Omar Alshakal is a Syrian refugee and the founder of Refugee4Refugees. He brings a unique perspective to charity work as someone who fled Syria when ISIS took control of his hometown of Deir Ez-Zor. He arrived in Greece as a young man with few resources. The 23-year-old worked his way through the system eventually receiving asylum in Germany. He found it difficult to begin a new life after his experience escaping Syria and decided to return to Greece to help others following in his footsteps. He saw firsthand the weaknesses of the asylum-seeking process and decided to focus his efforts on improving the initial response for new arrivals. As a former lifeguard and someone who swam across the Aegean Sea for asylum, he wanted Refugee4Refugees to prioritise boat spotting to watch for migrants entering EU waters and then support them from boat to land to settlement in a refugee camp.
imaya goikoetxea atxabal
community outreach coordinator
Imaya is from Spain's Basque country. She has a Law degree from the University of the Basque country and is currently specialising in Social Work at Spain's National University of Distance Education.
Imaya first travelled to Lesvos in November 2016 where she worked as a team leader for landings and ran a spotting team at Korakas on the northern coastline. She has spent five months volunteering on the island and works remotely supporting Refugee4Refugees from her homeland of Spain. A successful initiative she set up was the collection and then distribution of clothes and shoes for refugees on Lesvos.
She says, "My volunteering experience in different associations supporting migrants has allowed me to get a closer and better understanding of the reality of this community, their difficulties and the administrative obstacles that they have to face on a daily basis."
Charlotte Bellis has spent more than a decade in the media industry. When she is not working with Refugee4Refugees, she is a producer with Al Jazeera English and the BBC. She has covered the Middle East and the refugee crisis extensively during her career.
The New Zealander started volunteering with Refugee4Refugees on Lesvos in June 2017. She travelled to the island to get a better understanding and further context for the refugee crisis as a journalist. She met Omar through mutual friends and was inspired to work with him and Refugee4Refugees to build publicity and improve resources and support for refugees on Lesvos. She assists on the island and remotely through communication initiatives to gain publicity for our charity and the larger crisis.
She holds a Bachelors degree with honours in Journalism and a Masters degree in International Journalism from the Missouri School of Journalism.
Andrea is originally from Peru, but has been living in Amsterdam for over a decade. She has more than 15 years of professional experience in the non-profit sector: both humanitarian and cultural. She studied Communication Management and has specialised as a documentary maker.
In June 2016 she went to Lesvos to help as a volunteer for just three weeks. She was hooked and extended her stay to work for 11 months with an NGO on the north of the island. During this time, she met Omar and helped him start Refugee4Refugees.
“I had a very special friendship and connection with Omar since the beginning, I call him my brother. Once he told me, I could be living in Germany and make a new life for myself, but I wanted to come back to Greece and work with refugees. I want to make an NGO. I don’t want to make money, I just want to help refugees. And this is what he is doing right now. I'm so proud of him and what Refugee4Refugees has become."