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Monique, Our Mentor Manager, Winner of the Girdlers’ Medallion 2019

By May 28, 2019 June 3rd, 2019 No Comments

Last week we were delighted that the Girdlers’ Company awarded Monique, the Switchback Mentor Manager, the Girdlers’ Medallion. We are thrilled to celebrate her colossal contribution to Switchback and young prison-leavers’ lives. Read on to find out more about Monique, her work, and her impact on our Trainees.

Monique Williams builds transformational relationships as Switchback’s Mentor Manager.

After three years at Switchback, Monique is stepping up to manage the delivery team as well as continuing to work with her own caseload of trainees through the gate. She is a truly exceptional person who has done a huge amount in helping young men make real, lasting change after prison.

To date she has worked with:

  • 250 prisoners to increase their motivation to work towards a better future
  • 63 prisoners intensively to prepare for release and a new way of living
  • 41 who she has supported side by side through the whole intensive Switchback programme
  • And 27 …so far… who have reached our bespoke measure of real, lasting change.

Switchback Mentor is the hardest and the best job in the world. That’s how we describe it. And finding Switchback Mentors is very hard as they have to be able to run the ‘communications marathon’ every single day. That might look like: negotiating with the sarcastic prison officer, sitting down with a prisoner who’s just been told he still has no housing so won’t be released for another few months, taking a group out around London to taste different foods and see new sights, having a very difficult conversation about what has led a trainee to this point in his life, advocating at the housing office, challenging a trainee on timekeeping, camping with a group on a hillside at River Cottage… the list goes on. Suffice it to say you have to be a special person to be able to deliver this depth and breadth of support.

The fact that trainees such as Cyrus say that Monique helped them ‘think differently about life’ when they were in prison, and motivated them to have the courage to make big changes against all the odds, is a tribute to the importance and complexity of the work she does. She really helps people against the odds.

At Switchback, this crucial intensive mentoring work takes place in the prisons within a chaotic justice system and then back in London where life can be just as chaotic as it was before. Monique as Switchback Mentor provides a crucial anchor: the stable and consistent ally through the gate that enables trainees to make a profound change in their lives. She works in a system that doesn’t facilitate meaningful relationships, and yet she manages to help people flourish even within that environment.

Reflecting on his time in prison, Switchback Trainee Andrew said of Monique:

I wanted you to know that you really helped to keep my spirits up…you were one of very few people who believed in me and you helped me in ways I don’t even think you know… I have felt tempted to go back to what I was doing before many times but haven’t.

And Eshan, another Trainee, has said:

There’s not really one word to describe the relationship with my Switchback Mentor, Monique. She’s sort of like a sister, someone you’re close to, but who is outside your peer group; someone non-judgmental who understands you. I never had someone like that in my life before: not a teacher, not a parent, not a friend. Monique helped me find the answers for myself.

Finally, Trainee Ayo has said:

I am not the same person as I was last year and I take my time a lot more. I want to thank you Monique for helping me.

Monique stands out because she puts in long hours, huge amounts of compassion, empathy and a rare level of expertise to help these individuals. She has so far made an extraordinary difference, not only to the lives of the young men she has worked directly with but also to their families and communities. And now she will be managing the team and having a bigger impact still by coaching others to do the same.