Meet our new staff members: Aya and Toby!

Welcome Aya and Toby

Aya is our Community Engagement Manager, and Toby is our London Community and Capacity Building Manager.

Why did you want to join MRN?

Aya: I really enjoyed how forthright MRN’s campaigns are, and was interested in meeting the team behind it and learning more about the work. They don’t hesitate to call things out as they are, which is the first step towards change. 

Toby: I have had my eye on MRN for some time having been involved in migrants rights activism in Manchester for the last 7 years. I had noticed that there are very few voices in the sector that are actively challenging dangerous narratives that dominate the conversation around migrant rights, and MRN’s approach to tackling the root-causes of negative attitudes towards migratised people stood out. MRN’s principled and relentless approach to holding those in power to account over violent border policies, meant that applying to this position was a no-brainer when the opportunity came up.

What most excites you about your new role?

Aya: What excites me the most is the opportunity to speak to so many individuals and communities who are effectively organising and supporting each other, despite the everyday brutalities of the UKs fatal border regime. I am looking forward to learning more about this and creating spaces to share some of this knowledge and resources. 

Toby: What excites me most about my new role is the chance to support grassroots organisations within the sector in achieving their goals. Having spent several years running them myself, I’ve experienced many of the struggles and obstacles firsthand. I’m eager to provide the support that I know would have been valuable to me at the time. By sharing the knowledge and lessons learned from my own experiences, I hope to play a role in driving meaningful change and helping these organisations navigate the complexities of community organising under an increasingly difficult political environment.

How do you remain hopeful despite the increasing oppression against migrants and other marginalised groups?

Aya: I remain hopeful through seeing everyone around me who also refuses to give up. 

Toby: Despite the growing oppression against migrants and other marginalized groups, I find hope by focusing on creating spaces where defiance and solidarity can thrive. These moments of utopia, where individuals come together to share stories and support one another, serve as powerful reminders of the resilience within our communities. By nurturing these pockets of optimism and resilience, we can inspire and be inspired-by collective action and build new networks of solidarity. Through grassroots efforts and collaborative initiatives, I firmly believe we can make meaningful progress towards achieving justice and equality for all.

And finally, what’s one thing our supporters should know about you?

Aya: I have very strong opinions on hummous (if it has beetroots in it, it’s just a chickpea dip). On a more serious note, I love food and firmly believe in the power of cooking and sharing meals together to build community. I grew up in an Iraqi household, and am continuously impressed by how quickly and effectively the network of aunties gather to support each other, or any other cause that is brought to their attention. I am interested in learning more about, and more from, the examples of solidarity within migrant communities, and how that can inform our work as a sector. 

Toby: One thing our supporters should know about me is that I have a deep understanding of the essential operational aspects of grassroots organisations. While some may label it as the “boring stuff,” I see it as the backbone of sustainable and effective community initiatives. My extensive experience in navigating funding, volunteer management, effective governance, and project management reflects my dedication to ensuring the long-term success of grassroots efforts.

On a lighter note, I occasionally indulge in my passion for food by moonlighting as a private chef. I firmly believe in the unifying power of food, seeing it as more than just sustenance—it has the remarkable ability to bring communities together and foster spaces of solidarity. If you ever find yourself in need of some extra condiments, just give me a shout—I’ve got you covered with my vast collection of hot sauces!

And last but not least, I’m known for my very silly moustache and I am not afraid to curl it.

Many thanks to Aya and Toby.

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