Who We Are

Our Staff

Saqib Deshmukh

General Manager

Saqib wants to build on the excellent work of Iolanda to set up AFRIL and develop it over the years and push the organisation onwards and upwards! A particular focus will be about getting more service user involvement and looking at how we work with and support our valuable volunteers.

Saqib has worked in the charity sector for more than 30 years in Children and Young People Services as a youth worker, manager and senior practitioner. Saqib has been a national officer for BME infrastructure organisation Voice4Change England and works as consultant and trainer across the country. He is also a writer, commentator and campaigner.

Gareth Redmond-King


Gareth has been a trustee of AFRIL since December 2016 and is currently vice-chair of the board of trustees.

Currently head of climate and energy at conservation charity, WWF-UK, he used to work in central government. Most recently, that meant working on renewable energy in the Department for Energy and Climate Change. Before that he ran immigration and asylum services in the south-east of England for the UK Border Agency and has been responsible for various aspects of policing policy in the Home Office.

Enjoying cycling and wildlife photography in his spare time, Gareth lives with his husband and two cats in Crystal Palace.

Jessica Javaherian

Legal Trustee

Jess is a practising Solicitor-Advocate who works in-house for the largest education charity in the UK.

Alongside this role, Jess has experience working on human rights matters, most recently spending time in Ghana, West Africa, working with charities to educate and empower communities. She is a pro-bono member of the Law Society's International Human Rights Action Team, and a volunteer for the Red Cross within their Refugee Support Services.

She has lived in the Borough of Lewisham for 3 years.

Lucy Salek


A lifelong resident of Lewisham and neighbouring areas, Lucy Salek joined AFRIL’s board as Chair in January 2017 and will be responsible for steering AFRIL into the new strategic period and the continuing development of its Governance arrangements.

Alongside her position as Chair of AFRIL, Lucy Salek is the Director of Opening Analysis, an organisation that works with international NGOs and charities on good practice in aid and development. Over the past decade she has worked extensively with vulnerable forced migrants and those that support them in over 15 countries Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Iolanda Chirico

Founder & Manager

Iolanda Chirico, AFRIL’s founder and Manager, manages the majority of AFRIL’s staff and all volunteers.

Iolanda previously worked with Bromley Refugee Network and Lewisham Refugee Network as their General Manager and holds a degree in Sociology and Communications, a Certificate in Management, and financial training.

She is well placed to lead the organisation into the future.

Thomas Martin

Rainbow Club Manager

Tom is the Manager of the Rainbow Club and works three days a week.

Tom studied Physics at university and during that time co-founded Branch Up, a charity providing activity days for primary school children in east Oxford. After university he trained as a science teacher and spent four years at Aylward Academy in Edmonton. Here he worked first as Head of Vocational Sciences before being promoted to Lead Practitioner. Tom is looking forward to using his teaching and youth work experience to work with the amazing volunteers and teachers at AFRIL in making the Rainbow Club a life changing experience for the children who attend and their parents.

Ruth Michaels

Reception Teacher

Creche Leader on Wednesday and Thursday, and Reception Teacher for the Rainbow Club.

Ruth joined AFRIL in 2012. She is a qualified child-minder with a Higher Diploma in Community and Youth Work. She brings a wealth of expertise in play and youth work and particularly in the care and education of children in the early years.

Anne Crouch

Advice Worker

Anne is a trained Generalist Advisor who joined AFRIL in June 2015. Prior to that she provided maternity cover and works as an advisor at Lewisham Refugee & Migrant Network. In addition, for the past 2 years she has volunteered as an advisor with Citizens Advice

Alketa Hystuma

Advice Worker

Advice and case worker for welfare benefits.

Alketa has a rich experience in giving advice and advocacy to community. She also has vast experience in volunteering with charities from advice services to supervising and managing advice hubs and charity shops. Currently, Alketa also works for LMLAS. She graduated with Social Sciences and Humanities diploma; and holds a degree in Law and Sociology. Alketa is a native Albanian speaker; is proficient in English and has a basic knowledge of Spanish and Italian.

Olu Mason

Sport Teacher