Another of our partners blogging about our work this week; this time out in Malawi.
"While everyday is obviously tough in a prison which is so significantly overcrowded and I could talk in detail about the difficulties these boys face and the harsh sentences they are getting from the courts, I want to leave that aside for just one day and focus on the positive work that is going on there and the changes that good people are trying to bring about to improve the lives of the boys living there. They have been significant in trying to guide young men towards positive destinations on release" - Irish Rule of Law's blog
As with all our work in Malawi (and indeed, worldwide), the day was a chance for our participants to showcase the skills they'd already learnt, develop and strengthen newer skills, and prepare for independent adulthood and successful futures. Here, the young men taking part showed off their skills in planning ahead, working as part of a group, and communicating effectively, all skills that will serve them well on release. They also had the chance to think about some of the challenges which may still be ahead of them, and seek support to help them overcome such difficulties:
"The boys really took to their roles and had written the dialogue themselves with the help of a local drama group who work with the prisoners. The drama group, who are from Area 23 in Lilongwe, then put on a play which was centered around the story of two young men leaving the facility at the end of their prison sentence and the difficulties they could encounter once released... The play while touching on some very serious issues was done in a very lighthearted manner and went down a treat with everyone present".
The day ended on a lighter note - with an appearance by a secret visitor from the North....! All in all a really successful day: skills learnt, relationships developed, and fun had by all.
Merry Christmas Kachere... or Unjoya Christmasi, Chisangalalo Kwamberi, and Joyeaux Noel!
We were delighted recently to stumble across the blog of Colin Falconer - Director of Innovation at the Foyer Federation.
We've worked in partnership with the Foyer Federation for years - supporting young people to become more independent and develop skills for positive futures. Venture Trust's next 'Transitions to Independent Living' programme is due to run in February 2012, and we're looking forward to continuing to work closely with Colin and all at Foyer in the months and years to come. Colin's blog - http://advantagedthinking.blogspot.com/ is well worth a look, particularly for his thoughts on 'advantaged thinking'.
Anyway, here's Colin's blog on his meeting with Mark Bibbey, our new Chief Executive (reproduced here with permission, thanks Colin)...
Harry Potter and Tommy CooperA great meeting today with the new CEO of Venture Trust, Mark Bibby. We have worked with Venture Trust down the years as their programme has consistently offered a valuable opportunity for young people in Foyers to access and develop through. It’s not often that an organisation is able to have the ex CEO and the new one in the same room to say hello and goodbye at the same time, which made for an exciting conversation on the past and future as we slouched around the Foyer Federation’s brightly coloured bean bags in our respective suits.Thinking about the way Venture Trust work – the young people in Foyers travel a long way beyond Hadrian’s Wall to go into a wilderness setting where they develop new skills, confidence and self-belief – it struck me that perhaps this was the real Harry Potter programme, for which a special platform in Kings Cross no doubt already exists for those in the know. After all, the young people come back from Venture Trust having re-found their inner magic. Which is exactly what an Open Talent opportunity is all about: opening up the gifts that lie within us all. Venture Trust is a ‘place’ and an ‘opportunity’ which does that. We don't need to look for an imaginary world; it already exists - all be it a long way up north!Now I just need to catch up with the Harry Potter novels / films on my next long haul flight, and learn how to conjure up some investment so we can work with Venture Trust for more years to come. New year resolutions and workplan goals– must learn to be a stand up comedian, and a magician. Can I be the Tommy Cooper of Open Talent?It's the yin and yang of life.
Venture Trust - working together with Malawi Prison Service’s own HIV & AIDS Awareness team - were sponsored by VSO to deliver a World AIDS Awareness day on 1st December 2011. The day was a great success and was supported by other NGO’s from Malawi, such as Music Crossroads and Theatre for a Change.
It was also a chance for the recently initiated Kachere HIV Peer Mentors (two young men per cell) to put into practice some of the training they had received. In all nearly one hundred boys came forward for voluntary HTC testing.
“I am happy that today I have tested negative, when I came here I thought I am already infected. This is a stepping stone in my life and when I get out from here in March 2012, I will go out a complete transformed young man both health and behaviour” - Chisomo (not his real name)
Current rates appear to be stable within kachere at 5%, which is lower than the national average. Work still needs to be done particularly in offering access to independent counselling for those found to be HIV positive. There are plans afoot to set up a 'positive peer support group' in early 2012 so that young men can both receive more counselling and offer each other a support network whilst in kachere prison.
“I never knew how to use a condom and today I am happy that I know and will use this knowledge when I get out of here, I will be able to protect myself from HIV” - John (not his real name).
Upon departure from prison each young man will receive - in addition to a Venture Trust Certificate of Achievement, reference & action plan and t-shirt - a condom and a female condom. At present condoms are not permitted to be issued within the prison.
You can download the full report about World AIDS day at Kachere here.
We're delighted to announce that Mark Bibbey joins Venture Trust today as our new Chief Executive.
Throughout his career, Mark has been an advocate for personal development initiatives that encourage confidence and motivation, having experienced this first hand, working with young men and women during his time in the military. He is passionate about developing alternatives that offer individuals, who because of their life circumstances may be vulnerable or marginalised, the chance to have a stake in society and is committed to enabling Venture Trust to further its distinctive and transformational programmes.
This means, of course, that we'll be saying farewell to Greg Barton, after over a decade leading Venture Trust. We're very grateful to Greg for all his hard work and commitment to Venture Trust over the years, and wish him all the best for the future.
We just had to share this poem, produced by the participants and some staff on the latest IYF Expedition to the Southern Cairngorms. It was a glorious day and the group climbed Cairn Crom (890m). The views were incredible and each member of the group picked their favourite view and explained their reasons for choosing it.
In the words of the staff leading the expedition:
"It was a magical moment and really confirmed with all the staff that were on the expedition that what we do, and the environments that we work in really do make a difference to young people".
The Cairn Crom Poem
By Scott, Daniel, Ronnie, wee Jeni, Philip, Kev and big Jeni.
6th November 2011, Braemar Expedition
I like the horizon,
The silhouette with the dark shades and the sun,
And the glistening water,
Not many people are able to enjoy these things.
That hill there just where the point is,
That wee point there,
One day I will come back and climb that one there,
I want to do that.
Mine's the valley, the shape of it,
With all its colours,
It’s so beautiful,
See that bit there you see, I think that bit's really nice,
I had a low point today,
See that there low point, it goes up,
And that’s how I feel today.
For me it’s the valley,
The shape of the river, all squiggly,
The shape of the river,
It draws my attention.
My view's that way,
The way we have come up from,
And over there the way the river meanders,
And it’s the way we are walking tomorrow.
That bowl over there,
'Cause it’s sort of a really good shape,
It looks like a really big seat!
It’s an amazing view,
The best view of my life,
It makes you appreciate your country.