The power to turn your life around
We met Clive today.
Clive is an ex-offender, released a few weeks ago after a six-year prison sentence. He was entertaining, self-deprecating, humble, honest and open about his past, and he made a real impact on us.
Before I go any further I should explain that in a month's time Scott, Penny, Roger and I will cycle from London to Paris in three days. In doing so we are raising money for an amazing charity, Aspire, which is based in Oxford. Aspire creates work placements and social enterprises for severely disadvantaged people like Clive: ex-offenders, ex-substance-misusers and homeless people. They give them valuable skills such as painting and decorating, recycling, textiles, property maintenance and landscaping before sending them out as teams, contracted to local authorities, social housing and corporate organisations. The idea is that they gradually build their confidence as they take on the responsibility of work, eventually gaining paid employment and independence. Often these trainees have lost contact with their family, friends and support network, have no money, no stability nor place to live – those things that many of us take for granted when we go through tough times. The fragility of their personal circumstances is greatly magnified beyond the lack of a job prospect. Life is indeed, very, very tough.
Aspire's work means that everyone gains. For the contracting organisations they are taking on truly dedicated people and at the same time helping them to build a sense of pride and value in their work. This is real, meaningful CSR. Aspire saves the public purse over £1m annually, and is three times more successful in securing employment for their trainees than the UK Work Programme average. Most remarkable of all are some of their statistics: in 2011 87% of trainees sustained their recovery from addiction, and 94% did not re-offend.
Back to Clive. Now living in a hostel, he talked of the frustrating days immediately after leaving prison when he had no money to cater for himself (in self-catering accommodation) nor even some soap powder to wash his clothes. But he saw Aspire's posters, signed up, and is now part of a team of trainee painters and decorators. He's really gone for it, and his renewed sense of purpose and determination was palpable.
The Storytellers is an organisation which exists to help create meaning at work; to get the best out of people in the workplace. It seems only natural that we should support Aspire, and as we roll up the Champs Elysees on 22 June we will spare a thought for those who haven't been so lucky in life, but, with the help of Aspire, are finding it within themselves to turn their lives around.
If you'd like to donate to Aspire before our London-to-Paris ride, please visit my Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/alison-esse . We would be very grateful.