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 RAMA CIC 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.

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.   

Phil Dunnett
Director, 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

I started as a part-time Caseworker at RAMA (formerly Refugee Action – Colchester) in October 2022 after having volunteered at various times in the past. 

I had been aware of the often desperate plight of refugees, asylum seekers and globally displaced peoples for a long time having visited the Calais ‘Jungle’ and witnessing first-hand the treatment of these people in other systems around the world.  However, becoming a Caseworker at RAMA really did open my eyes to the injustice, inhumanity and discrimination directed by government towards our fellow humans here in the UK and the need for organisations like RAMA to fill the holes in the system while helping people navigate their way towards better futures.

It has been a great pleasure and honour to work for RAMA.  A wonderful organisation with compassionate & dedicated staff who do so much good for so many people.

Joyce McIntyre
Food Projects 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
Caseworker and Interpreter

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

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

Hasina joined RAMA in April 2022 as a part – time Caseworker after volunteering with us. This enabled her to meet the clients and assist them directly with their problems. 
Hasina was also working at the Women’s Refuge when she joined us. She was supporting women fleeing from domestic violence {DV) and is continuing to support DV clients at RAMA providing them with emotional and practical assistance to rebuild their present and future life. 
Hasina is bilingual and is able to translate to some of our clients. She is the daughter of a first generation migrant, her father travelled to the UK at a very young age in search of a better life. She grew up in a family who faced first hand experience of arriving to a new country. Her parents were not well equipped, they struggled to integrate due to language barrier, isolation, lack of employment opportunities and there was also the financial and welfare burdens. Hasina always says there was no RAMA to help her parents through the challenges they faced and if there was it would have been a life changing transition for them. 
Hasina is with RAMA because she is passionate and dedicated to support the most vulnerable. She understands there is trauma and loss associated with being displaced and leaving your home, possessions and people that you love behind. She also feels strongly about the human cost of war, persecution and violence. Her understanding is that everyone deserves a better life and a happy one.
Hasina is proud to work for RAMA.  A place she says is international and where people from all around the world visit.