We spoke to Renae Mann, Executive Director of Services at the Refugee Council and part of our London Landmarks Half Marathon running team, about the challenges of her role and how she approaches self-care in the face of tragedy.
Renae Mann has a lot of knotty questions to work out. As Executive Director of Services she’s responsible for over 200 staff and 300 volunteers, working with people seeing asylum and refugees as they begin to rebuild their lives in the safety of the UK.
Renae pounds the pavement in the dark most mornings and runs in the park during daylight at the weekends. She says that running clears her head, it is a place to work through dilemmas, tune out to music, or tune in to new ideas by listening to books. “I love a long run surrounded by green spaces,” she says.
She was delighted to be given the opportunity to run for the Refugee Council as part of the London Landmarks Half Marathon Team, so helping to raise money to support our work—and the route, across Tower Bridge and along the Thames, is stunning.
“Running grounds me; it’s where I work through knotty questions and dilemmas.”
Supporting refugees can be difficult, especially for those who may have been through this situation themselves in the past. “This is challenging work,” Renae explains. “Bearing witness to the dehumanising and often brutal experiences that drove people to seek safety in the UK and while seeking sanctuary or settling in the UK can be harrowing, especially as many of our people have lived experience of that same journey.”
She sees her role being to enable her team to reflect on that experience, the privilege and the pain, so that they can focus on what refugees and people seeking asylum need us to achieve with them while maintaining their wellbeing.
“I’m immensely proud of our team and their determination to welcome people and create a more just, humane and effective refugee protection system in the UK,” she says.
When asked about her reasons for running the half marathon, Renae says:
“People seeking refugee protection in the UK are our neighbours. They face a complex and often dehumanising treatment as they seek safety for them and their families. It is important to seeking refugee protection is a process that people have to go through secure their safety but it is not who they are.
They share the same hopes as you and me, to create a safe, fulfilling life for themselves and their families. Everyday, I see people in our cities and towns come together to welcome people who have fled war and conflict to their neighbourhoods and support them to rebuild their lives in the UK, I invite you to join us.”
If you would like to join the team and support our work creating a more just, humane and effective asylum system in the UK, then register your interest to join us in London on 7 April 2024 as part of the London Landmarks Half Marathon running team.