Following the creation of their successful black artists development programme for UK schools and prisons, Evwreni Productions, Odiri Ighamre and Paul Aiken founded KORI in 2002.
In our early days, we were busy responding to the urgent needs of young African and Caribbean people in the London borough of Haringey. They felt they lacked a sense of ‘being held’ by their community. The context was one of high exclusions from schools, increasing youth violence and high pregnancy rates. Many of these young people had a very narrow field of life experience. Our response was the creation of a range of long-term projects with youth work practice and creativity at the core. From these, we developed the programmes we offer today.
We are proud of our varied support initiatives, delivered by youth workers and young leaders who grew within our organisation. Their KORI training enables them to facilitate workshops that include academic support; visual arts; drama; generic youth activities; and excursions. In 2004 the Vessel UK programme was borne as we started taking large groups of young people to countries in Africa, sharing their skills with other young people and building their personal and professional development.
We first met with Moses in June of 2020 just after the easing of the first lockdown. He presented as a man who was exhausted by experience. It turned out that he had left Eritrea 13 years ago, travelling and staying for periods in Sudan and Libya, suffering a range of hardships. He had been in England for four years, two of those years were spent in detention centres, during the last year his parents had died in a car accident in Eritrea and he had battled for his mental health when he got the news.
Seeing the whole person before us was the most important part of our organisations approach. Moses was worn down by the often horrific experience of ‘the refugee’. He had come to a point where he could barely remember his own life aspirations. He was physically ill and mentally challenged and his faith in the world was definitely wearing thin. We referred him to both health and alternative health practioners. He joined a new responsive general practice where he met Dr Myat, who first met with him for over an hour, working out what tests and support he needed. Slowly his body began to respond to a new diet and medication that dealt with the overwhelming stomach pains he had been suffering for years.
He begun counselling with our in-house counsellor paid for by generous donations and in one to one sessions with the youth worker begun to identify what he wanted to do with his life. The most beautiful thing for us was watching his youth and humour return to him. He was only 24 years old but had looked like he was in his thirties at his first session. We sourced voluntary work for him in a wonderful outside garden run by our partners, Global Generation. After two months of working with them they offered him paid work because his skills from growing up farming in Eritrea and his strong work ethic were evident and valued. Liaising with his housing worker we were able to support his referral to new housing. Most recently another partner, Speak Up London, an English Language School has provided weekly online sessions to support Moses in his growing confidence in English. His counselling sessions are coming to an end and he now has a KORI Mentor supporting him to reach his emerging goals.
Wearing any label is difficult, wearing the label of ‘refugee’ can have a relentless impact on your present and future. We see our work in KORI with young people caged in this category as strengthening their sense of themselves and their own agency, providing effective interventions that create new space for them to re-focus on their dreams, building a network of support around them and making them feel truly welcome in their new country.
One of our former projects, the Haven was a programme funded by Haringey council that supported children as young as seven who had been excluded from local schools. We advocated on behalf of the child, bridging parents and schools until they were successfully re-integrated.
We also led a mentoring programme funded by the Mayor of London, recruiting 54 volunteers to work with 74 boys over three years between 2011 and 2014. After which, we went on to run our own mentoring programme, which also included girls, for a further three years. This then transitioned into the KORI Mentoring programme.
We partnered with Talent Match in 2014, a London-wide youth employment initiative funded by the lottery. This supported an important part of our delivery for three years, strengthening our ability to mentor more young vulnerable adults into training, work experience and new careers.
Since 2004, the growth of young people and professionals who volunteer in Africa through our Vessel UK programme has provided an amazing platform for cementing a sense of purpose, identity and achievement for so many people.
KORI’s mission is to support young black people aged 14 -30 years old to enjoy, thrive and contribute to the world as valued members of society. At the heart of what we do is providing young people with a unique, creative and warm environment and the tools to reach their aspirations, enabled by our strategic partnerships. Through youth work and creative facilitation, we provide needed interventions, training, project engagement, bespoke mentoring, counselling, respite and enriching networks.
Accessing Learning – We believe in life long learning. This means we are committed to creating, sourcing and sharing opportunities that support young people, staff and volunteers to develop personally and professionally.
Nurture – We commit to supporting young people to transcend barriers and limitations through providing them with support, growing opportunities and exposure in a range of contexts with diverse groups.
Environmental Awareness – Through well established partnership work and programme activities we expose young people to real learning and engagement with nature and their personal and collective responsibility to take care of the world we live in.
Creative Thinking – All of our work is led and underpinned by facilitating creative learning and the use of critical and reflective processes.
Cultural Celebration – We believe that young people grow most positively when they have diverse opportunities to learn and understand the value of their own culture and place in the world, which in turn allows them to respect and value the place of others.
Deasy has worked for 30 years as an activist, creatively bringing people together across all cultures and divides. She co-founded and directed the Tribe of Doris Intercultural Summer School and festival for over 20 years. Deasy also founded Imalya, a youth and family organisation that uses culture and environment work to empower and enrich lives. Internationally, she led the setting up of The Black Cow Cross Culture Community Centre in The Gambia.
Marcel is a strategy consultant, who has worked with numerous multinational companies on advanced analytics and high level strategic projects. He brings his knowledge of finance and strategy to his position as treasurer. Marcel graduated from the University of Warwick with a First Class Honours in MORSE Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics.
Belinda has worked as an educator across primary education for over 30 years, supporting the learning and developmental needs of children. She is founder of The Learning Tree tuition business, which she has been steadily building over the past few years. She firmly believes that a creative, nurturing environment aids learning and retention. She is also a talented painter and photographer.
Lydia is passionate about non-profits and has been a professional fundraiser for over 5 years. She has worked in both local and UK-wide charities for a range of causes. A proud Londoner with a passion for people, travel and the arts, Lydia has a degree in History and Politics from Nottingham University.
Using innovative “through the tunnel” learning based on the application of social pedagogy, Odiri works to inspire a new generation of young people to create sustainable platforms in communities across London. As co-founder of KORI Youth Charity and the Daughters of Africa Foundation - her approach which encompasses 'mentoring, advocacy, training and creative facilitation' - has realised a significant impact at both a London wide and Pan-African level. An avid Arts Educator having facilitated leadership training through storytelling and creative writing for diverse audiences that include; National Museums, Schools, Libraries, mental health facilities and HM Prisons. She has also established a leading Young Carers Project in Camden and has trained youth workers across the UK and in Africa. A 30-year track record of voluntary sector work equips her in leading KORI Youth Charity and to continue to develop innovative programmes that respond effectively to the needs of young people and their communities.
Starting as a volunteer mentor then becoming an administrator and facilitator, Poppy has been with KORI since 2015. Through both academic study and practical work Poppy has continuously developed her awareness of Childhood, youth & development and works passionately to support youth and community growth. As Programme Manager her focus in KORI is the strengthening of the three programmes and building new partnerships.
Poppy has also worked with children and young people for the past 12 years in a variety of settings both in the UK and abroad. Currently whilst programme managing KORI Poppy is also working as part of a team creating an Eco-Art-Tech Hostel in The Gambia focusing on building workshops that will develop skills for both locals and travellers enabling local and global community development.
Adiam is a professional photographer and visual artist. Her freelance work mainly focuses on capturing and highlighting social issues; aiming to influence change through visual documentation and storytelling. She has worked with KORI as a youth worker and artist since 2015. Passionate about travel, with Poppy Tomlinson, Adiam is part of working to build an Eco-Art-Tech Hostel in The Gambia which will focus on providing employment and skill development for both locals and travellers, enabling local and global development.
In his business life, Demitrius has spent almost 40 years working in regulated financial services as a Financial Adviser. As well as building and managing a business, Demi has advised clients in both the SME and Public Sector. With a keen interest in youth development, he spent 8 years as an FA youth football coach and the past 7 years working within Kori, both as a coach/mentor with young people and helping the charity with its strategy and development. Born in London, Demi spends his time both here in the UK and in Grenada.
Margaret has had a varied career in the public, cultural and civil society sectors.
At the Big Lottery Fund she led the England regional team, developing ambitious partnership programmes that tackled social inequality and invested in skills, capability and talent at local level. Her main achievement was to set up the pioneering Local Trust, a £200m initiative providing social investment and support to 150 disadvantaged neighbourhoods in England.
She’s worked in a range of social enterprises, and leading charities and has been a consultant to many civil society organisations helping them to adapt to change, fundraise and transform their working practices. She’s currently a Director with Pilao Labs, a new service supporting better access to digital services.
Lecturer in Applied Social Studies and Sociology. Sireita is a visual sociologist and artist who completed a BA in Art, Design and Education at the University of the West Indies (Mona) and Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts, where she majored in photography and graphic design in Jamaica.
Lydia began volunteering for KORI 16 years ago, from there she was able to gain her first facilitation experience, develop and manage KORI projects and contribute to the Vessel international programme development. Her areas of focus are visual arts and performance, creative facilitation and youth charity infrastructure.
Moracle is a leading management and business support company providing accounting, auditing and professional services.