Alexi is the Volunteer Coordinator for CoSS and the SPRING Project. His role includes the recruitment, training, management and development of volunteers so that they can support the vital work of CoSS and the SPRING Project by providing a welcoming environment and practical support to people seeking sanctuary in Sheffield.
Alexi volunteered with ASSIST between 2008 and 2013 on the help desk, advocacy, fundraising, volunteer induction and events and awareness teams. Prior to working for COSS, he worked for Sheffield City Council as a residential support worker in a care home for young people. Alexi has also been involved in campaigning to end the hostile environment and with the Kindertransport legacy campaign which aimed to welcome unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to Sheffield.
Blessan is currently working as SPRING Front of House Welcome and Support Worker. He volunteered with CoSS for two and half a year and started doing the current job since the beginning of 2021. Born and brought up in India, living in Cambodia for a year before coming to the UK, he now lives in Sheffield with his wife and two children. For a decade, Blessan worked as a Support Worker with adults with learning difficulties. Blessan has a heart for justice for the marginalized in the society.
Blessan loves food from different nations, cooking, cricket, diversity and inclusivity. He has a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics.
Ibtissam Al Farah
Ibtissam is the Experts by Experience Team (EbE) Coordinator. Her role includes facilitating the EbE team; ensuring that it is successfully established, is sustainable and becomes an integral part of the CoSS.
Ibtissam is a community development specialist, educator and peace activist. She volunteers in many charity projects and is one of the cofounders and the Director of DEWA project. She obtained her MA and PhD degrees from the School of Education, The University of Sheffield. She has been a member of the Advisory Group for Live Project (Smart Urban Future), School of Architecture, The University of Sheffield and is a trustee of South Yorkshire Refugee Law and Justice. Dr Ibtissam has extensive experience in policy and practice, building knowledge and capacity in community groups and sectors.
Before coming to the UK, Ibtissam worked in Yemen in senior positions for the Government and UNDP, for the World Bank, and as a professional trainer in CARE’s women’s economic empowerment programme, Care International-Yemen.
In her spare time Ibtissam loves to travel, take photographs and write her diary.
Anna is the Welcoming Spaces Manager at City of Sanctuary Sheffield, looking after the Sanctuary and Wednesday multi-agency Drop-in. Her role is to work with CoSS volunteers to create safe, welcoming and supportive spaces for people seeking sanctuary in Sheffield.
Anna started out as a secondary school teacher, specialising in languages and English. After this, she cofounded Xenia, a project working with women seeking sanctuary in London and has now been working and volunteering with people seeking sanctuary for over six years.
She speaks both Arabic and French and in spends much of her spare time swimming in the wilds of the peak district.
Melinda Mo Martinez
Melinda is a human rights specialist and peace activist from Spain. She obtained her Licentiate in Law in Spain and her LLM Degree Applied to Human Rights at Sheffield Hallam University. Before coming to the UK, she worked as a lawyer and human rights defender for more than ten years with victims of atrocious crimes, Illegal migrants, homeless, refugees and children’s victims of Human trafficking and modern slavery in Nicaragua, Mexico, Mozambique, and Spain.
Melinda has a strong vocation for justice and is driven by values such as diversity, compassion, inclusion, and integrity.
In her spare time, she loves playing the guitar, reading, gardening, cooking and spending time with family and friends.
Thierno Macka Diallo
Tom is the Director of City of Sanctuary Sheffield (COSS). His role is to ensure CoSS is effectively working towards its vision of a city that is safe and welcoming for all, that there is funding to do this and that staff and volunteers are happy and inspired in their work.
Before starting at COSS he ran a large and inclusive educational project for refugees and asylum seekers in Lewisham and worked for the Refugee Support Network as a programme coordinator for their educational mentoring scheme. Tom has also previously worked as a Lead Practitioner and Head of Physics in a comprehensive school in North London and established a charity, Kids Adventure, based in Oxford that provides regular activity days for children from east Oxford.
Michele, currently our longest-standing member of staff, is our Administrator, supporting staff with admin tasks, particularly around volunteer recruitment. She updates our various databases and monitors three of our email accounts.
Having studied languages, working in the world of export seemed a natural progression, so Michele started her admin career in the private sector working as an export administrator for a local silversmith and later for an engineering company. She has subsequently worked in the voluntary sector as an admin and finance officer for a mediation organisation, where she also trained and volunteered as a community mediator, before joining CoSS.
While Michele has always enjoyed her admin work, she feels, however, that she missed her real vocation in life as a professional cricketer!
Andrew is Information Co-ordinator and Finance Officer for City of Sanctuary Sheffield.
He works in partnership with many organisations to make sure that information resources for people seeking sanctuary are up to date, mainly through the Asylum Journey website (https://asylumjourney.org.uk/tool). He also supports the Director and Treasurer by co-ordinating The Sanctuary’s financial systems and helping monitor the budget.
Andrew also works as an administrator for South Yorkshire Refugee Law and Justice (SYRLJ) and teaches Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University. He’s previously worked in the Advice Sector and as a Research Officer for a Housing Association.