Last year saw a period of change for Prisoners of Conscience. It was a year of listening with the aim of increasing the transformation of the lives of prisoners of conscience.
We sent out questionnaires and sought feedback from beneficiaries, referral agencies and supporters, which enabled us to lift the scale of our activities and undertake new initiatives.
Doing more for those who need us
Off the back of what we learnt, we are delighted to announce that we have set up an employability panel to complement our Bursaries scheme.
Many prisoners of conscience are professional people who have enjoyed successful careers in law, journalism, teaching, medicine, among other sectors. Those who find themselves in the UK can frequently find that their qualifications are not valid in a UK-context and therefore are unable to find meaningful employment. While our bursary grants cover the cost of requalification and post-graduate fees so they can convert their existing qualifications and secure employment, there can still be challenges in securing work.
The employability panel aims to address this. In partnership with a small group of trusted, specialist organisations, it offers access to CV writing and interviewing skills, as well as internships, work experience, recruitment, and job opportunities. Our role is to facilitate access to these organisations and monitor results. The founding members of the employability panel are Breaking Barriers, Refugee Council and Transition, but we are keen to expand this service to be available nationwide and to cover the needs of both skilled and unskilled beneficiaries.
Preliminary analysis of our research data, aiming to more formally capture the impact of our work to improve and refine our theory of change, was encouraging. It showed that the calibre of our beneficiaries translates into healthy employability rates with 83% of our UK bursary recipient responders being in paid employment and, of those, 62% being employed in sectors related to their qualifications.
We had the pleasure of meeting some of those inspiring beneficiaries at our 18th annual bursary event, where we celebrated the bravery and hard work of the human rights defenders whom we support via our bursaries. As always it was an uplifting and heartwarming occasion, and we were delighted to hear from our beneficiaries how much they valued meeting us and their fellow bursary grantees.
Bringing prisoners of conscience together
Our bursaries reception reiterated the fact that that nurturing a sense of belonging can facilitate the integration of beneficiaries to the UK society and enhance their well being. We therefore developed a Prisoners of Conscience Beneficiary Forum which will launch in the coming months. It is a secure platform where our beneficiaries can share messages, thoughts and experiences, and improve employment and study prospects. We would love to see people connect, learn from, and empower each other, whilst developing a network of like minded individuals from different parts of the world who are committed to human rights.
In addition to the beneficiary forum, we are in the process of planing this year’s exciting activities, ranging from human rights lectures, to corporate and community fundraising ideas and packages, and increased beneficiary involvement in our work. Stay tuned on our social media platforms to find out more!