Empowering the Future

Our Team

Meet the team of Trustees of Friends of Conakry Reliance School Charity

Rolf Levesley

Chair Of Trustees

About Rolf

I am a retired solicitor and was a local authority Chief Executive prior to retirement. I was chair of Housing Plus Group- a registered housing association- for several years and I am now senior independent director at Trent and Dove housing association. I have held non-executive directorships with Shropshire Community Health Trust and West Mercia police  standards committee.

 My involvement with FCRS began when I supported the charity in a variety of ways until my wife Pauline and I were invited over one Saturday morning for coffee at Ruth and Mark’s house at a time when formal charitable status was being sought in 2008 The Charity needed a Chair and I have held the post since that time and Pauline became Treasurer.

Jackie Watkins


About Jackie

I graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Politics Philosophy and Economics and taught for many years in London before moving to Shropshire with my husband, and starting a family. While my daughters were young I set up Shipton Preschool, a registered charity, where I volunteered and taught for several years. As my daughters grew up I re-entered education, gaining a Masters in International Development focusing on Development Management. I began to volunteer for FCRS in 2009 and was made a Trustee in 2011 spent four years as Director from July 2014 to July 2018 took a 4 year break then returned to the post in 2022.

Angie Saganowska


About Angie

My background is in social care and health in the West Midlands area, I am retired after working as a Local Authority director of social services as well as a director of social care in an NHS mental health Trust. I’ve been a non-executive director on the board of Shropshire Community NHS Trust as well as acting as an independent ‘hospital manager’ reviewing detained patients with a mental health diagnosis at S Staffs and Shropshire Partnership NHS Partnership Trust. I’ve lived in Shropshire for 20 years although I see myself as a Brummie with a Polish heritage ! I spend quite a bit of time in Poland which is my second home. I have always had a keen interest in communities which are excluded from society and particularly on the impact this has on children and young people.

Pauline Levesley


About Pauline

I have had a variety of occupations including youth worker, University lecturer, full time mother, and parish clerk but in 1993 I became Company Director and Finance Officer for The Severn Gorge Countryside Trust, a registered charity and company limited by guarantee which manages much of the countryside in the Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale World Heritage Site. Tanya Walmsley is a close friend of my daughter Kate and we heard a great deal about Conakry Reliance School when she returned from Guinea. We were very impressed with the work Ruth and Mark were doing to raise money for the school. Just as I was about to retire I was asked to be Treasurer.

Ruth Walmsley

Founding Trustee

About Ruth

I was born and educated in London, trained as a secretary and worked at the World Service and Television News at the BBC for some time. I then lived and worked abroad, travelling the length and breadth of South America throughout my twenties. I married a Canadian in 1972 and moved to Canada for several years. I worked at a Group Home for teenagers who had grown up in care homes, helping them adapt to the ‘outside world’ and employment. We returned to the UK, eventually settling in Shropshire in 1979. We have three daughters and now three granddaughters.
In 1990 I trained as a holistic massage therapist and ran a private clinic for 18 years.
In 2004 daughter Tanya travelled through West Africa and volunteered at Conakry Refugee School. She was passionate about the young refugees and the teachers at the school but couldn’t help them pay rent to keep it open.
My husband and I stepped in to help and continued to raise money for the school before becoming the registered charity it is today. After retirement I spent much of my time working to support the 500 pupil school, visiting the school twice with Tanya. I retired as Director of FCRS in 2014 but continue as a Trustee. I was awarded an MBE in 2016 for my work as founder and director of FCRS.

Tanya Walmsley

Founding Trustee

About Tanya

From 2004-2005 I spent 16 months in West Africa heading gradually to Guinea to offer support as a volunteer at Conakry Refugee School – who I’d found out about whilst in the UK. During my time at the school, the teachers and students gradually and courageously shared their experiences and journeys as refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia and the struggle to maintain the school and continue to provide education to the refugee community. The foundations for Friends of Conakry Refugee School started here; as a community in the UK came together, led by my mother – Ruth – to fundraise for the school and keep it open. When I left the school, I took a journey of ‘reversed displacement’ from Conakry to Freetown, to the refugee camps in Southern Guinea and on to Monrovia – to better understand and experience this perilous journey. My life as a humanitarian aid worker continued from here and I have continued to work with displaced communities in Africa, the Middle East and Ukraine. I was fortunate to continue work in West Africa, allowing me to return to Conakry regularly to visit the school. The students I taught in 2004 are now long grown up; some even went on to become teachers or went on to university. I am immensely proud and grateful for the continued strength and determination of the CRS community.

Jana Kaminski


About Jana

I was born and spent the first 18 years of my life in North Shropshire. After leaving school, I studied for a degree in Social Policy and Administration and then went on to qualify as a Social Worker. I am now retired but the whole of my working life was spent in social work, specialising in safeguarding and child protection.
I remain committed to the aim of enabling all children, but particularly children from disadvantaged backgrounds and marginalised communities, to have a safe and enjoyable childhood and to access opportunities to learn, develop and thrive.
I was fortunate to be able to undertake a visit to Conakry Refugee School with Angela Saganowska in 2018. I was impressed by the quality of the education and by the excellent support provided for the students in a safe and inclusive environment.
I was pleased to be appointed as a trustee for FCRS in December 2021.

Jeanette Whitford


About Jeanette

“After graduating from Leeds and London universities my career was spent in Probation in various places around England and Wales. I spent half my career as a Probation Officer and then went into management, becoming Chief Officer of Dyfed Probation Service, and then Chief Officer of the newly created Avon and Somerset Probation Area. After retiring I undertook interim CEO roles in Northamptonshire and Wiltshire Probation Areas, and also delivered criminal justice training in Turkey and in Bulgaria. I was a Lay Member for the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s Fitness to Practice Panels for 8 years, hearing cases across the UK. I have been a trustee for a number of charities – Great Western Air Ambulance Charity, the Butler Trust, and was a founding Trustee when Friends of Conakry Refugee School was set up. I had a break and then rejoined as a Trustee for FCRS when we returned to live in Shropshire in 2019. I became a Trustee for Severn Hospice in March 2020, and was appointed Chair of Severn Hospice in September 2020. All my life I have wanted to do things which make a difference – for individuals and for wider society. I am passionate about the value of education and particularly about ensuring that girls as well as boys get their best opportunity to succeed. I love living in Shropshire (again) and try to find time for my huge garden, lots of dancing and a bit of art.”

Carol Jowitt


About Carol

Growing up in a small market town in West Yorkshire, my exposure to different cultures and languages shaped my passion for travel and all things French. With a mother who attended a French-speaking school in the Belgian Congo and my participation in the school’s French exchange program, I developed a deep appreciation for languages. This led me to pursue a degree in French studies with Russian at the University of East Anglia.
After graduating, I embarked on an adventure by living in Germany, immersing myself in its language and culture. Eventually, I returned to the UK to further my studies and became a qualified teacher of French and German. Throughout my 30-year career as a middle manager in a secondary school, I witnessed firsthand the transformative power of education, especially for the less privileged.
In 2023, I had the incredible opportunity to visit Conakry Reliance School alongside my sister, Jackie Watkins, who serves as the director. This experience was truly remarkable, as I witnessed the sheer joy of learning and the unwavering determination of both students and teachers to succeed. It reinforced my belief in the power of education to change lives and I am now more dedicated than ever to supporting educational initiatives, particularly in communities like Conakry.