This month I leave Good Vibrations after almost eight years as Executive Director. The experience has changed me. From never having set foot in a prison before, I am now passionate about social justice and criminal justice reform. I am determined to do more – through work, volunteering and how I live my life – to contribute to our society becoming one where people’s life chances are equal, whatever their start in life, and where we focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment or stigma.
What makes change happen? This is something I think about a lot. Some of our participants had been in prison multiple times, before they met us. Others had attempted suicide and had given up hope. Others had severe social anxieties and wouldn’t leave the house. Yet now they are living much more fulfilling lives, contributing positively to society, and have more self-belief and hope. What occurred in their lives to flick this switch? They say that being part of Good Vibrations was part of it – the fact we didn’t judge them, that we listened, that we were there for them long-term, that they felt valued by us.
But I’m interested in the wider combination of factors – the small steps they took at the time, the people that came into their lives, or even just the time being right – that worked together to generate a virtuous, rather than vicious, circle. And for stubborn parts of my own life and of the lives of people I care about – places where we are “stuck” – how can we recreate those perfect conditions for positive change? And to get humanity to work together to defeat the climate emergency – how can we make this happen before it’s too late? I don’t know the answers. But I’m fascinated by this problem, which is complex and nuanced.
This job has taught me that people pulling together and working towards a shared goal can affect great, lasting change, though. We mustn’t give up. Even though it’s sometimes exhausting, people persevering with caring and working for positive change, really does transform individuals’ lives for the better. We mustn’t give up. We are making a difference. Thank you to all our participants, to everyone in the team, and all our partners and supporters. You are the reason this can happen.
The experiences of some of our participants are harrowing. Working with them collaboratively and creatively on projects is a joy and a honour. It requires huge skill, sensitivity and compassion from our facilitators. Juxtaposed against this is a need for fast-paced, practical, business-like approaches behind the scenes to resource and sustain the charity, and to enable more people to benefit from our work. Bridging this divide – and these two very different worlds – can be, tough. It can be hard to get it right all the time for everyone.
This last month has been a whirlwind of doing my best to try and leave everything organised for my wonderful colleagues, and my successor, Hekate Papadaki. People ask how I feel about leaving, but I’ve not had the time and space to answer that properly yet. I think in the New Year, when I’ve stopped working, it will sink in – eight years’ of happy memories, achievements, mistakes, realisations, and sheer hard work will come rushing back! I hope I will take some of what I’ve learnt and apply that elsewhere. I’m looking forward to new experiences and learning more. And I’m looking forward to more time and space to appreciate, and make the most of, good health and loved ones. Then I’m sure I’ll be ready for new adventures.
Good Vibrations shapes and alters so many peoples’ courses in life for the better – including mine. I am grateful and proud to have been a part of such a human, authentic, hard-working, compassionate organisation. Long may the magic last. Thank you to every one of you who believes in what we do, who makes our projects happen, and who gives time, energy, and money to keep the good vibrations alive.