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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 four years of operation the Freedom Fund has worked with some 100 frontline partners around the world to directly liberate 16,047 people from slavery and return over 36,231 at risk children back to school. Overall, its programs have positively impacted the lives of over 390,000 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 and the Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.

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.

Michel Agbodjinou

Senior Finance Officer

Michel Agbodjinou joined the Freedom Fund as Senior Finance Officer in December 2017. He was previously Director of Finance and Administration at Vision Aid Overseas, an international NGO fighting poverty through the development of services for uncorrected refractive error and primary eye health in poor and marginalized communities in Africa.

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At Vision Aid Overseas, he was lead on strategic financial planning for the NGO, as well as an adviser to the Chief Executive and Board on strategies to ensure that the NGO achieves its objectives within a realistic financial framework.

Before that, Michel worked for Shelter, the Salvation Army, the Fostering Network and Southwark Council in the UK.

Michel is a member of the Association of Chartered and Certified Accountants, with an extensive experience in the non-profit sector, helping organisations to improve their internal effectiveness so that they can successfully achieve their missions.

Chloé Bailey

Program Officer

Chloé Bailey joined the Freedom Fund as Program Officer in September 2017. Prior to this she worked at Global Partners Governance, a development consultancy specialising in political and institutional reform, where she managed the monitoring and evaluation of projects in the MENA region.

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In her previous role at the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Chloé conducted research and analysis for the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, developing indicators to measure human rights, rule of law and political participation in African countries. She has also worked as a Research Assistant to an MP in the UK parliament and at human rights organisation Reprieve, where she assisted with research on the legal implications on the use of drones as part of the “war on terror”.

Chloé has a legal background, with an LLM in Public International Law from King’s College London and a double degree in English Law and French Law from King’s College London and Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne.

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 to the CEO

Holly Bigham joined the Freedom Fund as Executive Assistant to the CEO 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.

Gina Dafalia

Strategic Partnerships Manager

Gina Dafalia joined the Freedom Fund in November 2016 as Strategic Partnerships Manager. She was previously Head of Communications for the Walk Free Foundation and one of the lead authors of "Slavery in Supply Chains: A Guide", a tool that outlines concrete steps for companies, businesses and governments who want to eliminate the risk of forced labour and slavery in their supply chains.

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Gina has worked for over 15 years in policy and communications for the United Nations – notably UNICEF and the World Health Organisation. One of her roles at UNICEF was to support the coordination of regional communications for children and HIV in Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Serbia working alongside stakeholders in governments and civil society. Gina also spent five years at UNICEF in London, working with global media and managing communications for corporate partnerships.

Gina started her career as a journalist and producer for Greek National Television where she travelled the world investigating, documenting and raising awareness of human rights violations.

Gina has a BA in Political Science and Italian Literature from McGill University, an MA in European Studies from University of Geneva and an MA in Communications from the London School of Economics.

Audrey Guichon

Deputy Director of Programs

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.

Kevin Groome

Program Officer

Kevin Groome joined the Freedom Fund in February 2018 as Program Officer for the central and south-eastern Nepal hotspots.

Previously, Kevin worked at the British Asian Trust where he led the Trust’s Anti-Trafficking Program which specifically focused on tackling the trafficking of children into hazardous labour and commercial sexual exploitation. He oversaw the program portfolio in India as well as its expansion into other parts of South Asia including Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

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Kevin has also worked in a number of other international development roles with UNITAR, Malaria Consortium and Gaia Education. He holds an MSc in International Politics from Trinity College Dublin.

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.

Kerry Jackson

Monitoring and Evaluation Officer

Kerry Jackson joined the Freedom Fund as Monitoring and Evaluation Officer in January 2018. Prior to this, she worked at DAI, a development sector consultancy which implements a range of projects aimed at raising living standards and enhancing long-term development across many countries in Africa and Asia.

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At DAI, Kerry managed a number of programs funded by the UK Department for International Development. Her work included managing large-scale economic development and governance programs in Ghana, Nigeria and Nepal. Country experience also includes Rwanda, Ethiopia and Nicaragua where she worked for six months for a grassroots NGO. Kerry began her career as an analyst working for an international private sector management consultancy, before moving into international development. Kerry graduated from the University of Leeds with first class honours in International Relations and is currently studying for an MSc in Applied Economics at the School of African and Oriental Studies.

Meg Kumar

Strategic Partnerships Manager

Meg joined the Freedom Fund in July 2017. She is responsible for grant management and supports relationships with institutional foundations. Prior to that she was a Consultant Development Officer for Crisis Action, an NGO that works to protect civilians in conflict, where she managed relationships with major funders in the international human rights donor community, including foundations and governments.

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Meg has a legal background and has supported research in international criminal law and international human rights law at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and as a Research Assistant for an Associate Professor of International Law at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. She began her career as a banking and finance lawyer and holds a Master's in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Oxford.

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.

Sarah Mount

Senior Program Officer

Sarah joined the Freedom Fund in March 2018. Sarah has over ten years experience in human rights and legal project management in Asia, Africa and Australia. Most recently, Sarah worked for three years at Anti-Slavery International as the Asia Program Manager. In this role, Sarah worked in partnership with local organisations on projects focused on improving safe migration and preventing human trafficking and forced labour of migrant construction and domestic workers and on addressing bonded labour in the agricultural and brick kiln sectors.

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Sarah has also lived and worked in India and in Australia, working both in human rights and indigenous land rights. She is a qualified Australian solicitor and holds a Bachelors degree in Law (Honours) and Arts from Monash University Australia as well as a Masters in Public and International Law (Honours) from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Erin Phelps

Strategic Partnerships Manager

Erin Phelps is Strategic Partnerships Manager in the Freedom Fund’s New York office. She joined the Fund in May 2016. Previously, she served as Strategic Initiatives Officer for GoodWeave International, a non-profit working to end child and forced labour in the carpet industry and other sectors. She has also worked with several U.S. organizations serving immigrant communities, including designing and organising Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service’s first Refugee Leadership Academy.

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Erin is a 2012 recipient of the 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, guest lectured at Tribhuvan University and presented at the Nepal National Conference on Migration. She has also been a regular contributor to The Migrationist, a collaborative international migration blog.

Erin received her BA in Sociology from Pomona College in Claremont, California, and completed courses in Nepali studies and language with Pitzer College in Nepal.

Cat Townley

Team Assistant and Office Manager

Cat Townley joined the Freedom Fund as Team Assistant and Office Manager in April 2018, providing support to the Executive Assistant to the CEO and the programs team.

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Previously, Cat worked at a Technology firm as their Human Resources Manager. Prior to that she worked in Los Angeles in a rehabilitation centre for survivors of human trafficking and also worked for a pregnancy crisis centre. She is currently completing a Master’s Degree in International Law.

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 and grant-making activities around the world, including its seven hotspot programs in regions of high prevalence of slavery. 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 led research on a range of issues on four continents. He holds degrees from McGill University and the London School of Economics.

Hannah de Ville

Senior Program Officer

Hannah de Ville joined the Freedom Fund as Senior Program Officer in September 2017 for our Central and South-Eastern Nepal Hotspots.

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Hannah brings a wide range of country experience, having been based in Nepal, Ethiopia and Sudan. She has worked for several INGOs - Plan International, Mercy Corps, International Alert and Human Rights Watch - on a large cross-section of issues, including protection of children, peacebuilding, civil society capacity building, humanitarian relief and international justice. Hannah holds a Masters degree in human security and conflict resolution from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a Bachelors degree in international politics from Barnard College at Columbia University.

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.

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