We currently have 2 employees and 7 trustees.
Liz Hibberd, Strategic and Partnership Lead
I’ve been involved in education for around 13 years, first of all working as a primary teacher, then moving overseas to teach English as a Foreign Language, which I did until 2015. Through this work I have witnessed the barriers that many people face trying to access education, as well as the importance it has on equipping people for the difficulties they encounter throughout their lives. Having lived in South America, Egypt, Thailand and Qatar, as well as travelling extensively through S.E Asia, Central America and Africa, I am privileged to have a unique understanding and awareness of different cultures and value the need to work and live in ways which welcome and support diversity.
Volunteering in the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais, France, made a real impact on me and changed the direction of my MA studies. I decided to focus on education and refugees and analyse the support teachers have in terms of understanding the refugee experience. My research showed that teachers don’t feel they have the knowledge or confidence to facilitate their students’ awareness or understanding of the current situation despite them wanting to challenge prejudice and explore the issue further.
Partly as a result of this, I became more passionate about supporting the integration of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as raising the awareness of the refugee journey to those who have limited interaction with newcomers to the UK. By promoting understanding and questioning perceived notions, I hope to create a space where genuine dialogue and engagement can take place. Through my work with Manchester City of Sanctuary, I aim to do this. Highlighting commonalities and understanding the lives of others is the first step towards recognising our shared humanity and working towards a world where everyone is made to feel welcome and at home.
Rahul Chahal, Activities and Development Coordinator
I am the activities and development coordinator for Manchester City of Sanctuary. I wanted to join the team in order to help provide support for asylum seekers and refugees in this country beyond the basic needs support that I have done previously. This charity highlights the importance of meeting other people and feeling welcome and at home in Manchester which I would love to be a part of.
I am excited to start working with Manchester City of Sanctuary. My aims whilst undertaking this role are to improve and expand the services we offer to the people who use our services. I hope to allow people to make more social connections and have as much fun whilst doing so.
Paul Hamnett, Chair of Trustees
Paul Hamnett is a native of Gorton, Manchester who spent over 30 years as a senior international business leader managing various businesses around the world.
Paul has led businesses in Germany, the UK and extensively in the USA. Paul was a senior leader for Worldcom in Europe for a decade and then for Sony Ericsson where he also spent ten years between Western Europe and North America .
Paul has spent the past five years leading GN Audio’s (Jabra) North American business and then GN Hearing’s Western European business.
Paul also spent time with Blackberry in North America and Jawbone in San Francisco.
Since July 2018, Paul has been located back in the North West of England and retired from corporate life in October 2020. Paul now spends his time as Chair of Trustees at the Manchester City of Sanctuary charity, as a volunteer at the Southport Food Bank and as a mentor to young people trying to forge a career in business. He is also a Board Advisor to Immersionn, a London-based Virtual Reality start-up company.
Aleksandra Bardon, Chair of Trustees
I joined Manchester City of Sanctuary as a trustee in October 2019. I have extensive experience working with Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children and Refugees, and have worked with charities and local government in London, Kent and across the North West.
After five years in the South of England, Manchester called and I returned to my favourite city. I become a trustee of MCoS to help promote and extend the wonderful, welcoming culture Manchester offers to people the world over.
My interests include languages and intercultural communication. I am fascinated in the variety of ways people of different cultures discuss emotional wellbeing. In the UK, most services accept only standardised ways of discussing wellbeing; this can often prevent people from receiving the care and support they need. I am interested in creating spaces to allow people to speak comfortably about their experiences and have their needs supported.
I also am a passionate advocate for volunteers’ and staff wellbeing in the charity sector, as I recognise that while the work is extremely rewarding, there are specific challenges to these roles which need to be addressed.
Tony Openshaw, Chair of Trustees
I have recently become a trustee although I retired over four years ago as manager of Asylum Support Housing Advice (ASHA) – a charity I set up in 2004 to assist destitute asylum seekers with asylum support issues such as accommodation, weekly support, registration with GPs and education. I have previously worked at Right to Remain and the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, and have been involved in about 75 anti-deportation campaigns.
I am also a presenter on Sonder Radio and my show “Tunes from the Missing Channel” features mainly reggae and dub tracks with a few surprises. I chose the name of the show after an album by Dub Syndicate as I wanted to share music which is rarely heard. I don’t play for the chart, I play for the heart. It’s written and presented by myself and is produced by Reform Radio DJ, Louis Blatherwick, although I’m also learning the production side of things.
I also run a group called “Out in the City”, an over 50s social group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The group meets weekly and enjoys day trips, walks, coffee mornings and trips to museums and art galleries.
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Jenni Pocsai, Chair of Trustees
I am originally from Canada but have been living here for almost 20 years. I feel very connected to the North of England and it’s sense of humour! This place has welcomed me with open arms and I feel compelled to pay that forward and help to make this City as welcoming for others as possible. I am passionate about every person feeling like they are worthy and they belong.
Seeing the effect of Brexit on the UK with all the propaganda about those seen as ‘other’ made me feel like I couldn’t sit by any longer and I volunteered to help at MCoS. I’m so proud to be helping this charity make a difference to people’s lives and promote awareness of MCoS in general.
My professional life includes food, social housing and people. I have 17 years experience in social housing and helping people feel like they belong. I have worked with community groups, chaired colleague groups and led wellbeing efforts during the pandemic. I just want to help and am grateful to MCoS for letting me.
Abby Ledger-Lomas, Chair of Trustees
I live and work in Manchester having moved here 10 years ago from Liverpool. I love Manchester’s spirit of generosity and welcome and want to extend that warmth to those who seek sanctuary here. I’m a creative strategist in broadcast media and work with lots of teams to develop content for a wide range of audiences, with a passion for representing the needs of all people from all communities in the UK. As a writer and facilitator I deliver many creative workshops in both corporate and not-for-profit environments and love to see first-hand the simple magic of bringing people together in shared experiences, which is something Manchester City of Sanctuary does brilliantly. I have held other positions in Northern charities – from Trustee to Mentor – and hope to bring that experience, as well as my skills in communications, the MCOS board. I’m a Mental Health First Aider and Mental Health Lead in my current role, and I look forward to contributing to the good work MCOS do in creating opportunities for people to improve wellbeing in an inclusive and accessible way.
Mark Kingston, Chair of Trustees
Hailing from the South West, I studied in Manchester and lived there for a number of years thereafter. I continue to have strong ties to the city, both family and football, visit very regularly and regard it as my second home. I initially became involved with Manchester City of Sanctuary at the end of 2020 and was delighted to become a trustee in February 2021.
I am a Chartered Accountant by profession, having spent my career in a variety of different industries, including hotels, motor trade, day visitor attractions and more recently insurance. Having both worked for and been a trustee for a charity previously, I have a good working knowledge of charity sector legislation, regulations and reporting requirements. I hope to bring my insight in financial matters to the role of Treasurer to ensure that MCOS continues to operate on a strong financial footing, enabling it to continue to provide its vital services to the sanctuary seekers that move to Manchester as part of starting a new life in the UK.
Jonathan Gilmore, Chair of Trustees
Jonathan Gilmore is a lecturer in international politics at the University of Manchester. His professional work explores themes of civilian protection during wartime, human security and ideas of global citizenship. His support for Manchester City of Sanctuary comes as a natural extension of the values that inform his work as an academic and a desire to make a practical contribution to building a culture of welcome and solidarity for sanctuary seekers in our city. He was on the steering group for the University of Manchester’s successful ‘University of Sanctuary’ application, and has also previously organised collaborative events bringing together academic researchers, activists and sanctuary seekers.