As Refugee Support transitions to a new CEO, we are saying a fond farewell to our co-founder and outgoing Chief Executive, Paul Hutchings. Along with John Sloan, Paul founded the organisation back in 2016, providing an opportunity for action to countless people across the UK, Europe and beyond who were saddened and angered by governmental failures to protect refugees in the wake of the escalating war in Syria.
As the organisation developed, we achieved so much in the seven years that followed, supporting more than 50,000 people—many of them for more than a year—at some of the most difficult times in their lives, showing solidarity and offering a sense of normality as well as providing essential material items like food and clothing.
To express our deep admiration and gratitude for Paul, we’ve compiled some comments from our community:
I wanted to thank you not only for always trusting in me to be a part of this incredible organisation but, most of all, for building it and maintaining it. You have taught me much about focus, transparency, empathy and being brave enough to constantly question and adapt. Your leadership has been key to getting to this point and I have personally learned so much just by staying close and paying attention. – Frederica Cerqueira, Volunteer Ambassador
Paul, I’ve been lucky enough to know you for a couple of decades, as a colleague, supplier, client and friend. In every role you’ve been inspirational, insightful, supportive, compassionate, positive, supremely pragmatic and very very funny. It’s been amazing to watch the evolution of Refugee Support, it’s an incredible organisation with outstanding people, doing a vital job. It’s always such a pleasure to work with you, and I can’t wait to see what you do next! – Alison Lyon-Behrens, Trustee
What a fantastic organisation you and John launched and what a great job you’ve done since. So sorry to see you stepping back but RSE will survive, not least because of all you have done. Thank you for everything. – Madeline Holder, Volunteer Ambassador
Paul (and John), you changed my life and helped me see a different perspective on many things. Paul, your humility but kind firmness, ability to understand people’s needs and deliver them with humanity are things I admire. Rachel is stepping into big shoes but she is clear-thinking and understands Refugee Support. I’m sure she has the ability to move the charity forward. – Bea Shrewsbury, Trustee
While it’s difficult to imagine Refugee Support without seeing you and John front and centre, the heart of the organisation, I’ve no doubt that the amazing work ye have done in setting up RSE and the leadership you have shown to bring it to where it is will ensure its future success. Your commitment and dedication to the acknowledgement and preservation of every individuals right to dignity is a testimony to the kind, compassionate and amazing human being that you are. Thank you for all that you have done. – Gerry Clancy, Volunteer Ambassador
Paul, your unwavering dedication to the well-being of migrants has always been an inspiration to me. Your passion and commitment are evident in your work, and your positive attitude is great example for us to follow and helps me to stay on course. – Summer Koplin, Senior Coordinator
Paul, you have put in a Herculean shift. You also have a duty to yourself and family. So look after yourself, mate. Whoever takes over will be inheriting a top-notch, professionally run humanitarian organisation: a team effort that’s been mainly down to you. – Bob Maddams, Volunteer Ambassador
Tough decision, Paul, but sounds like the right time for you. What you have done is amazing—so many people and their families have benefitted. So many volunteers have had life-changing experiences, including me—for which I’m eternally grateful. What a legacy. – Mel Hughes, Volunteer Ambassador
Your retirement will be a sad day for Refugee Support, Paul. I came to Alexandreia at Easter 2017 for a few weeks. It was so well managed and I learned a lot. So much so that two years ago when some Afghan families were evacuated to a hotel near me, I borrowed the RSE model of setting up little ‘shops’ for the distribution of clothing, where the families could come in turn to make their own choices in peace and quiet. Now in my mid-70s I no longer travel abroad to volunteer but in 2017 set up a support group in the town where I live. We work with settled families in the area, mostly Afghans and Syrians, and with asylum seekers in two local hotels. – Penny Halpin, volunteer and supporter
Thanks for the energy and love you’ve put into the organisation, Paul, and the impact it has had—and continues to have—on so many people’s lives. And thank you for modelling a healthier relationship to vocation and care & compassion for oneself (which is sadly lacking in our sector, and many others). Very dignified. – Natalie Holmes, Communications & Fundraising Director and Volunteer Ambassador
Well done Paul, you’ve achieved such incredible things for your organisation and for the thousands of refugees lives you have changed and bought dignity and compassion to. Wishing you good things for whatever comes next. – Donna Amanda, community member
All the very best to you, Paul. Refugee Support as been such an inspiration to me in my work with refugees locally. – Julie Blunt, community member