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A pivotal moment for KarmaBank was hearing something from an Iranian refugee doctor that made us realise the importance of making our work more sustainable.

Charity can be a lifesaver, especially in emergencies when someone comes to a foodbank literally without shoes, and we luckily have a pair of donated boots. Or a refugee arrives at our welcome space traumatised and in need of urgent counselling and we can either provide access to a volunteer therapist on the spot or refer them to another agency.

But then we spoke with the Iranian GP who had to flee her country, and spent over a year in camps, who told us that she truly appreciated the charity she had received, but the effects of a meal or donated clothes were short-lived.

At the end of each day “the walls of my tiny room close in again, and I feel alone and scared and depressed.

It’s a cycle that so many of the people we support go through, and it can seem an impossible task to find a solution before someone reaches the end of what they can stand.

Many passionate community groups, charities and partners are dedicated to strategies that can lift people up and provide the basics of a good life: Hope and a sense of Purpose.

Hope drives people forward to wanting to achieve more for themselves and for others.

This is why we formed Karmabank – to be a tool for truly sustainable, meaningful change, driven by the people who are in the best place to do it: the people we support.

Our core strategy is based on the old saying that it is better to give someone a fishing rod than just the fish, and we do that through treating each person we meet as unique individuals, with unique needs.

The Iranian GP helped us to realise we need to think of those we help as unique individuals with unique pain and problems to solve, not a faceless group we can easily label.

We now find equally passionate partners to help us realise a plan that meets these unique needs:

An Afghan judge and winner of a humanitarian medal who escaped after hiding from the Taliban, came to us devastated that her life’s work to protect women and girls was now lost. We connected her with the Human Rights Law department at SOAS to continue her life’s work and to teach students there about her experiences.

A young Ukrainian girl who arrived traumatised from the ongoing Russian attack on her country found some relief through helping Ukrainian, Afghan & Iranian female artists to join our Nourish Makers’ Market Art stall project. We found her a tutor to help her train for the SATs so she can attend a top University to study psychology.

A young homeless autistic man who came to a foodbank wanted to take photographs. So we gave him a camera, invited him to film the world from his perspective. We arranged for him to meet and learn from an artist, and encouraged him to share his photos in a gallery.

For a group of elderly women who enjoy art, we found a space for them to meet weekly for watercolour painting.

The Iranian GP has now become one of our key coordinators – finding her happiness through helping others find a route out of their traumas.

All our projects are driven by the people that come to us, entirely “bottom up”.

Our skills are to use our creative skills and humanitarian experience to make those dreams a reality.

And to inspire and energise our wide network of volunteers, cooperating partner organisations, private companies, sponsors, and local government to help us inject some much needed hope into our communities:

One human at a time.

KarmaBank Co-Design Zone

”If the world was designed better we wouldn’t need support.” (Founder, Disability Action Network)

Creating music, cooperating on a new project, sharing the load:  Life is better when we design it together.

The best projects start from “bottom up”: listening to diverse lifestyles and different abilities, especially from those we aim to support. For an athlete in a wheelchair navigating a world without fully accessible transport or bathrooms, or a refugee mum with an autistic child who came across a rough sea in a small boat, or an elderly pensioner unable to afford life without access to a foodbank,, Necessity is the Mother of Invention: the people we support have “lived experience” of developing creative ways to survive, and often know best what they need. They just lack the resources & network to develop and implement sustainable solutions.

So how do we do it?

Design Thinking

  1. Listen. We don’t start with an idea, and try to make it fit. We start from scratch each time, crafting a fresh solution to a unique individual or requirement.
  2. Identify issues. What is the core issue out of everything presented? Is there an emergency or urgent need to triage first? What are the long term objectives? How can we ensure a person feels actualised and worthy?
  3. Ideate/brainstorm solutions that meet the core needs and objectives – even blue sky or way out of the box ideas can provide the creativity needed for crafting a practical plan to resolve seemingly impossible situations.
  4. Make a Prototype – the distillation of the process into a realistic and achievable plan of action. The simplest prototype is a sheet of A4 and a pen.
  5. Test the solution. Doesn’t work out as planned? Start again at step 1, rinse & repeat.

When we are asked for support, or to consult on a project or event, KarmaBank applies the 5-step Design Thinking Method:

Most projects are in a constant flow of adaptation, pivoting, improvement, learning by doing and trial by error. Sustainable change doesn’t happen at once, and it may take a few cycles before something sticks. Along with passion, we have lots of patience too 🙂

It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world.

Mary Wollstonecraft

Our philosophy?

Participatory or Communal Justice: Bring everyone in on designing a better future for all – one that is truly “Just”, without leaving people out.

You, KarmaBank, our volunteers, local residents, local “stakeholders” (shop owners, nurses, gardeners, teachers, kids), councils, other organisations, private corporations, funders…we all have something to contribute to shaping constructive and positive spaces that sustain everyone equally.

Charity is a wonderful thing, but top down charity is a thing of the past – we help each other best together.

A just society is a society that if you knew everything about it, you’d be willing to enter it in a random place.

John Rawls

Our Services

KarmaBank is a consultant and developer of creative projects that produce positive and sustainable impact in various ways. Projects don’t always meet expectations, which wastes funding, time and resources. To tackle this:

• We facilitate cooperative networks between organisations to maximise local resources – funding, volunteers, donations, logistics, spaces, trainers – which help projects deliver what they hope to.
• We work in close collaboration with a diverse range of artists and cultural institutions. We conceptualise creative programmes that benefit marginalised and vulnerable voices and provide a platform for artworks on issues that matter.
• We design spaces and wellness programmes that respond to local needs, whether relief services for new refugees, or ongoing outreach and support services for local communities.

Above all, we believe in the beauty of Action taken with Care, Consideration, and Compassion.

Contact us for more information, or to schedule a consultancy here

Any action done with beauty and purity, and in complete harmony of body, mind and soul, is Art.”

(B.K.S. Iyengar)

Meet The Team

We're an award-winning multidisciplinary team based in Philadelphia with a passion for creating innovative architecture. We work with businesses and people to create a more beautiful world.

“Alex was there every step of the way and brought my vision further than I could have imagined!”

Josh MargolisFounder of DAF
CEO & Founder, Head of London Operations

Andrew Standen-Raz

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COO & Founder, Head of Hastings Operations

Rima Sams

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Executive Director

Marilena De Vita

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Non-Executive Director, Legal Advisor for Refugee Affairs

Gulsom Gohar

As a paralegal at Bevan Brittan LLP, Gulsom currently supports the employment team with employment matters.
Gulsom has been working as a Prosecutor and investigator of violence against women an child abuses at General Attorney of Afghanistan where she investigated and handled cases related to women murders, rape, forced marriage, child marriage, sexual harassment in a workplace, and child abuse.

As a paralegal at Bevan Brittan LLP, Gulsom supports the employment team with employment matters, drafting documents during tribunal proceedings of cases, and document management, as well as liaising with clients and other parties. Gulsom is passionate about pursuing justice and fairness for the people she represents. 

Gulsom has a bachelor’s degree in criminal law from Balkh University of Afghanistan. There she gained a solid foundation of the legal system, human rights, and international law, as well as expertise in criminal legal systems of Afghanistan and procedure of criminal cases in the Court.

Gulsom has been working as a Prosecutor and investigator of violence against women an child abuses for over five years, at General Attorney of Afghanistan in the Northern part of Afghanistan, where she investigated and handled cases related to women murders, rape, forced marriage, child marriage, sexual harassment in a workplace, and child abuse.

Non-Executive Director, Lead for Partnerships

Mark Hjaltun

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Non-Executive Director, Head of Education and Professional Development

Rhonda Borrel-Chafin

Rhonda is a qualified tutor who has created and delivered adult education courses within various charities. Within KarmaBank Rhonda is focusing on community engagement and development of educational and digital skills for our members.

Rhonda is a qualified and experienced ESOL tutor who has created and delivered adult education courses (in English, Maths and ICT) within West London based charities for more than 10 years. 
She has been working with KarmaBank since August 2022 primarily focusing on community engagement and development of educational and digital skills for our members.  
Non-Executive Director, Volunteer Coordination

Celia Wilson

Celia studied social policy at Sussex University, trained as a youth justice worker and managed integrated children and family services in local government. She joined the new Women's Equality Party's start-up team, and works for Girlguiding, leading innovation.

Celia studied social policy at Sussex University, trained as a youth justice worker and managed integrated children and family services in local government. She joined the new Women’s Equality Party’s start-up team, and works for Girlguiding, leading innovation. She cares passionately about equality, and is a consistent champion of change for the better.

Ambassador for Sports and Performance

Ayuna Berbidaeva

Since becoming a wheelchair user, Ayuna trained as a para triathlete, and continues to develop herself in all possible directions. Ayuna climbed Mount Munku-Sardyk, as part of a 12 day expedition in a modified wheelchair. She joined the UK's first all-wheelchair contemporary dance company and is currently taking part in the Young Creatives Programme.

At 16, Ayuna suffered an inflammation of the spinal cord and lost sensation in half of her body. Since becoming a wheelchair user, Ayuna trained as a para triathlete, and continues to develop herself in all possible directions.

In 2021, Ayuna climbed Mount Munku-Sardyk, as part of a 12 day expedition in a modified wheelchair.

In 2022, Ayuna worked as an assistant with Louise Katerega in Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, she joined Propel, the UK’s first all-wheelchair contemporary dance company and is currently taking part in the Young Creatives Programme by One Dance UK.

In 2023, she added surfing competitions to her resume, and is the spokesmodel for a new gyroscopic mobility scooter.

Advisor, Digital & Brand Strategy

Anastasia Lisitskaya

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Advisor, Web Development and Design

Markus Freise

As a creative entrepreneur, Markus has been involved with countless aspects of creativity, running a successful design agency, selling his illustrations, and publishing graphic novels.

As a creative entrepreneur, Markus has been involved with countless aspects of creativity, running a successful design agency, selling his illustrations, and publishing graphic novels.

Art Consultant

Caroline Burraway

Multidisciplinary artist Caroline Burraway has been responding to the refugee crisis since 2015, gathering research from camps across Europe to produce mixed-media installations, large-scale drawings, sculptures and videos that highlight the severity of the humanitarian emergency. Burraway looks to provoke a humanistic response to the issues of displacement and dispossession in our compassion-fatigued world.

Caroline seeks to raise awareness and encourage conversation around socio-political issues and to provoke a humanitarian response to the twin issues of displacement and dispossession.

Her body of work is, in many ways, a form of protest and also a call to arms. A counterforce to the new wave of right wing populists making headway in Europe. Their politics of fear grows fat on images of refugees arriving from distant lands, speaking polluting tongues, worshipping dangerous gods.

https://www.cburraway.co.uk/