February 19, 2019

What Working Chance means to me: Alex

 This year marks Working Chance’s 10th anniversary. We have accomplished so much over the last decade and are so proud of our incredible journey. This month we hear from Alex, one of the thousands of women Working Chance has supported over the last decade. Alex spoke to Working Chance about how we have inspired her following her time in prison and what Working Chance means to her. 


The day I left prison, my stomach was in knots. I felt numb. In fact, nothing felt real. I thought to myself: ‘where do I begin?

 

One of the most painful aspects of confinement was not seeing my family. Whilst I was in prison, on the outside my family faced their own form of punishment. My incarceration nearly destroyed my family. The situation was also compounded by the fact that my father was gravely ill. To say that I was overcome with crippling guilt, grief and regret is an understatement.I was certain about one thing though: I didn’t want my entire life to be defined by crime and my time in prison. I wanted to have a positive future and contribute to society.

 

Finding a job was crucial. Deep down, I knew how challenging this would be. Discrimination against women with criminal convictions is endemic. The stigma of having a criminal record continues to freeze so many women ex-offenders out of the workplace.  It's hard to encapsulate the importance of finding a job for people coming out of prison. It’s so many things: a stabilising force, a boost of self-confidence, and a means of supporting yourself as you work to re-enter the outside world. Ironically, as a society we claim we want prison to reform people and allow them to reintegrate into normal, ordinary life. Yet if we don’t let them work, how can we expect them to become part of mainstream society? It’s a real catch-22 situation.

 

Once I was released, I quickly learnt that there are very few organisations offering employment support to women leaving prison. Somehow women are expected to miraculously get their acts together and to emerge from prison fully functional and ready to face the world.I knew that applying for jobs would be a stressful ordeal, despite doing everything I could do to make myself employable. Before Working Chance I thought: ‘Who will want to employ me?’; ‘How will I disclose my conviction?’; ‘How do I get past it all?’ So when I met the team at Working Chance, I felt a whole weight being lifted off my shoulders. For the first time since being convicted, I saw hope for my future.

 

Working Chance’s mission is to help every woman who has been through the care and/or prison system to build a future for herself and her family that is full of hope and opportunity.When I left prison, Working Chance was the helping hand I needed.  They understood, listened, and gave me the advice and practical help to move forward. But most of all, they were just there for me. Working Chance’s guiding ethos is that women with criminal convictions should be treated the same as everyone else. Often, all they need is the opportunity to prove that they are in fact, the best candidate for the job. Working Chance has proven this time and time again. Working Chance made me feel that I was an asset rather than a liability. This meant so much to me. I felt invigorated and uplifted. Thanks to them I am now working as an executive assistant to two senior directors at one of the UK’s most eminent charitable foundations.I love my job. There’s a culture of high performance and development. There are so many career opportunities here that promise an exciting future. I am learning something new every day. I feel valued and I am respected by my colleagues.

 

I would like to take a moment to say a heartfelt thank you to Working Chance. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for their support. I was given a lifeline from this charity and, well, how does one find the words to capture one’s deep appreciation and indebtedness? They brought me hope, purpose and aspiration for the future. The work that they do is amazing. Working Chance gave me the next stepping stone to move forward. A stepping stone that whispers to me daily: “We believe in you, you’re headed in the right direction”. The reality is that all of us suffer when people like me leave prison and re-offend instead of re-integrating into society. Thanks to Working Chance, women like me can and do go on to have successful careers after life in prison and contribute to society.

 

Happy birthday Working Chance. Here’s to another 10 years!