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People seeking sanctuary are at the heart of City of Sanctuary UK, their voices, views, experiences and participation are central to shaping the work we do. The purpose of the Advisory Group is to provide a mechanism for people seeking sanctuary to inform and influence City of Sanctuary work at an operational level.

Amani is a human rights activist, currently working as Specialist Sexual Violence Advocate for Nia Project, London. She comes from a multi-disciplinary background, being a doctor in Sudan and peacebuilding and development studies graduate. In addition to being a Chevening alumnus, the UK prestigious scholarships for young leaders worldwide, Amani is one of the Young African Leaders 2016 chosen by the US Department of State and one of the Young Arab Leaders 2016 chosen by Munathara Initiative. Amani is a known public speaker and political debater in the MENA region with a number of tv appearances in TV channels such as Aljazeera Live, Al Arabi TV and others.

Having started engaging with several non-profits in Sudan at a young age, she accumulated almost 10 years of experience working with the non-profit sector in Sudan and the UK. Most of those years she worked supporting vulnerable communities experiencing disadvantages due to their migration status such as internally displaced persons in conflict areas in Sudan and then volunteering with Healthwatch Stockton-On-Tees as a Research and Engagement Volunteer before she started her role as Community Empowerment Coordinator with the Regional Refugee Forum Northeast working and empowering Refugee Led Community Organisations.

Bianca is a Sanctuary in Politics graduate and is actively involved in the University of Sanctuary stream. Bianca is a passionate advocate of equal access to education and is a Sanctuary Scholar at the University of Winchester where she is currently studying a Business Management course. Her hobbies include reading and travel. She says “The City Of Sanctuary has afforded me unimaginable opportunities and experiences that I hope to be able to pay back in any way I can as a volunteer. It has been an immense privilege to be involved”.

Prior to seeking sanctuary in UK, Gaida had a dream of becoming a journalist or doctor, she always wanted to make a difference and help others. Back in her country of origin she did embark on two university degrees and started a career on the national television, and lots of other things besides. She had a good life and lots of friends, she was happy. One day the war came and without warning destroyed everything, dispersed all her family and friends and some were sadly killed. Her and her family were forced to flee, and fortunately she was able to seek sanctuary in the UK. She is now a refugee but is keen to tell her story and advocate on behalf of others who end up in the same situation. She said “Through my journey as a refugee everything changed, I lost my hope, my smile, and somehow, I lost who I am, I was just a number. But when I was resettled to the UK, I had a second chance to rebuild a life. I proudly joined the labour market and got back to university”.

She has volunteered with the Refugee Council and is a Sanctuary in Politics graduate. Her Sanctuary in Politics course project focused on Schools of Sanctuary and involved her speaking at various schools to raise awareness of refugee issues. She says “A human with dignity, that is who I am now”.

Loraine is a migrant’s rights and Anti-Racist campaigner and organiser based in Coventry. She is a member of Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group (CARAG) which is a group that supports migrants to find their voices in the community. She is keen to advocate on behalf of others but also aims to empower others to do the same. During the pandemic she has done many blogs and spoken to the media about how challenging it is living in the UK asylum seeker. She is a keen advocate for the right to work and wants to raise awareness of the contribution people seeking sanctuary can make to the UK.

Loraine got more involved with City of Sanctuary UK in 2019 when CARAG supported the planning of the national conference in Coventry. She chaired the event with professionalism, passion and humour. 

Loraine is originally from Malawi. She has a lovely son and loves fish.

Shams has been advocating nationwide on behalf of people seeking sanctuary in the UK. He is the Co-Chair of Tees Valley of Sanctuary, Sanctuary in Politics graduate and a City of Sanctuary Ambassador. He is Member of the Regional Refugee Forum (North East) and a member of Doctors of The World Advisory group. Shams is also a Volunteer Assistant for the in the North East for the British Red Cross and a member of the UK Voices Networks group.

Living in Darlington he volunteers with the local Community Centre Firthmoor, the local Refugee and Asylum Seekers support Darlington Assistance for Refugees (DAR). Shams Is a Member of More In Common Darlington and The Unity Group of Darlington working with the Constabulary of Durham to make his community safer. During the pandemic, Shams has used his skills to better the life of many local families by taking donation of old digital devices which he then fixes and passes on to local families, Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Shams is a clear believer that : “When we come together we will always prevail, no matter what the challenges we face. It easy to love and share the love as hate consumes, when loves comes natural to the heart.”

Note: There are currently 12 members of the operational advisory group, please note some members would like to keep their anonymity.