My name is Barbara Conridge. I live in Bedford, where I spent most of my career as an Education Consultant. I have been a Befriender for about 12 years and Trustee for about 8 years. Visiting and supporting the women in Yarl’s Wood is still, I am sure, the most important thing I do. In November 2014, I was asked to become Chair of the Trustees, which is a considerable responsibility and commitment.
YWB has grown and prospered over the past year and the organisation is now on a much firmer footing. I feel privileged to have played some part in this as our work is still very much needed.
I have been a Befriender since retiring from teaching in the summer of 2010 and have been privileged to visit some very brave women since then. As I am a French speaker, I sometimes visit ladies with limited English who come from French-speaking parts of Africa.
For the past 6 years I have been a trustee on the management committee and fulfilled the role of fund-raiser for 5 years. This proved both interesting and challenging, but I have now passed this particular baton to a staff team. It has been satisfying to be involved in the planning and decision-making process for YWB and to attend the quarterly meetings at YW, as this gives an insight and, I hope, some input on behalf of the detainees into how the centre is run.
I am a fairly new Befriender, introduced to YWB a couple of years ago by my step-daughter, Louise, who chaired Bedford Borough Council’s recent review of healthcare provision at Yarl’s Wood IRC. Having broken the rule about not getting emotionally involved, I am currently taking time out from visiting to support a couple and their baby daughter – former detainees now out on bail, whom I speak to daily and visit regularly. I’m sure I shall return to visiting before long; meanwhile I hope to carry on using what skills I have as a writer and graphic designer for the benefit of the committee and the organisation as a whole.
I have been a Befriender since October 2015. I visit at Yarl’s Wood, and have helped with some business planning. I have worked across a range of sectors mostly in business and service delivery operations, so have a good all round knowledge of how organisations work. I have experience of change and strategy and believe these will be useful skills to support the Befriender’s development and future. The organisation supports women during particularly difficult times. It is important to highlight the humanity these women deserve, whatever their story.
After being detained in Yarl’s Wood overnight in 2007, I wanted to return as a volunteer to support people in detention. As a Mandarin-speaker, I started as a befriender in April 2016 visiting Chinese detainees with little to no English skills. I am also a part of the newly formed fundraising team, assisting with grant applications and gathering information/feedback from all stakeholders about the impact of our services.
I have worked in the private, public and voluntary sectors, and have volunteered since I was 16 years old. I am currently a full-time PhD student researcher and would like to contribute my organisational, management and research skills to the organisation.
I retired a few years ago, having spent my working life as a senior nurse then Palliative Care Services Manager for Sue Ryder. A long-standing and active Soroptimist, I am passionate about the rights of women and girls world-wide so, after seeing an advertisement about Yarl’s Wood Befriender training, I decided to find out more. I was so impressed that I quickly became involved as a Befriender, and have found great fulfilment in this role, inspired by the courage and fortitude of the women in Yarl’s Wood.
Prior to this, I was the Chairman of Bedfordshire Against Modern Slavery (BAMS), which worked closely with Bedfordshire Police, as well as other local and national organisations, to raise awareness of this awful crime. In 2017, however, Bedfordshire Police employed a designated co-ordinator for the role so, in many respects, our job was done. A new challenge was required, and I decided that the role of trustee at YWB may be just that. I now look forward to working with the other trustees in this very worthy charity.
A new trustee of Yarl’s Wood Befrienders, I am learning a great deal about the organisation, the Centre and the women who are detained there; I am hoping to become more involved with the drop-in at Yarl’s Wood.
Originally a school teacher, I then went on to work in the areas of mental health and learning difficulties. Throughout my career I have come to understand the importance of listening to other people and hearing their personal stories. I hope I will be able to put these skills into practice in my ongoing involvement with Yarl’s Wood Befrienders.