Rathbones Christmas Carol concert in support of Spark Inside

Attendees at the Spark Inside Carol concert

Baillie Aaron, Founder & CEO, Spark Inside

It’s hard to think about Christmas Carols without being reminded of Charles Dickens’ iconic work of the same name.  I’m sure you’ve read it – or at least seen the Disney version.

But one thing you may not know is that the book was inspired by a trip Charles Dickens made back in the 1840s to London prisons, and the terrible sights he reported witnessing among the young people that were incarcerated there. He became very concerned about impoverished children who turn to crime and wanted to write a Christmas tale that would help open up the minds of the prosperous and powerful toward the poor and powerless. Dickens felt that how society treats its children – especially those who are struggling – is a true test of its moral worth.

It’s been nearly two centuries now since Dickens made those trips to London prisons, but unfortunately, not enough has changed. The reoffending rate sits at 75% for young people leaving prison and violence in prison is at a record high. And some of the prisons are still in their original state from the early 1800s.

It is my fundamental belief that all people have innate potential and an inner purpose that gives us direction, and that we all have the right to the opportunity to change. This includes young people in the prison system.

I also believe that if we keep doing things the same as how we’ve always done them, then we’ll keep getting what we’ve always had.

So with that in mind, I founded the charity Spark Inside in 2012 to enable young people aged 15 to 25 in prison to realise their potential and move into meaningful education, employment and training post-release through professional life coaching. I chose coaching because real, sustainable change has to start from within. 

To date, Spark Inside has coached over 300 young people leaving prison in Greater London and the South East.

Young people like Noah.

When Noah was a child, his father was in prison. He was in trouble constantly. He was arrested for the first time at the age of only 13, for robbery. By age 19, when he started coaching with Spark Inside in prison, it was already his second time inside.

Noah told us: “Before coaching, I felt fully demotivated, and figured that I’d never be able to do anything with my life now. I was paranoid that I’d lost everything. There’s nothing worse than that.”

Through coaching Noah said he started to believe in himself again, and recognise that he had options.  When Noah was released from prison, not only did he go on to find a full-time job, but he was also promoted shortly thereafter.

Noah said: “When you’re in prison you’re at the bottom. Spark Inside gives you self-belief and help you see how you can be happy with your life again. And you can’t ask for more than that.”

With Rathbones’ support, we wish to expand our coaching services by 25% next year so that next Christmas, more young people can be at home with their families and not languishing in our prison system.

Thank you so much for your generosity in supporting Spark Inside this evening and I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season.

For more information on Spark Inside, please visit www.sparkinside.org or email team@sparkinside.org.



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