Ruth Cigman, trustee, heal & grow, philosophy

Ruth co-founded the Cotton Tree and runs the Heal & Grow branch. She has a PhD in philosophy of music and taught for many years at UCL. Ruth has facilitated philosophical conversations in a variety of settings, with older learners, student doctors, young refugees. She runs the weekly storytelling workshop, which brings hope and friendship through stories, philosophy and food, and is author of Cherishing and the Good Life of Learning (Bloomsbury 2018).

Michael Mark, trustee, law, finance

Michael co-founded the Cotton Tree. A tribunal judge for over 18 years, he has a wide range of legal experience. He gives our members the time they need to tell their stories.

Kristine Stave, trustee

Kristine has spent the past two decades living and working in London, interspersed with time at the UN in Geneva. Since 2011 she has run Lifebox; a charity working to improve the safety of surgery in low-resource settings. 

George Goldstein, trustee, research

George has travelled extensively in his business life and is chair and co-founder of an international development NGO. He has 20 years’ experience working with economic and internally displaced migrants in Nepal.

Judith Favour Ahikiri

Judith came to the UK as an asylum seeker and is a co-founder of the Cotton Tree. She works with a refugee and asylum seeker charity and is involved with several other voluntary organisations.


Janet Gilbert, general manager

Janet began working with refugees and asylum seekers when she was the manager of a London winter night shelter for homeless people. She is a qualified ESOL teacher and holds a PhD in German. Alongside her career in research and training, she has chaired many community organisations and projects; she currently volunteers as a school governor and a playgroup committee chair.

Arnold Christo-Leigh, casework, law

Arnold came to the UK as an asylum seeker and co-founded the Cotton Tree. He uses his experience to help people facing hardships like his own and won an achievement award from the Marsh Christian Trust for outstanding service as a volunteer.

Judy Morrison, volunteer

A former administrator at London and Nottingham Trent Universities, Judy has volunteered in a primary school and a night shelter for homeless people. She works flexibly with our staff, bringing emotional and practical support to members of the Cotton Tree.

Claire Manson, heal & grow, art

Claire has worked as an art psychotherapist in the NHS and independent sector. She co-founded Studio Upstairs, a working arts studio and therapeutic space. She helps members to materialise their feelings in clay and colour, and facilitates staff reflections on complex emotional issues.

Hera Lorandos, communications, campaigning 

Hera is a communications specialist working with a number of grassroots organisations and charities that support people facing homelessness, as well as refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. 

Michael Mugishangyezi, heal & grow, school talks

Michael came to the UK as an asylum seeker and co-founded the Cotton Tree. He has extensive experience of sharing his story with others (Young Vic, Parliament, British Museum), and leads our successful schools programme.

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