Sarah Grahame - Interim Chair
I retired from teaching children with severe learning difficulties two years ago, to further indulge my passion for travel. Looking for volunteer work at home, my on the ground involvement with projects in Malawi, and my experience and interest in the lives of people from different cultures led me to Yarl's Wood Befrienders, which has been the perfect fit. I've met some amazing women who have taught me a lot. I have only just become a trustee, and I look forward to developing my role within YWB and working with the talented people in the organisation, to further help the remarkable women detained in the IRC.
Robina Pelham Burn- Vice Chair
I have been befriending since the beginning of 2018 alongside my work as a freelance editor. Visiting women in Yarl’s Wood has been both rewarding and enlightening, and I have enjoyed using my knowledge of other languages to communicate with women who have little English. I have become a trustee in the hope that my previous role as the CEO of a charity will help me to support the staff and volunteers of YWB. Their unfailing commitment fills me with admiration.
Belal Bunian - Treasurer
This is my first experience of being a volunteer and a trustee. I have a passion for helping people, and because I am a refugee from Syria, I understand people who are desperate to leave their countries, where they have lived in dangerous and difficult circumstances, to find a safer and better life with dignity here in the UK. I have worked as an accountant for many years – my most recent role was as Chief Accountant at the Egyptian Aluminum Company – and I believe my financial skills and knowledge will serve me well as treasurer of Yarl’s Wood Befrienders.
I’ve been a befriender since 2017 alongside my role as owner / director of a small management consultancy business. I’ve found visiting Yarl’s Wood to be incredibly rewarding and find the residents’ courage, stoicism and determination, in such difficult circumstances, truly humbling. I love to use my languages to communicate with the women, who often have little English, and find their joy as they correct my enunciation, uplifting and infectious! It’s the little things that make a difference and I look forward to my visits.
I have become a trustee in the hope that my consultancy experience will help to continue the support work of YWB; its staff and, of course, the unstoppable energy and commitment of the volunteers!
I have been a Befriender since retiring from teaching in 2010 and have since been privileged to visit some very brave women. A French speaker, I often visit women with limited English from French-speaking parts of Africa. I have been a Trustee since 2012, fulfilling the role of fund-raiser for five of these before passing that particular baton to a staff team. Involvement in planning and decision-making for YWB is satisfying, as is attending the quarterly meetings at the Centre – this allows an insight and, I hope, some input on behalf of the detainees into how the IRC is run.
I am a Business Administration Graduate who has worked as a Legal Secretary/Personal Assistant in the past for the various banks, local authorities and non-profit organisations. I have been involved and supporting people in immigration detention by sourcing helpful information which can be applied to their immigration cases to be presented to the Home Office for consideration. Looking to enhance my fight for Humanitarian protection and a deeper understanding on how to support , I enrolled on an undergraduate course in International Relations, Politics and Security Studies and I am in my second year of a possible 3 or 4 year study journey.
Being asked to join the Board of Trustees is an honour and privilege and I look forward to expanding my knowledge on how best to be a supportive individual.
I first volunteered with Yarls Wood Befrienders in my early 20s. I moved back to Bedford a couple of years ago to start a family, once I realised Yarl’s Wood was operational, I wanted to get back involved with the charity. I’ve become a trustee in the hope that my international experience managing programmes focused on expanding women’s access to health services may prove useful in this role. In my day job I’m actively involved in grant management, strategic planning and fundraising. I look forward to developing my role at YWB and supporting staff and volunteers to ensure the charity is best placed to meet the needs of women and men currently detained in the centre, or needing support following release.