Employment and Education Lead
Associates & Consultant Staff
Fundraising and Marketing
Wupya Nandap & Peter Schaffer - Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
In September 2015, RefuAid co-founders Tamsyn and Anna hadn’t ever met. They had both been following the events unfolding in Calais and the Mediterranean over the summer with horror. Tamsyn’s background was corporate and non-profit recruitment and following the birth of her two daughters had been a stay at home mum. Anna studied International Relations with a particular emphasis on Darfur and had worked for a small refugee charity in Melbourne, Australia prior to returning home to begin her legal training.
Desperate to do something to help those arriving in Europe, Anna and Tamsyn joined a local refugees welcome Facebook group. On the day that the image of Aylan Kurdi was on the front page of every UK paper, Tamsyn wrote a post in the Facebook group, hoping to connect with local people wanting to proactively and practically help. Anna and a surgeon named Luke commented and arranged to meet at a local café to discuss what they could do.
2 weeks later, the trio had organised a voluntary medical team of doctors and nurses and sourced 17kg of medication to go out to Lesvos, Greece. What Anna and Tamsyn witnessed on the Greek islands was horrific, a lack of basic sanitation and medical care that was costing lives, a lack of engagement with the local community who wanted to help but lacked basic resources and a lack of a long-term approach that meant people were put into camps and left with no access to independence.
Once home, Anna and Tamsyn struggled to return to everyday life having witnessed so much need and identifying clear gaps in the support provided. In November 2016, Tamsyn found a wonderful childminder, Anna quit her job and they decided to make RefuAid a full-time job. “We want to challenge the negative rhetoric surrounding refugees and show that, given the right support, refugees and asylum seekers can be an asset both economically and culturally to their host communities. Since founding RefuAid we have met so many incredibly determined people who with the right support, have flourished, become fully independent and no longer need to rely on aid or handouts.”
RefuAid has supported many people gain independence in both Greece and the UK and is now focusing its efforts in the UK supporting access to employment and education through language qualifications, career pathway planning and access to finance.