Award from Essex County Council for my work.

Working with refugees and asylum seekers is the most fulfilling work I have ever done. I learn daily from the courage and determination of these new arrivals. My life has been enriched by meeting many good people in Colchester who want to help.

Kate Khan
Director & Event, Fundraising & Volunteer Co-Ordinator

Hi, I’m Kate, I’ve held various job roles including Floating Support Officer and in this role I supported customers from many different client groups, this work would include working with customers to achieve specific goals and move forward enhancing their life chances. My post entailed supporting with benefit issues, housing issues to name a few.

I currently work full time for Colchester Borough Council in the Communities Department, so a lot of my work within Refugee Action-Colchester is therefore behind the scenes.

However, I do run the stalls and help organise events, fundraising and attend meetings as well as network for RA-C.

I am proud that our RA-C now has CIC status and that I am a Director of our group.

I enjoy reading and go to the gym as much as time allows in my spare time and the odd glass of red If you would like to organise an event for RA-C or would like to know more about fundraising for us or volunteer with us, please get in contact.

Elizabeth Long

I have spent the past 10 years working locally as a senior school languages teacher; before that as a translator and editor in the UK and abroad. 

Over the years I have volunteered for a number of refugee-aid organisations: in warehouses, camps, schools and drop-in centres, and have never ceased to be impressed by the effort people make to integrate through learning a local language. Whether in Calais, Greece or Colchester, the students I have met have been diligent and motivated (learning French, Greek, German, English), and intent on giving something back to the community that welcomes them in. Colchester has a history of accepting incomers, and we are pleased that the vast majority of those who find themselves in our town receive a particularly warm reception. 

My role as a director is to ensure that, in all its many and varied activities, Refugee Action Colchester remains true to its founding principle of compassion where there is need, providing non-judgemental assistance to improve the well-being of refugees, asylum seekers and those with no recourse to public funds.

The Refugee Action – Colchester CIC Directors work closely with the following volunteers, who together make up the Management Team…

Shelley Braddock-Overbury
Case Worker & Safeguarding

After becoming more involved in both befriending and casework over the past 9 months, I am now delighted to be part of the management team in my role as Caseworker and an additional admin support to Maria.

Each case here is unique, the work is so varied, but the one thing that I have found the same in all cases so far is that our clients are brave, kind people who have all been through so much. I’m finding it super rewarding to be part of their journey’s, and I hope that I can see them through to the other side where life can be easier for them and they can start to feel settled and truly happy. I’m learning to navigate the benefit system, social care, housing and more. Luckily for me I have Maria to lead the way, whose expertise in these areas knows no boundaries!

Additionally, I have taken on the role of Safeguarding as a support to Kate who is our lead. This is a new area for me, so after attending a course today I am feeling more confident in learning the ropes, and it’s something I know is very important within our organisation, and I look forward to learning more and putting that knowledge to use as required. 

Phil Dunnett

My name is Phil Dunnett and, along with my wife Liz, have been involved as a volunteer with RA-C since April 2019. Liz and I live in Lawford having moved from over the water in Brantham Suffolk in October 2018. We became involved after hearing an inspirational presentation by Maria Wilby at a meeting in Wivenhoe. Being aware of the refugee issue and wishing to be able to do something practical to help, it was a logical step to come along to a Volunteer Introduction day last April at which I met many of the key members of the group, including Kate Khan. Kate’s role in the group included Fund Raising and, with the ever increasing demand on the groups resources, Kate was looking for help in planning and organising Fund Raising activities. Thus I agreed to work with Kate in the role of Fund Raising Co-ordinator. Work on this has got off the ground in a big way since Christmas 2019. We have now formed a Fund Raising Group are planning a number of activities that I am sure you will read about in future editions of the Newsletter.

I have been involved in a few voluntary and charitable organisations. Currently, I am a volunteer instructor for the Taoist Tai Chi Society and a member of a small local charity called the Nepal Children’s’ Trust to which my wife and I donate money directly to help children displaced several years ago due to a major earthquake. In previous years I have been a School Governor and also led a Wildlife Trust Watch group to enable children to learn about and enjoy the wonders of nature.