I live in Bedford and have now retired from a long finance career in the motor industry. In 2001 I heard a talk about the needs of those seeking asylum which stimulated me to get involved. I joined the committee and have served as Treasurer for the Befrienders since then. It has been a privilege supporting this vital work through times when funds have been very tight and when they have been a little easier.
The one constant has been the needs of the women who are detained. Whichever Government is in power and whichever company manages Yarl’s Wood, the need for the Befrienders remains as strong as ever.
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.
I had a career in building up various businesses. After I retired I served as a trustee for ten years in a large charity helping homeless people in the East End of London. When we moved to Hitchin in 2012, my wife became a Yarl’s Wood Befriender and I assisted and supported her in this work for a couple of years before becoming a trustee of the charity and then deputy chair earlier this year.
I have always been passionate about supporting and defending the vulnerable, the defenceless and the voiceless, so becoming more involved with YWB was a natural step for me to take.
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.