Founders Isatta & Sam Kallon – we are each other’s keepers.
In 1999, Sierra Leone and Kosovo were both in a state of civil war. Isatta and Sam Kallon were both affected, having to flee Sierra Leone to safety. Whilst in Plymouth, Isatta saw the need of Kosovan families who had been through a similar experience, albeit in another region of the world, and decided, with her husband, to do something about it.
They rallied with others in the city and created the Masiande Centre – pronounced Ma-sian-de, this is a word from the Limba language of the Limba people of Sierra Leone and means ‘We are each other’s keepers.’ Working from their living room for the first few years and then gathering enough funding, thanks to a lottery fund grant and support from the local community, to move to an office building and pay a few staff.
The need for the centre in the city was stronger than ever, with Plymouth becoming a dispersal city and racial tensions growing due to the events of 9/11.
On the 27th of April 2002, Sam Kallon sadly passed away from complications of cancer. The centre was hit hard with this news as Sam and Isatta were the epicentre. Through all the adversity, however, Isatta continued on as a board member, developing the centre to charity status in 2009, and changing the name to Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support.
Isatta continued to develop her relationships in the city around community-based projects and now works with families and children for the Red Cross, including asylum seekers and refugees.
Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support continues the Kallon family legacy of Masiande. To promote and nurture independence; prevent destitution and encourage integration through community cohesion, with those who need it most in the city of Plymouth.
Trustee John Shinner retires after two decades of service
In 1999, the Home Office started sending asylum seekers to Devonport, Plymouth. The Kallons’ were living there at the time – and with lived experience of being refugees – realised they could help people to navigate the British immigration system as asylum seekers. When they couldn’t cope with the numbers of people needing their help, the Kallons approached their church minister. The churches in Plymouth united to provide support. John’s wife, Margaret, attended the first meeting of the Masiande Centre and then told John about it, who joined as Treasurer in 2000. Sam taught John about the asylum process and an office was set up in the historic King Street Wesleyan Methodist church, moving to our current location in 2004.
In his role as treasurer, John was particularly successful at promoting the vital work of the centre and fundraising – but most importantly he served as the glue for DCRS through some of the most difficult years, before finally retiring in 2021. In his words, “I just enjoyed being here as a good Christian. My best moment is when an asylum seeker comes in to see they have their status and then going on to becoming a British citizen … creating hope so that others can see a future.”