28 Jun 2021
Dami, 27, who co-founded the organisation in 2019 with Chrisann Jarrett, intends to study for a psychology degree. She will be leaving We Belong at the end of September 2021 to embark on a foundation course, ahead of starting her undergraduate degree in 2022. Chrisann, co-founder and co-CEO of We Belong, will continue in that post on a solo basis after Dami's departure - with additional operational support - and the organisation's focus on creating young leaders and promoting migrants' rights will be unchanged.
We Belong appointed its new board chair, Colin Falconer, in January 2021, who is founder of InspireChilli, and known for his expertise in youth issues. We Belong currently has a staff team of five, and is about to appoint its first immigration case worker, and expand its outreach work into Manchester, with the appointment of a second outreach officer. Already this year, We Belong has featured in a BBC Panorama documentary, continued to make progress after appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee at the end of 2020, and won two prestigious awards.
It could not be more fitting that Dami, as the co-founder of a charity which has its roots in campaigning for equal access to university for migrants, is leaving to follow her own educational and career ambitions - and able to do so because of the successes of her and Chrisann’s first-ever campaign together, Let Us Learn, which led them to establish We Belong in 2019.
The board, staff and members of We Belong wish Dami Makinde every possible success as she steps down from her post as co-CEO of the organisation to follow her long-deferred educational dreams.
Colin Falconer, chair of We Belong's board of trustees, says:
'We are absolutely thrilled for Dami that she is now ready to start the next chapter by returning to her studies. We are confident she will bring as much passion, commitment and insight to being a student as she brought to championing young migrants. We Belong is going from strength to strength thanks in large part to Dami's work, and we know it will continue to flourish under its co-founder Chrisann Jarrett, who continues as CEO.'
'I am nervous and excited. It was a difficult decision to make to step down from We Belong - I cried over it - but I know this is the right time for me to have a change of pace. I am looking forward to learning again in an educational setting, alongside other students. My degree is just the start. If everything works out for me, I want to go on to do a psychology master's and then a PhD. My ultimate ambition is to create a consultancy which combines an understanding of psychology with social activism.'
Dami paid tribute to fellow co-founder and co-CEO of We Belong, Chrisann Jarrett:
'I know Chrisann will do a fabulous job of continuing to lead We Belong. I have learned so much from working alongside her and have no doubt she will take the organisation to the next level. I wish her and the rest of the team every joy and happiness, and hope they go on to achieve more than they could ever dream of, helping more and more young people. '
''It is sad for me to see Dami go - but I am very happy for her. I have a great staff team and with such a supportive and engaged board, I know We Belong will continue to thrive and continue its vital work of ensuring the voices of young migrants are heard and their rights protected.’
Dami was 21 and in limbo when she first contacted Just for Kids Law's Let us Learn campaign in 2015, after her plans for university were derailed (Let us Learn was the forerunner of We Belong). Despite getting good A-level grades, she was caught out by a legal change in 2012, which denied anyone with 'limited leave to remain' from receiving a student loan, and classing them as 'international students', even though they had grown up in the UK.
Dami's involvement with Let us Learn coincided with planning for its first major campaign, and she rapidly took on a pivotal role, alongside Chrisann in rallying support for the Tigere Supreme Court challenge to the 2012 law change. Dami and Chrisann helped to mobilise other young migrants and spoke to the media outside the court after the ruling in Let us Learn's favour was handed down. The court ruled that a blanket ban on anyone with 'limited leave to remain' from receiving a student loan was unlawfully discriminatory and must be changed. Thousands of young migrants who would otherwise have been blocked from university have been able to continue their education as a result.
Dami became Let us Learn's project worker in 2015, before going on to co-found We Belong two years' ago.
'The Tigere Supreme Court case was pivotal to everything else that has happened. Without that case in 2015, We Belong would likely not exist; and even now, I still wouldn't be eligible for a student loan or able go to university. I have grown so much in maturity, knowledge and wisdom in the last six years because of this work. I now want to get my degree and use that to help people in other ways. I am ready to pass on the We Belong baton.'