Background and Team

Refugee Connection was founded by two friends with a shared concern for the fundamental wellbeing and social inclusion of people with refugee status and people seeking asylum in London. With previous experience working together on a refugee support project, they became acutely aware of the devastating consequences of social isolation. 

Time and again they met people with refugee status whose only interactions with others would be in a medical or bureaucratic setting.   People who never had the chance to meet others in a relaxed social setting – even after many years. Traditional, charitable approaches offered support or befriending in a predictable, ring-fenced way. This type of support doesn’t create a genuine, grown-up social network that everybody needs.  At the same time, they recognised the huge demand for trusted, high-quality immigration and welfare benefits advice, and so set about providing a free advocacy clinic which could ease some of the stress of rebuilding a life in a new country.

Refugee Connection became a registered charity in May 2016 and opened its doors the following September.  It has been growing steadily ever since, with the help and support of everyone involved, especially our team members below:


Refugee Connection currently has three trustees, who are all individually accomplished in their fields, and together bring a powerful set of skills and knowledge.  

Lisa Helmanis is our Chair - she grew up as the granddaughter of a someone with refugee status and runs her own successful digital marketing business.  She served on the board of a children's charity for more than ten years.  

Matthew Harvey is our Treasurer - he is a Chartered Accountant who works for a leading bank.  

Joanna Konings is a professional economist, has a background in citizen's advice.

Together our board of trustees makes sure that Refugee Connection continues to achieve its aims.