About us

Our history

Following the creation of the 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. It was felt that they lacked a sense of ‘being held’ by their community. The context then 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 and experience enabled them to facilitate workshops that included academic support; visual arts; drama; generic youth activities; and excursions. In 2008 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.

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The Haven

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.

Mentoring

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.

Talent Match

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.

Vessel UK

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.

Our vision

‘Stronger foundations for youth’

KORI’s mission is to support predominantly black and ethnic minority young 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.

Our values

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.

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A New Day

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.

Interventions

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.

Who’s who

Our trustees

Deasy Bamford – Chair

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.

Belinda Edgeworth
Belinda Edgeworth – Education

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 Scott – Fundraising

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.

Michael Fear
Michael Fear – Treasurer

Michael has a professional Diploma in Banking Planning and Management he is an experienced banking professional who has worked with Barclays Bank since 2014. He also has experience working with a range of corporate companies. As treasurer he will use his skills to improve the financial systems and advise on fundraising, reporting and trading initiatives.

Laurie Fitgerald photo
Laurie Fitzgerald – Wellbeing and Respite

Laurie is a freelance visual artist and facilitator who has been a part of KORI for the past 17 years. From beneficiary, to youth worker and coordinator of the Vessel UK programme. She uses much of the skills and experiences gained from KORI in her practice today. As an Artist her paintings explore themes of wellbeing, mental health and environmental sustainability. She currently works with children and young people across various organisations on public art, wellbeing and community garden projects.

Pharrell-Thelwell
Pharrell Thelwell – Inclusion and Visibility

Pharrell Thelwell has been a member of KORI since primary school. He was an active member of the KORI's youth leadership committee and has always supported the younger members. He has completed a Business BTEC at College and been accepted as a junior apprenticeship with the North London Business Park.

Our management

Odiri Ighamre – Co-founder/CEO

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.

Natasha Din-Gabisi – Mentoring Programme Manager

Natasha worked for many years with The African and African Caribbean People’s Advisory Group where she mentored children that had been expelled from school. She also worked for eight years with the National Children’s Bureau as the events organiser. She brings with her the needed experience and IT skills to manage, support and develop young people and mentors through our diverse mentoring programme.

Adiam Yemane – Recruitment and Outreach Worker

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.

Our advisors

Demitrius Nurse – Partnerships and Organisational 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 Cooney – Fundraising Development and Strategy

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.

Dr Sireita Mullings-Lawrence – Youth, Arts and Community Engagement

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 Newman – Safeguarding and Charity Infrastructure

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.

Our accountants

Moracle Chartered Accountants

Moracle is a leading management and business support company providing accounting, auditing and professional services.

Get in touch with KORI

Please use the form below for queries, further information or to learn more about our work. We look forward to hearing from you.