Volunteer conference 2023

New Bridge volunteers, staff and Trustees had a wonderful day on Saturday at this year's Volunteer Conference, where we came together to learn more about the criminal justice system and how it affects the people that we support. 

Professor David Wilson gave the keynote address, with his talk 'A Remarkable Absence of Scandal' outlining how he sees the current prison system as failing to either rehabilitate those in prison, or protect those in the community.  You can read more about David's talk, and the full transcript, here: https://www.newbridgefoundation.org.uk/news/press-release-prisons-contribute-to-making-communities-more-dangerous-according-to-professor-david-wilson

Youth worker and academic Luke Billingham (co-author of Against Youth Violence) joined us for his presentation 'The Social Conditions That Predictably Breed Violence', providing an insight into the challenging landscape in which young people in London are growing up.  Luke talked about how increasing inequality combined with under-resourced and under-respected public services prevent young people experiencing the conditions of care, love, wellbeing and support which they need.  He talked about how New Bridge volunteers can, however, provide relationships of unconditional care and respect to the people they support.

Lucy Gampell, Independent Member of the Parole Board (whom some may recognise from the BBC series Parole!) joined us to talk about how the Parole Board works, explaining the process that some of the people we support will undergo.  This provided volunteers with more understanding of the stages involved so that they can help the people they befriend to navigate the ups and downs they may experience along their way to release.

Two presenters then told us about projects they are involved with delivering within HMP Pentonville.

Morag spoke about Sycamore Tree, a restorative justice project which is run by the Chaplaincy team.  This sees up to 20 people in prison joining a 6-week course which helps to explore the effects of crime on victims, offenders and the wider community.  

Emma (a professional soprano!) from ELMO spoke about her project Music in The Ville, which brings musicians into HMP Pentonville to perform for the men inside, and to deliver music workshops, helping to boost morale amongst people in prison and staff alike.  

Riana from Circles UK spoke to us about what Circles does, working with people convicted of sexual offences after their release back into the community, and how this helps to prevent future offending and therefore more people becoming victims of sexual abuse.  She spoke of the huge impact that their volunteer community have in delivering Circles of Support and Accountability. 

We then heard moving accounts from two former New Bridge service users about the difference that their volunteer made to them while they were in prison.  Derek told us how he'd 'been let down by people all my life. I'm so glad I met Anna - she's been there for me through it all', while Jamie said he thinks that if he'd not got a New Bridge befriender then 'I'd be back in prison or street homeless'.  Both talked about the pain of loneliness in prison, the eventual realisation that they needed to do something about it, their reluctance to get started and then the huge relief of building a trusting and reliable connection with their volunteer.

Finally we gave out this year's Volunteer Awards, with recognition for:

  • 20 years' service
  • 10 years' service
  • the most letters sent in the last year - 100
  • the most hours spent volunteering in the last year - 403
  • the most prison visits made in the last year - 13

Volunteers, Trustees and staff enjoyed being able to connect with each other over coffee and lunch breaks, sharing experiences and new ideas sparked by the content of the speeches.

If you would like to join our community of volunteers, you can sign up here: https://www.newbridgefoundation.org.uk/Pages/Category/apply-now

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