Enabling people and communities to lead healthier and happier lives by connecting them to nature and each other

Meet The Team

James Doran – Founder & Chair

After running a successful Fire and Security company which employed over 200 people and provided services to some of the biggest names on the high street, James sold his national business in 2014 and began developing his passion for growing and eating home-grown, organic produce as well as reconnecting with nature. After creating Hope Farm, a 4-acre soil-association accredited kitchen garden in Peasmarsh, James secured planning on Hope Farm Community Garden in 2019 – a 22-acre AONB site in Hawkhurst which incorporates a neglected walled kitchen garden. An organic, no dig site, which also has Soil Association accreditation, James is focused on opening up this beautiful space so everyone can benefit from connecting with nature and each other.
Mandy Doran

Mandy Doran – Co-Founder, Trustee & Living History lead

With a background in sales and marketing, Mandy’s remit covers community engagement, programme development and delivery, fundraising, PR, marketing and social media and anything else James has forgotten to give her!!

Sosi Kaskanian – Co-Founder, Secretary & Treasurer

As James’s business partner and Director of Customer Services and Project Management for over 20 years, Sosi brings a wealth of experience in delivery and leadership. She is responsible for driving and delivering the charities’ strategic objectives, both capital projects and grass root initiatives. From partner-based projects through to the creation of new facilities, Sosi’s experience in budget management, health & safety and evaluation & monitoring, provides Hands of Hope with the experience to deliver projects expediently. Along with Sonja, Sosi delivers our successful Helping Hands Lunch Club and currently has responsibility for the market gardens until we employ a new Head of Horticulture.

Sosi Kaskanian

Mazin Al-Jumaili – Trustee

With over 25 years in post-production and a keen interest in emerging technologies as well as social media, Mazin’s role is to use both digital marketing & social media platforms to maximise our presence.

Sonja Colman – Trustee

After 25 years of corporate life, I retrained in nutritional therapy – a topic I have been interested in, and studied for many years. I have always been passionate about food and my interest in healthy eating has steadily grown since my teens. I set out on my own at the start of 2020 and have spent the last two years building my business, trying out new opportunities to use my training and to find out what I love. My passion is to help people eat more healthily: I love developing, creating or adapting recipes to support my clients with different dietary needs. I believe that healthy food can be exciting, not boring! I believe that diets do not work but a foundation in eating good, natural food is the way to long-term weight management & overall better health. I am really excited to be joining Hands of Hope as a trustee and using my training to support communities to eat better.  In my previous career I was a senior programme manager and strategy director, with global budget, team and planning responsibilities – I hope that this experience, alongside my nutritional education will be a benefit to supporting Hands of Hope with their future goals and aspirations.
Sonja Colman
Arthur Sloman - Living History Programme Co-ordinator

Arthur SloMan – Living History & Conservation Lead

Arthur is our Living History Co-ordinator and is working with our team of research volunteers to bring the historical stories of the walled garden and woodland to life and he will be developing interpretation on site to share these discoveries with our volunteers and visitors.

As well as recent experience of working at the National Trust, he brings to the role experience of film making, an understanding of wildlife & heritage and a passion for a great story.

Isobel Spence – Assistant Head Grower

Isobel is a passionate gardener and has spent time working at both Sissinghurst Castle Garden and Great Dixter. “I have always had a deep love for the outdoors; be it through growing food, foraging or wild craft; I am passionate about living a life connected to the seasons and grounded in nature. My approach is not about consumption, but connection, focusing on slowing down, forming a relationship with our surroundings and community.”. Working with the trustees, staff and volunteers, Isobel will manage the day-to-day activities aligned to our two productive growing areas as well as indoor growing spaces. Additionally, she will be the horticulture lead for our hugely successful social growing project Get Growing, teaching people in the region to grow their own food and distributing organic produce to local food banks.

Isobel Spence - Assistant Head Grower
Ben Ferguson - General Maintenance Manager

Ben Ferguson – General Maintenance Manager

Ben is a passionate DIY’er and he’ll have his pick of projects at Hands of Hope. Our current plans see the completion of 3 new facilities on site in 2024 including a community kitchen/cookery school, large glasshouse and a new learning centre, which will support a thriving and inclusive community made up of Service Users, Volunteers, Partners, Corporate users, and commercial customers. As our new General Maintenance Manager, Ben’s role will include management of the site’s health & safety as well as site maintenance and management.

Jake Godwin – Garden Assistant

Jake joined the Hands of Hope team in April ’23 as a seasonal Horticulture Assistant and we are delighted that he has decided to join us full time. Jake is responsible for the day to day activities aligned to the market gardens, supporting our Co-founder Sosi, until we employ a new Head of Horticulture.
An area of the walled market garden to grow produce
Aimi Rifat - Head Beekeeper

Aimi Rifat – Head Beekeeper – Bee in Company

After leaving a career teaching Textiles in East Sussex and having kept my own bees on a community orchard in Hastings, I am really looking forward to looking after the bees at Hope Farm Community Garden in their heritage orchard. I will be running ‘Bee in Company’ – a weekly session for people of all ages to learn about the fascinating world of the honey bee.

Fleur Huggins – Bookkeeper

Fleur has a varied background in Bookkeeping and Administration with many years working in the construction industry. After taking redundancy during COVID-19, she started her own Bookkeeping business, focusing on local and regional clients from multiple sectors including Not-for-Profit, Hotel & Lesiure, Retail, and Renewable Energy. Fleur is excited to be joining Hands of Hope at such a key juncture in the charity’s development and is looking forward to using her experience to improve processes and systems.
Fleur Huggins
Mo Draper - Hope Farm Shedders

Mo Draper – Hope Farm Shedders

Mo is a highly-skilled wood turner and shed builder and a natural teacher. He encourages his team of shedders to learn new skills in a relaxed environment and also to share their knowledge with others.

As well as his wood making skills, he enjoys connecting people through conversation and laughter and can bake a delicious bread and butter pudding!