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Coffee Chat with Hanan Ashegh

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Hanan Ashegh is the Chief Executive of Goodwill Caravan, one of our CAN Mezzanine – Old Street customers. Goodwill Caravan is a small grassroots humanitarian charity operating in the UK and in Greece. 

They run humanitarian protection projects for vulnerable refugee families, orphans, detained unaccompanied children at risk of organ trade, trafficking and kidnappings if left in detention centres, prisons or homeless on arrival to the Greek islands.

 

1. Your typical day

That is a tricky question. My typical day is about juggling my family, kids, home and Goodwill Caravan.

Overall my days comprise a combination of meetings with staff, trustees, pitches for fundraising mostly outside London. I usually speak to the team in Greece as well. Goodwill Caravan UK funds Goodwill Caravan Greece amongst other charities there and it is important for us to make sure that they are staying true to our ethos, our mission statement and really helping the most vulnerable refugees and populations.

 

2. You are responsible for…

I am responsible for running the operations of Goodwill Caravan UK, making sure that we are always focused on our mission statement as well as our partners and collaborators. I am also responsible for taking all meetings with media and pitches for fundraising.

3. How do you feel working at Goodwill Caravan?

I feel lucky. I used to work as a mental health practitioner in the NHS and three years ago I decided to leave my paid job to run Goodwill Caravan. I felt that my work in NHS was no more as rewarding as it used to be. It became more about targets and policies than really helping people with mental health issues and I felt that I could do more. 

I feel blessed and honoured to be working at Goodwill Caravan mostly because people are putting their trust in our charity. Vulnerable refugees are putting their lives in the hands of the charity and their first contact in the refugee camps or prisons is often me or our team. This is a big responsibility. 

 

4. Your greatest achievement

I would say that the greatest achievement was going from a team of three ladies renting a van to go to the Jungle Refugee camp in Calais with a thousand pounds in our pocket, to a team of 15 staff across the UK and Greece, with Board members in both countries and 6 official partners (some of which are International charities). 

Goodwill Caravan was also honoured to receive the World Peace and Prosperity Foundation Award in November 2018, an award who has been given to Malala Yousafzai, so it means that we must be doing something right. 

 

5. Your greatest challenge

My greatest challenge is, like many other working moms, juggling my life as a mom and as CEO of Goodwill Caravan and staying true to both. 

I believe that being a mother is the most important job in the world and I will always put my family first. But at the same time, my children have a roof above their heads and food on their table, they also have clothes on their backs, and they are not scared of war. 

Working with children in Greece that are imprisoned, have been abused and fled from war, sometimes makes me feel that they need more help right now. 

 

6. What have you learnt so far?

I have learnt to say “No” and that it is impossible to help every single person. I have learnt that charity work means not just helping people in an idealistic way, it also means working within boundaries and structure. Initially, I felt that that was an insult to our mission and our will to help immediately regardless.  It was a challenge to realise that to build a charity you must work within rules and regulations, to create a functional model that will last in the future. 

7. Your plan B…

I wish I had one! 

Being a mom and being a CEO in this charity it is hard to imagine having a plan B: this is an “all-in” type situation.

There are way too many vulnerable women and children that are imprisoned, too many people that rely on Goodwill Caravan: I could not imagine having a plan B. Not any time soon. 

 

8. Coffee or Tea?

Jasmine green tea! 

I take coffee in meetings, mostly because other people are taking it and it smells so good. 

 

9. Your favourite quote…

The first one is a quote from Shakespeare that stayed with me since my school years: “This too shall pass”

It reminds me of the challenges that I face as a CEO and in my life, and of all the times that I have questioned myself asking: “Am I doing the right thing?”. When I told my family that I was going to start a charity and I would have been an unsalaried CEO, they asked “Why you? You are a woman, you are a mother, let someone else do it”!

This motivated me even more to act.  

The second one is a quote from C.S. Lewis “Our failures are mere signposts along our road to success”. It reminds me that every time we think we have had a failure it is, in fact, an opportunity to learn and grow. That has proven to be right overtime for me and Goodwill Caravan.

10. Your inspiration...

My father.

He stood up for the rights of persecuted Libyans when he was a Kernel in the Libyan army. He has been imprisoned under Ghaddafi because of his work and for standing up for the vulnerable, the oppressed and the freedom of speech.

When I was six, he has been awarded for his humanitarian work a cloak stitched with gold and a money holder made of gold. On our way home from the ceremony, he saw a man covered in mud shivering on the side of the road.

He stopped our car and went to the man, to cover him with his cloak and give him the money holder as well as all the money he had with him. My father pointed the man to an inn where he could find a refuge for the night and offered him a job from the following day.

At that moment, I understood that I would have always wanted to stand up for the less fortunate and vulnerable people, as my father was doing.

 

 

You may also be interested in reading this:

Coffee Chat with Catherine Anderson – The Jo Cox Foundation 

Coffee Chat with Robert Music – Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust 

Category: Mezzanine