Bishop Toby Howarth

Bishop Toby Howarth

Toby Howarth is Bishop of Bradford. Toby brings to the board his experience of working nationally on inter religious affairs, and a deep commitment to work to discover how we can live together differently and well. One of his priorities in his role as Bishop of Bradford is to seek to impact on cohesion, and so engagement with The Linking Network is part of this work.

Denise Poole

Denise Poole has a background in adult education and community development. A priest and school governor, living and working in Bradford, she has been instrumental in setting up and supporting a range of projects in multicultural, multi-faith areas, addressing poverty, community fragmentation and exclusion.  She is a trustee of Near Neighbours and is committed to deepening associations between people.

Wahida Shaffi

Wahida Shaffi lives in Bradford and has over 20 years’ experience of working with diverse communities from across the UK.  She is a qualified social worker, vocational assessor and trainer and author of the book Our Stories Our Lives: Inspiring Muslim Women’s Voices, published by Policy Press.  She completed her MA in international politics and security studies at the University of Bradford’s Department of Peace Studies,  since then she has gone on to facilitate, deliver training, curate stories, complete research, develop, direct and manage programmes and produce films on a wide range of issues related to equality, diversity, participation, gender, conflict and interfaith both locally, nationally and internationally including in Sri-Lanka, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Romania and  Pakistan, with particular focus on gender and young people.

Before becoming the national director of the Catalyst Programme (Church Urban Fund) focusing on young people based in London, she was the West Yorkshire Co-ordinator for Near Neighbours, where she oversaw grants and catalyst programmes in the North of England and the Midlands. She has also held the position of National Women’s Programme Lead for the Christian Muslim Forum; pioneering their national women’s programme, conducting research & exploring the issues affecting women of faith across the UK.  She is currently finalising the last phase of her Travel Fellowship exploring faith inspired peace building initiatives in India, Pakistan and Nepal and working on a freelance basis.

Zoe Mawson

Zoe Mawson is the headteacher at Beckfoot Heaton Primary School, she is determined to help all children achieve a great life.  Rooted at the centre of that drive is the understanding that children need to feel a deep sense of belonging in order to thrive.  The Linking Network plays a critical part in developing this sense of belonging, and then in helping children to use it to appreciate the people and the world around them;  I feel privileged to contribute to its work however I can.

Yvette Thomas

Yvette has worked with Buckinghamshire Council for the past 20 years – initially as a School Improvement Adviser and currently as Equalities and School Improvement Manager for Children’s Services. An educator for the past 30 years, she has worked in a range of educational institutions and has secondary headship experience. During her career, Yvette has also been seconded to UNESCO and UNICEF, working on flagship projects. Bringing schools together from different contexts has been an area of work that Yvette has been involved in previously, both in the Caribbean and UK. For her efforts, in 2000, she was presented with the Outstanding UNESCO Associated Schools Partnership Award, for the Caribbean and Latin region.  She has spoken at national conferences on partnership working with schools on Community Cohesion issues, and has supported over 60 schools in Buckinghamshire, through The Linking Schools Network, to work in pairs on the diversity and community cohesion agenda. Yvette is also co-author of a chapter in a book entitled ‘Education in the Commonwealth Caribbean and Netherland Antilles’ (2014). Yvette has a passion for training and regularly delivers training to teachers, senior leaders including school governors. She has annually supported WWFC and Show Racism the Red Card, to deliver events at Adams Park for primary pupils in the local area. Yvette proudly sits on the Show Racism the Red Card SE Advisory Group and has been inducted into their Hall of Fame. As an advocate for equalities in sport, she sits on the LEAP Board and supports the sports and healthy lifestyles education agenda in local schools.

To date Yvette insists her greatest achievement has been raising three well rounded and balanced children who she adores.

Ameerah Turner Desai

Ameerah Turner-Desai is a student from Bradford who is studying Politics and Arabic at the University of Manchester. She met The Linking Network when she was in her final year of sixth form and asked about opportunities to volunteer. During her year out before going to university, Ameerah worked with TLN. Now in her fourth and final year of studying in Manchester, Ameerah has taken on the role as a trustee with us.

‘I have always been interested in working in the field of education and bringing groups of people together who might not ordinarily get the chance to socialise with one another. It’s been so inspiring to see how The Linking Network facilitates this interaction between people, young and old, in a really meaningful and special way. Being a trustee means getting to be a part of a lovely community of people who all care about this amazing work. It’s great to meet as a group, see the progress made, and get to voice our own opinions, as well as hearing other people’s, on how The Linking Network can continue to move forward positively.’

Zahra Niazi

Zahra is the Strategic Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion Lead for the Wellbeing Board,  to coordinate EDI across the strategic partnerships within the district. Previously Programme Lead for Bradford Council, working on the Integration Strategy communities programme, which continues to run under Bradford For EveryoneBradford For Everyone is a £4.6m programme with 80+ interventions and activities supported through its funding; around four pillars of Getting on, Getting Along, Getting Involved and Feeling Safe. Zahra is also the co-chair of the Regional Refugee Integration Network.

Born in Pakistan in Chakwal, and raised in Bradford, Zahra is deeply committed to the city and its people; and expresses this through championing diversity and equality. Zahra graduated from the University of Bradford in 2001 in Interdisciplinary Human Studies and completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Business Administration in 2008.

Zahra is also the Director of Impact Hub and has been previously been a Public Governor for the Care Trust.  She has a background in project and programme management with experience of supporting programmes of up to £49m.  Zahra was Leader of the Year for Bradford Council in 2020, a finalist for Emerging Leader for the Northern Asian Powerlist in 2020, the top most influential South Asians in Bradford as highlighted by Asian Standard and Young Leader Award by the Young Professionals Society in 2021.