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Nick Grono


Nick was appointed as the inaugural CEO of the Freedom Fund in January 2014. The Fund is an ambitious effort to mobilise the knowledge, capital and will needed to end modern slavery.

In its first three years of operation the Freedom Fund has worked with some 100 frontline partners around the world to directly liberate 10,900 people from slavery and return over 28,000 at risk children back to school. Overall, its programs have positively impacted the lives of over 280,000 of those most vulnerable to exploitation. And it is changing the systems that place many millions more at risk of slavery.

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Nick is also co-chair of the Jo Cox Foundation, and a board member of Girls Not Brides, the Global Partnership to End Child Marriage, and of Transparentem, an initiative to investigate abuses in supply chains.

Prior to the Freedom Fund, Nick was the inaugural CEO of the Walk Free Foundation, a leading international actor in the fight against modern slavery. And before Walk Free, Nick was the Deputy President and Chief Operating Officer of the International Crisis Group (ICG), the world’s leading conflict prevention NGO, headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, with offices in over 20 countries.

Nick is a lawyer by background and, prior to ICG, he was Chief of Staff and National Security Adviser to the Australian Attorney-General. He has a law degree with first class honours from the University of Sydney and a Master’s in Public Policy from Princeton University.

Pauline Aaron

Program Officer

Pauline Aaron joined the Freedom Fund in August 2016 as Program Officer for our Central and South-Eastern Nepal hotspots. Prior to this, she worked for Progressio, managing a DFID funded youth volunteering programme in Africa and Central America.

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Previously, Pauline was the Country Director for the Jesuit Refugee Service in Thailand, overseeing programs serving migrant workers, refugees and immigration detainees. She also spent three years with JRS in Malawi managing education and psychosocial programs in Dzaleka refugee camp.

Pauline holds a Master of Research in European Public Policy from Birkbeck, University of London. She has also worked in a number of UK based research and policy roles. As a Researcher in Middlesex Social Policy Research Centre she contributed to publications on migration policy and using community researchers to access hard to reach groups.

Dheepa Balasundaram

Director of Finance and Administration

Dheepa started as Director of Finance & Administration in November 2015. She has over fifteen years experience working for both international and national NGOs, working across Finance, Governance, Human Resources, IT and Property.

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Prior to the Freedom Fund Dheepa has held a number of senior Finance roles within the charity sector, including as Director Resources for Shelter where she was pivotal in turning the charity from a deficit position to creating investment reserves of £10m despite the challenges of the recession, which enabled the charity to invest in new services and fundraising vehicles at a time when statutory funding was being cut.

Dheepa was the first Finance Director for BBC Media Action where she transformed the finance function, bringing greater transparency and embedding a business partnering approach across the organisation.

Dheepa previously worked for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, International Planned Parenthood Federation and Mencap in the UK. She has also worked for ActionAid in Mozambique, The British Red Cross in Ethiopia and for GOAL in Kosovo.

Dheepa is currently Trustee and Treasurer at Breast Cancer Care, a Trustee of the Mencap Pension Plan and Treasurer of her local Twins' Club.

Ginny Baumann

Senior Program Officer

Ginny Baumann joined the Freedom Fund as Senior Program Officer in August 2014. She was previously Associate Director of Programs at Free the Slaves (FTS), an NGO that liberates people from slavery around the world, and enables governments, development agencies and businesses to take effective action.

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As a founding team member of Free the Slaves since 2000, Ginny has developed FTS’ country programs alongside community-based anti-slavery NGOs, especially in India, Nepal, Brazil and Ghana. She helped create its strategy for identifying, articulating and supporting locally-rooted solutions to slavery.

Before that, she worked for UK-based agencies Christian Aid, Shelter, and Quaker Social Action establishing, managing and evaluating programs of community-based development, housing, employment, conflict resolution and human rights. In the Mississippi Delta, she also carried out programs of peer mediation in schools, evaluation of after-school programs, and research on racial discrimination by banks. She taught courses on peacebuilding and on models of international development at University of Surrey, Roehampton, and University of Mississippi.

Holly Bigham

Executive Assistant and Office Manager

Holly Bigham joined the Freedom Fund as Executive Assistant and Office Manager in January 2017, providing executive support to the CEO and working closely with the Director of Finance and Administration on operations.

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Previously, Holly was Digital Content and Communications Manager at the Legatum Institute, a leading international think tank based in London. She also spent four years working in the communications and engagement department of Europe’s largest wellbeing website. Prior to that, she worked in the public affairs department of the Royal Australian Automobile Association in South Australia.

Anna de Courcy Wheeler

Senior Program Officer - Legal & Business Initiatives

Anna joined the Freedom Fund in December 2015 as Senior Program Officer on Legal and Business Initiatives. Previously she was a Senior Analyst at International Crisis Group, an international NGO committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict.

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Prior to joining Crisis Group, Anna worked for a number of human rights organisations in Africa, the UK and the United States. In New York she supported the work of the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions and held a research scholar position at Columbia University. Previously she worked for African Rights in Rwanda, focused on the 1994 genocide and its aftermath, with a particular emphasis on the prosecution of gender-based crimes.

Audrey Guichon

Senior Program Officer

Audrey joined the Freedom Fund in January 2015. Prior to this, she worked at Anti-Slavery International for 7 years where she coordinated the organisation’s programs on domestic work. She oversaw the implementation of a number of projects focusing on the situation of child and migrant domestic workers across the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

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She worked closely with local partners around the world to improve the situation of workers and to put an end to slavery in the domestic work sector; together they implemented a variety of interventions from community empowerment and unionisation to access to justice and advocacy. She led the efforts of Anti-Slavery International and its partners in the run up to the adoption of ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

Audrey has worked in academic settings at the University of Birmingham and University of Ulster and in the voluntary sector in Northern Ireland and India, focusing on peace and reconciliation as well as women’s rights. She holds a Masters in Human Rights Law from the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland.

Laura Harrington

Strategic Partnerships Manager

Laura joined the Freedom Fund in May 2014. As the Strategic Partnerships Manager, Laura engages program and fundraising staff to pursue a common partnerships strategy and provides a crucial link between the program, strategic partnerships and communication teams. Laura also works with the programs team to coordinate the Freedom Fund’s grantee network and support management of the Thailand hotspot.

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Prior to the Freedom Fund, Laura lived in Latin America for 18 months where she developed her Spanish language skills and gained , practical experience of international development and civil society in developing countries.

Laura also spent three years at The Climate Group where she coordinated a global alliance of government and corporate members as International Partnerships Manager. During her career Laura has worked for the Congressional Management Foundation in Washington D.C., the UN World Food Programme in Rome and Poder Ciudadano (Argentinian chapter of Transparency International) in Buenos Aires.

Laura has achieved an MSc Violence, Conflict and Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London and a BSc (Hons) Politics with Economics from the University of Bath. In January 2016, Laura started a two year Executive MBA at Cranfield University.

Ulrike Hellmann

Director of Strategic Partnerships

Ulrike joined The Freedom Fund in June 2016 to help grow international support for our work and build strategic relations with governments. She comes to us with more than 17 years experience shaping the external relations strategies of various high-profile UN and non-profit agencies.

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Among other things, she has led the government engagement efforts of leading conflict resolution NGOs Crisis Action and ICG, coordinated UNHCR resource mobilisation for the Horn and East Africa, worked on refugee protection and resettlement issues in UNHCR country offices in Iran and Lebanon and designed a new donor relations strategy for the WHO Regional Office for Europe in Copenhagen.

Ulrike holds an MA in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a Bachelors in Political Science and International Studies from Birmingham University.

Kate Kennedy

Managing Director, North America

Kate is an accomplished leader who has a depth of experience across private, non-profit and government sectors in developing and implementing solutions to global and local disadvantage.

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Up until December 2015, Kate led Hagar's operations from Australia. Hagar Australia supports Hagar’s international projects through funding, program oversight, regional advocacy, international capacity building and other resources.

Her executive roles have included CEO of Hagar Australia, Strategic Director of World Vision Australia, Program Director of The Pratt Foundation, Australia’s largest philanthropic trust and major consulting projects with the Australian Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the United Nations. She proudly founded professional volunteer network goodcompany in 2000 and has been non-executive director of Jesuit Publications and MacKillop Family Services, a leading Australian Catholic community agency, supporting young people who have experienced distress, disadvantage and abuse.

"In essence, I work to affect social change. I believe that it can be done through collaboration across the government, private and NGO sectors. This cooperation is vital in the face of challenges such as modern-day slavery, homelessness and poverty. A well-funded, strategic approach is essential. It takes more than good intent to facilitate lasting change."

Yuki Lo

Senior Research & Evaluation Officer

Yuki joined the Freedom Fund in June 2016. She leads our work to measure the impact of our investments in countries with the highest incidence of slavery, and drives the Fund’s support for research, evaluation, and knowledge-sharing across the broader anti-slavery community.

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Previously, Yuki was Manager of Evidence, Measurement and Evaluation at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, managing research and evaluations in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya and Tanzania. Prior to that, Yuki was at UN Women Cambodia assessing the impact of its ending violence against women and economic empowerment programmes.

Before switching to the international development sector, Yuki was in the finance industry and worked for Nomura, Lehman Brothers and Accenture. Yuki holds an MSc in Development Planning from University College London, and a BSc in Information Technology from the University of Technology, Sydney.

Erin Phelps

Strategic Partnerships Officer

Erin Phelps joined the Freedom Fund as Strategic Partnerships Officer in the New York office in May 2016. Previously, she worked with GoodWeave International, a non-profit working to end child labor in the carpet industry and other sectors.

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As Goodweave’s Strategic Initiatives Officer, she oversaw individual giving campaigns, helped to manage development strategy and partnerships and provided support to the Executive Director. She has also worked with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service on their Grassroots Mobilization Team, mobilizing communities of faith around immigrant rights and refugee resettlement-related advocacy issues.

From 2012 to 2013, Erin was the recipient of a Fulbright Student Research Grant to Nepal, where she conducted qualitative research with Nepali children and teens whose parents had migrated abroad for work. She has contributed to migration-related publications and projects through the Nepal Institute of Development Studies and IOM Nepal, and has presented her work at Tribhuvan University and the Nepal National Conference on Migration.

Erin received her BA in Sociology from Pomona College in Claremont, California, where her studies focused on immigration, transnational families, and international development. She studied with Pitzer College in Nepal and spent time working with immigrant communities in both Seattle and New York. She has also blogged for The Migrationist, a collaborative international migration blog.

Dan Vexler

Director of Programs

Dan Vexler joined the Freedom Fund as Director of Programs in June 2014. Dan oversees the Freedom Fund’s research, policy influencing and grant-making activities around the world. Dan was previously Head of Program Quality and Impact at CARE UK, an international NGO fighting global poverty and injustice. At CARE Dan oversaw programs aimed at increasing political participation and economic opportunities for people living in extreme poverty.

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Prior to joining CARE, Dan was based in Juba, South Sudan with the National Democratic Institute, where he managed an influential nation-wide public opinion research program. Before this, he was Director of Research at the International Crisis Group. Dan has been involved in a wide range of human rights, international development, and conflict prevention projects on four continents. He has lived in Kenya, South Sudan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Belgium, the UK and Canada.

Dan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University and a Master’s in International Relations from the London School of Economics.

Christopher Zoia

Communications Manager

Chris Zoia joined the Freedom Fund as Communications Manager in the New York office in October 2016. Chris is responsible for the production and promotion of the Freedom Fund’s print and digital content, including reports, website, social media, video and e-newsletters.

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Previously, Chris managed the communications of the U.S. Council for International Business, a trade association focused on international policy. Before that, he worked as a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he focused on international economics and development, and he coordinated Carnegie’s Economic Strategy Roundtable series. He has contributed to The Atlantic magazine.

Chris holds two master’s degrees, one from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and one from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago, where he double majored in political science and English.