Alexi is the Volunteer Coordinator for City of Sanctuary Sheffield (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 the SPRING Delivery and Advocacy Manager. He volunteered with CoSS for two and half a year and started doing the current job at 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 the Advocacy and System Change Coordinator at City of Sanctuary Sheffield.
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, irregular migrants, homeless people, 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
Diallo is the Drop-In Front of House Support and Security for City of Sanctuary Sheffield.
Diallo is a chef and entrepreneur by profession. The company he works with operates in 17 countries around the world, which allows him to work with many people from different backgrounds. Diallo loves helping others.
Diallo has also worked in the Security Industry Authority for over ten years, and has been working as a volunteer for Assist and City of Sanctuary of Sheffield for over eight years. This work gives him joy because helping people is his passion.
Rabia is working on the Sheffield Project for Refugee Integration and Growth (SPRING) as a Refugee support worker. Rabia is also part of City of Sanctuary Sheffield’s Expert by Experience team and was previously engaged with CoSS’s Schools of Sanctuary work. Her work at City of Sanctuary Sheffield is to connect people who just recieved their refugee status to the right organisation and make sure they get all the support they need to start their new life in Sheffield.
Before she started working as a staff member she was a key volunteer at The Sanctuary, The Drop-In and SPRING. She has also volunteered for Oxfam and the British Tinnitus Association and was a Special Educatoinal Needs Teaching Assistant in school. Before coming to UK Rabia was in Pakistan where she got her B.S.C degree in Family Relations and Child Development.
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. He is driven by a desire to build a strong, resilient and beautiful team that has the skills and energy to fight for justice.
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!
Angela is the Finance Officer for our organisation and she looks after all Financial matters. Before joining the team in May 2023, Angela was a Trustee of City of Sanctuary Sheffield from July 2017 to April 2023.
Angela has worked as a charity finance specialist since 2015. First, as Finance Manager for Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind, and then for Nomad opening Doors. Before that she was a Secondary school teacher for 16 years. Since May 2019, Angela is also an elected Councillor at Sheffield City Council, where she is Deputy Group Leader for the Green Party and the Chair of the Adult Health and Social Care Policy Committee.
Annie is the Communications and Fundraising Officer at City of Sanctuary Sheffield. She works to share communications that bring more people into the movement, enhance the rights of people seeking sanctuary, and support the work of CoSS. She believes in the power of communities to create change.
Before working at CoSS, Annie worked for Student Action for Refugees, supporting their national network of student groups, and has volunteered with a range of organisations supporting people seeking asylum. She has a BA in Geography from the University of Nottingham, as part of which she researched ‘Universities of Sanctuary’ and their work to reduce the barriers faced by people seeking asylum in accessing university.