Meet The Trustees

All of our trustees are passionate about the work we are doing at Refugees Welcome resettling refugees in our area, ensuring  they have suitable and safe accommodation alongside guidance and education to help them fully integrate into our communities.  Our trustees each have a story to tell about how they came to be a part of our team and by clicking on the photographs below you can read about their journey along the pathway to helping others in a time of severe need. 

Nicky Campbell
Anne Towers
Mike Eccleston
Judith Mayer
Gill Appleton
David Raines
Anthony Smith
Sue Lord
Alan Brown

"What was the final straw that made people - venture into the unknown?"

 

 

It was the image of the drowned Syrian child being carried from the Mediterranean Sea that really awakened my interest in the dilemma of refugees. I knew that my own family had come to this country as refugees in the late 19th century and, as a geography teacher for 30 years, I had taught about migration numerous times. The question that has always been in my head, though, is: What was the final straw that made people pack up what they could carry and venture into the unknown? It must be something so dreadful that few of us can comprehend it. Research carried out by my 13 year old grandson, concluded that for our family it must have been a combination of Pogroms and living under Pale of Settlement rules that would have been that final straw for leaving eastern Europe.

 

My late husband and I attended the first meeting in Macclesfield that was advertised for people interested in facilitating the arrival of refugee families. We became involved in the groundwork of planning for the possibility of offering a new life to families from Syria. The group sourced potential housing, school places, GP surgeries and all the basic infrastructure that would be necessary for the families. Cheshire East, as our local authority also became involved. 

Nicky Campbell 
Chair of Trustees

Unfortunately, we had to step back for some time, because my husband  became ill and in September 2018 he died. Meanwhile, our 4 Macclesfield Syrian families and the Congleton family arrived. One of the families lives very close to me and we have become great friends. They insisted on coming to Gerard’s funeral and have been a huge support to me. They were very fond of him.

 

About 9 months after Gerard’s death, Helen Byrne, our Methodist minister who had initiated the Refugees Welcome programme in the local area, came to see me. She wanted to update me and happened to mention that she was stepping down as chair of the trustees. Was I interested in joining the trustees? She said I should spend time thinking about it. I have had previous experience at being chair of various organisations, so I realised that it was something I could do – if the other trustees would be happy for me to do it. 

 

I became chair in September 2019 and love being able to work with the other trustees, as well as personnel from Cheshire East and the amazing volunteers we have. I feel I am giving something back to the country that welcomed my family. I still don’t know what that final straw was that made our local families leave Syria – I can’t ask them yet – I can only try to imagine how unutterably dreadful their lives must have become in Syria.

 

I am truly privileged to be part of the lives of everyone who is working locally for Refugees Welcome – I just hope our local families feel Welcome here. 

"It is a rich experience"

Like many people I was appalled by the photos of desperate and dead refugees on the beaches of the Mediterranean, wondering where our humanity towards people fleeing war and destruction had gone, but like many I felt there was little that I could do beyond donate to charities who were trying to help. 

 

Then early in 2018 I was approached about becoming a Trustee of Refugees Welcome, something I could do. I had time. At first it was just sitting in meetings to see how things worked but after a few months I took on a role of looking after our Volunteers alongside our Council for Voluntary Service supervisor. It is a rich experience, I have met so many wonderful dedicated people who work with our Refugee families in this area, helped support and keep them safe through training and making sure we have the right policies in place. That bit sounds boring but it is important. 


I have also met some of the refuges families in this area, and heard about their struggles to adapt, to integrate, learn to communicate in English, find a future for themselves and their children now there is no way for them to return to Syria. So through helping we find our humanity and the enjoyment of meeting people I would never have met if I hadn’t decided to volunteer to be a Trustee.

Anne Towers
Managing Trustee

"The recent appalling situation in Ukraine made me want to help" 

Mike Eccleston

I am a retired Chartered Engineer having worked in the Gas Industry for 46 years. The recent appalling situation in Ukraine made me want to help in some way. Whilst walking the dog I regularly met Nicky Campbell, who is the Chair of Refugees Welcome, and we discussed the plight of the refugees and the work Refugees Welcome was undertaking to help and when they were looking for Trustees it provided the perfect opportunity to get involved.

Mike Eccleston
Managing Trustee

"I knew that doing something about this was not an option, it was a moral prerogative"

Judith Mayer


On September 2nd 2015, a Kurdish 2 yr old boy, Alan Kurdi was washed up on the island of Kos. Hundreds upon hundreds of desperate people were risking their lives and those of their children to escape their war-torn homeland of Syria.

This particularly shocking story made global headlines and for many of us in the west it was the catalyst for a proactive response.

 

I knew that doing something about this was not an option, it was a moral prerogative as a member of the free society in which I live.

 

I am not particularly political or even less, an activist but through prayer I started on a journey which for me alone would have been completely impossible.

 

I knew that this was something that needed to involve my Christian family in Congleton but not exclusively. I prepared my speech and booked myself onto the agenda of Churches Together in Congleton. I was expecting some decent when asking for action and a ‘refugee team’, I got unanimous support and the conformation I needed.

 

By the last week in September we had an open meeting in the town centre with our local MP, the Town Mayor, a representative from a Manchester based NGO, a young lady working with teenage asylum seekers in north Staffs and a non-refugee Syrian mum of 3 who had been living in Congleton for 7 yrs.

 

 

 

Judith Mayer
Managing Trustee / Minute Secretary 

Many attended the large venue and from that meeting people signed up to either be a part of our first steering group or offer their practical help further down the line.

 

 

Simultaneously and unbeknown to me at that time, Macclesfield and Alsager were doing something similar as well as having silent protests outside Cheshire East Council (CEC) cabinet meetings to move them to action.

 

We joined forces and set about building up a portfolio of knowledge through meetings, workshops, liaising with other local authorities who had already welcomed refugees into their towns and cities and some of us attended the following year, a Citizens UK Welcome Summit in Birmingham.

 

Up to this point, CEC had informed the Home Office of their willingness to be a part of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, but at each new cabinet meeting the subject was either ‘postponed’ until the next meeting or it was suitably side-tracked.

 

Yes, we were frustrated but we all believed we could succeed and we were not going to give up.  12 months after those shocking television images, CEC finally put us on a Cabinet Meeting agenda. As a team, we had put in the many levels of legwork needed to ensure that CEC would not be able to ‘put off’ a positive decision because they saw that there was much more to be done and to be considered.

 

Both Helen and I spoke to CEC and they were speechless! There were no objections and only praise for our team’s dedication to what we had already put in place and was ready to action.

Helen and I said with one voice to CEC, ‘Yes We Care’.

 

And we do care.

"attending meetings enabled me to learn the larger picture."

When I heard that the Churches Together in Nantwich were planning to look after a refugee family I wanted to help.  I attended the training sessions but my commitments at home stopped me giving regular time, so I just made myself available to do anything that was needed.  I helped find things to furnish the refugee’s house before they arrived; I arranged driving lessons for the father so he could work, unfortunately lockdown has not made this easy for him; I also formed a group of people from Churches together to raise money. I became a trustee because two people were needed to sign cheques for the Nantwich group, and attending meetings enabled me to learn the larger picture. 

Gill Appleton
Managing Trustee

"I was moved to join with Refugees Welcome to put my skills and experience to good use"

I have spent a full and active career in the NHS as a Cognitive Behaviour Therapist and then latterly for the World Health Organisation in Syria and Libya helping to train health professionals in their work with refugees.  In my retirement I was moved to join with Refugees Welcome to put my skills and experience to good use in offering them to help after witnessing, on the national news, the distress and panic in and around Kabul Airport, Afghanistan, as those who feared for their lives tried to escape.  More recently I have been closely involved with the development of the Bollington Ukraine Support Group, helping to find homes and hosts for those women and children who have fled from the conflict and fighting after the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. 

David Raines
Managing Trustee

"I went as a one off and have been here ever since"

Too many people in this world are displaced through no fault of their own 

It was in the autumn of 2018 that Amanda Lovett, moved by the plight of the Syrian refugees, called a meeting via Facebook to explore what we in Alsager could do to help.  I went with my wife Cathie making her promise not to get too involved. We left the meeting as two thirds of the Fundraising team!  A few months later someone was needed to go to a trustees meeting as Alsager representative. I went as a one off and have been here ever since. Because of COVID our group was unable to progress as quickly as we wanted, but in June 2021 we finally received full approval from the Home Office.

We are now helping our growing Syrian family start a new life. 

Anthony Smith
Managing Trustee

"[I] felt indignant & helpless in equal measures"

Hi I’m Sue Lord a retired NHS Health & Safety/Risk Manager.


 

When Ukraine was invaded in February 2022 I wanted to do something to help those affected but at the same time felt indignant & helpless in equal measures.  Doing nothing was not an option!


 

Our Senior Pastor at Nantwich Elim Church (NEC)  wanted to help in every possible way and I was appointed as NEC Evacuee Coordinator.  I knew that Refugees Welcome had played a big part in helping Syrian and Afghan refugees and as I had no previous experience in this role and didn’t want to start re-inventing the wheel I contacted Gill Appleton (Trustee), through Churches Together in Nantwich. 


 

Nantwich Elim Church offered their Cafe facilities on a Saturday Morning to provide a space for Hosts and their Ukrainian Guests to meet, chat and share experiences and local knowledge.  


 

 

Sue Lord
Managing Trustee

The Church also provided short term accommodation in their Conference Facilities for a young Ukrainian Student as well as a young mother and her toddler.  Regretfully they all returned home.  The latest information is that the student and her mother and younger sister have moved to safety out of Kiev.


 

I have been given invaluable support and knowledge by the other Refugees Welcome Trustees which has helped me in my role in Nantwich.  When I was asked if I would like to be a Trustee I willingly and gladly accepted their offer.   

"I volunteered to help......to welcome a Syrian family to Nantwich"

Hi, I am Alan Brown, a retired Chartered Accountant. When the proposal was made to welcome a Syrian family to Nantwich I volunteered to help. I have done some English speaking practice with the parents and the children.  

If my city had been bombed by my own government, my livelihood destroyed, my property looted and my child needed urgent medical care I too would have become a refugee, wouldn't you?

Alan Brown
Treasurer

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