From Academia to Advocacy

Connected spoke to Reading graduate, Melanie Khuddro, who has transformed her passion for community into a force for social change – helping refugees and asylum seekers.

Melanie joined the University of Reading in 2012 as a History undergraduate and continued on to complete a masters and a PhD, before becoming a Research Fellow. Melanie has made her roots in Reading and now with her non-profit organisation, Resettlement, she is helping others call Reading home too.

Committed to community

Reflecting on her time at Reading, Melanie said:  “When I first joined I felt a little bit lost – I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or which modules to pick. The history department really helped me to realise what I enjoyed and what I was good at, because you need that mix.

“I grew more confident during my postgraduate years as I found my groove. The history department and the town became my home – I loved it so much that I didn’t want to leave.”

Graduating in 2023 with a PhD, Melanie is now a Research Fellow at the University of Reading. But it was during the thick of her studies when she was inspired to start Resettlement. Melanie explained: “I launched Resettlement during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was sat at home writing my thesis and I started to question if it was useful to anyone, beyond the importance of my degree.”

This realisation, combined with her personal connection to the refugee crisis, sparked her decision to take action. Melanie shared: “I had family who were displaced in Syria and were reaching out to me for help. I was living on my own, with a spare room to host someone. I spoke to charities, solicitors and local MPs but the bottom line was ‘we can’t do anything.’”

Pathway to change

Pathways is a term used by organisations and charities to encompass the varying options available to support refugees and asylum seekers. Pathways can include schemes such as community schemes and resettlement schemes which enable refugees to apply for work, study, and to reunite with family, and safely move to another country other than their country of origin or asylum. There are also pathways that assist asylum seekers in the process of applying for refugee status – once a person has refugee status they are then able to apply for work or to study in the UK.

Melanie’s Resettlement organisation helps many of those refugees who are unable to receive support through traditional pathways. Melanie explained: “You have to meet certain criteria for pathways and there are lots of nationalities which don’t meet that criteria. This means that one of the very few ways to come to the UK is by boat. You’re then protected by the UN Conventions on Human Rights and you can claim asylum once you arrive in England – but it’s incredibly dangerous.”

“Pathways are key in immigration control. It’s important to know who comes in and out of the country, and pathways help provide that vital information.” For Melanie, helping those without access to support through pathways was a key concern. She said:

“I found all these issues with the pathways and although I knew I couldn’t change the world, I could do something.

“We started asking charities how we could help and we found there was a huge problem with refugees and homelessness. Asylum seekers are housed in hotels until they get their refugee status, then they are kicked out – leaving them homeless. The council struggle to help rehome refugees because of the housing crisis.

“So that’s where we decided to focus our efforts – we would help people get housing and get on their feet.”

Resettlement helps refugees in a variety of ways. Melanie explained: “Over the winter we helped run night shelters which were hosted in various Reading churches. We had a team of volunteers and a voluntary team leader, who would stay the night and cook dinner for everyone. We also ran emergency respite services throughout the winter as people often get sick from being out in the cold.

“It’s really special work. One of my favourite things we do is organise day trips for children housed in hotels.”

Melanie works alongside University of Reading student, Josmi Saji, at Resettlement. Josmi is one of the lead volunteers from the night shelters and  was nominated for the recent Celebration of Volunteering Awards. Melanie said: “Josmi is a second year Law student at Reading and is the youngest person we have volunteering with us. She is amazing – her unfaltering commitment to support her community has been an essential component to the success of the shelter.”

Challenges and triumphs

Melanie shared that launching a non-profit organisation during a global pandemic was not without its challenges. But despite the initial hurdles, Resettlement quickly found its footing.

Melanie said: “What it boiled down to was meeting with other charities and asking what they needed help with. You start to support each other and eventually you get to know how you can help people and find your niche.

“Going into it I thought I needed to know a lot more and have more experience – but actually it’s amazing how much experience you accumulate without realising.”

One standout moment for Melanie was witnessing the transformation of Asma, a former asylum seeker who now works with Resettlement. Melanie remembered: “The day she got her refugee status and said she’d be happy to work with us was amazing. She’s brought so much life to our team and to meetings that can lack the voice of lived experience.”

Melanie’s advice to those considering volunteering or starting their own charity is straightforward: “Just go for it, what’s the worst that can happen? Even if you only help one person, you have still helped one person.”

Looking ahead

Resettlement continues to make a significant impact on the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in Reading. Their current project, a long-term housing solution, aims to provide six-month tenancies with comprehensive support to help individuals transition to independent living.

Melanie said: “The idea is to give them the tools such as English lessons and employment support with the goal of getting them on their feet and privately renting completely independently.”

Resettlement is hosting a free event in celebration of World Refugee Day at Greyfriars Church in Reading, on Thursday 20 June, from 4:00-9:00pm. The event will include an exhibition where attendees will be able to purchase artwork produced by refugees, as well as performances by refugees who have come together to make the event possible. Register to attend.   

If you’re interested in volunteering or want to share your volunteering story with us, please contact us at

To find out more about Resettlement, or for advice or information, please email directly.