Close this search box.

Meet the team

As a Refugee led charity we celebrate diversity within our team, which includes individuals from various backgrounds and skill sets. We are supported by an amazing group of volunteers, working together to welcome and connect refugees and people seeking asylum in Stockton-on-Tees.

Claire Paxton - Executive & Admin Assistant

Claire joined Refugee Futures in September 2023 and leads on all administrative activities for the team. Claire brings significant experience in project management and administration within the voluntary sector. For the past 7 years Claire has been working with refugees and people seeking asylum as the co-orindator for a local drop-in within Stockton-on-Tees. Claire’s favorite place to be is by the sea or watching a film with her family.

Constanza Lealmelo – Sessional staff

Constanza joined Refugee Futures in the summer of 2023. As a Sessional worker she supports volunteers to take part in community projects by accompanying them and building their confidence to engage. She has a wealth of experience in teaching English and has 30 years’ experience of formal education in England and Columbia. She is passionate about bringing people and communities together and empowering people through developing confidence in English language.

Heather Petch - Executive Director

Working with the board of trustees, Heather leads Refugee Futures to ensure we are working effectively with a range of partners to enable refugees and people seeking asylum to feel welcome and included in Stockton-on-Tees. Heather has over 30 years’ experience of leadership roles in the public and voluntary sectors and is a committed to an inclusive approach. Heather lives at the foot of famous local hill, Roseberry Topping and loves walking and reading.

Jess Wratten - Programme Manager

Jess manages the delivery of projects and training. Jess has over 15 years’ experience of project development, management and training with local, national and international charities, with an emphasis on inclusion and participation of people with lived experience in a broad range of settings. Jess loves talking about people, culture and places, getting in the sea, laughing and dancing.

John Kumpalume - Finance Lead

John manages all finance activities for the team including producing budgets, cash flows and management accounts. John is an accounting professional with over 10 years of experience working in both private and public accounting, including charities. He joined Refugee Futures in 2021 firstly as a trustee, having worked with other local charities as a Treasurer from 2013. In his free time, John loves playing games with his family.

Kawa Wali - Sessional Staff

Kawa joined Refugee Futures in 2022, while seeking asylum, as our first Project Volunteer supporting our team in the office to develop Refugee Futures programmes. His advice has been invaluable, he utilises 5 years leadership experience in a National Syrian NGO and has influenced our thinking from policy, to communications and project delivery. He now works to lead a team of researchers with Durham University as part of a partnership project with Refugee Futures and is on our Advisory Group.

Leon Fernandes - Sessional Staff

Leon Joined Refugee Futures in summer of 2023 as a Sessional worker he delivers projects on the ground often accompanying volunteers at events and activities across Stockton-on-Tees, to support them to build their confidence. He brings many years of experience volunteering at drop-ins for people seeking asylum across Stockton-on-Tees and his knowledge is invaluable. He lives in Stockton-on-Tees with his wife and two children and enjoys playing cricket.

Phil Bramhall - Welcome Project Lead

Phil leads on delivering the Welcome Project. Phil’s background is in business support and community development. He co-founded Goboka Rwanda Trust and StarDisc Enterprise CIC, both these organisations are committed to community enterprise and learning outside the classroom. Phil is a keen naturalist and says he had the ‘privilege’ of living in a cave house in Derbyshire for 5 years!

Rachael Smith - Volunteer Project Co-ordinator

Rachael recently joined Refugee Futures as the Volunteer Project Coordinator. She works alongside the volunteer team and is the Action Asylum lead for Stockton-on-Tees. Rachael has a wealth of experience of working together with refugees and people seeking asylum. In her free time she volunteers with a local charity supporting people in detention and can often be found in the hills of Northumberland with either her running club or a film camera.