Our Trustees

They are the people helping Refuge run and do our best work.

Our Board of Trustees


Appointed to the board in 2020, Hetti became Chair of Refuge’s Board of Trustees on 1st June 2020. Hetti has a career spanning British Airways, Centrica, BT and Vodafone, leading financial, commercial and transformational change, often enabled by leading edge technology. She became the CEO of Ploughshare Innovations in April 2020 and is renowned for leading cultural and commercial transformation, and her highly creative, collaborative and engaging approach with teams and partners. She is also a recognised champion for diversity, equality and inclusion.

Hetti has been an active campaigner raising awareness about domestic abuse and the criminal justice system since her best friend, Joanna Simpson, was killed by her estranged husband. Hetti is the founder and former Chair of the Joanna Simpson Foundation and was previously a Pioneer at Safe Lives.

As CEO of an organisation which is also on a high growth trajectory, and Chair of Refuge which is going through enormous change whilst seeing ever increasing demand for services, Hetti focuses her spare time enjoying long walks in the countryside with her family and the dogs.

Hetti is also a member of the People, Nomination and Remuneration Committee.

Andrea was appointed in February 2020 and has over 25 years’ experience as a senior marketing digital and insight executive, leading and embedding strategic development. With particular focus working across commercial and public boundaries for leading charter and charitable organisations. Andrea is Executive Director of digital, innovation and engagement for Keech Hospice Care and prior to this lead marketing and digital for The Royal Society of Arts, and held a senior leadership role at The British Council. Andrea is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a longstanding lecturer in data insight and customer centricity across the public sector. She holds a number of third sector positions and is Chair of Hackney Doorways. Doorways operates volunteer-run homeless night shelters in the borough under Hackney Night Shelter and opened the first all year-round shelter for women in London.

Andrea is Chair of the Services and Safeguarding Committee and a member of the Resources Committee. Andrea is also the organisation’s Whistleblowing Trustee.

Ayanna was appointed in March 2022. She is a barrister, called to the Bar in England and Wales in 2009 and in Grenada in 2010. Ayanna specialises in prosecuting and defending serious and organised crime and sexual offences. Additionally, she is frequently instructed to advise large corporations and government agencies, both in the UK and overseas, on matters relating to fraud, money laundering and regulatory compliance. Ayanna also has a busy practice representing members of regulated professions and regulators at fitness to practice hearings.

Ayanna is a member of the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn and sits on the Inn’s Scholarships Committee. She is actively involved in the Inn’s outreach work and is committed to improving access to the Bar. She is also a member of the University of Greenwich Law Forum, with a similar aim of expanding access to the legal profession. She has been a co-opted Governor at her former primary school since 2018.

Ayanna is a member of the Services and Safeguarding Committee and is the Interim Safeguarding Lead Trustee. She is also the lead Trustee for Data Protection across Refuge.

Dheepa Balasundaram was appointed in November 2021 and is a chartered accountant with over 20 years’ experience of working in organisations with a social cause. With a particular focus on developing and delivering positive change, Dheepa has worked in a range of senior roles at board level and as an executive for a range of international and national charities, including BBC Media Action, Great Ormond Street Charity, Mencap, Shelter and Breast Cancer Care.

Dheepa is Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee.

Elizabeth was appointed in 2020 and has over 35 years’ experience in the commercial property and finance industry. She is a Chartered Surveyor and is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Elizabeth serves as a non-executive director for CLS Holdings plc where she chairs the company’s Workforce Advisory Panel and is Senior NED, and also Schroder Real Estate Investment Trust.

She has a number of voluntary positions: member of the Audit committee for the Salvation Army International Trust Co, Warden of the St Olave’s and St Saviour’s charitable foundation and a Governor of the Central School of Ballet.

She has worked with a number of inner London girls’ state schools, as a mentor and Governor. She has worked in Greece on two recent occasions, volunteering for a NGO working to alleviate the suffering endured by refugees.

She has two children in their 20s, loves the Arts, gardening and Yoga.

Elizabeth is a member of the Audit and Risk Committee.

Jon Rowney is the Executive Director Corporate Services in the London Borough of Camden.

Jon has over twenty years’ experience working in local government across a range of social policy areas including housing, education, welfare and health and social care. Jon previously worked in London Councils, working with all London Boroughs, the Mayor of London, the GLA and central government on how London government could become more independent and shape services for benefit of its residents and communities.

Jon is the Treasurer for Refuge. He is Chair of the Resources Committee and a member of the Audit and Risk Committee.

Image of Dr Ruth Smith

Ruth was appointed in February 2020 and is a leading UK Board and executive coach since 2000. She has significant experience of working with womens’ groups. She is known for her work around Authentic Leadership, with a published book in 2019, as well as her Authentic Leading women’s programme which she has been leading for 10 years. Ruth is a former board member of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership (NYLEP) where she chaired the Skills Board. In addition to being a trustee for Refuge, Ruth is Chair of trustees for Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind. Ruth has 3 children.

Ruth is a member of the People, Nomination and Remuneration Committee.

Selina was appointed in December 2018 and has nearly 30 years’ experience as an international corporate lawyer and is a barrister (non-practising) and solicitor. She has a depth of experience in financial services regulation, corporate governance and focuses on environmental, social and governance (ESG) advisory matters. Selina has served as a non-executive director of a FTSE 250 company and its FCA-regulated subsidiary and also sits on a number of industry advisory boards and committees. Selina chairs her firm’s London Diversity, Talent and Inclusion and its Corporate Affairs Committees. She also co-chairs the cross-firm networking group for senior women in legal and compliance – NetworkforKnowledge and is an ambassador for the not-for-profit In their Lifetime (Christian Aid).

Selina is chair of the People, Nomination and Remuneration Committee.

Non-Trustee Committee Members:

Image of Leon Ward

Leon was appointed to the Services and Safeguarding Committee in July 2021. Leon is the Chief Executive Officer of MyBnk – the UK’s largest financial education charity. He was recently the Deputy Chair of Brook Young People and has also served on the boards of Plan UK, Leap Confronting Conflict, Interact Worldwide and he currently serves on a board committee for The Children’s Society.

Leon also published the young trustees guide and has helped numerous charity boards diversity their boards. Between 2017 and 2020 Leon was the Co-Chair of the international taskforce responsible for convening the Commonwealth Youth Forum with the UK Government.