Lifetime Achievement Award for David Brown
David Brown, CEO of the Margaret Carey Foundation, has been awarded the Lord Longford Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his contribution to restorative justice and work with prisons. Shami Chakrabarty, the Director of the campaign group, Liberty, presented the award.
David founded Margaret Carey Foundation in 20010 to provide meaningful work for prisoners. The charity rescues disused bikes and wheelchairs that would otherwise be land filled and takes them to prison workshops where they are refurbished. The charity then donates the bikes and wheelchairs to people in need in England and in the developing world.
David retired from the Probation Service in Bradford in 1997 but after less than a year of retirement he was recruited to work for the Inside Out Trust, setting up and managing prison projects until the organisation was suddenly wound up in 2008. David was again tempted to take retirement but instead, his response was to carry on ‘business as usual’ despite no proper funds, no salary, and no organisational backup. He continued to run his projects as a full time volunteer, raising funds through local community events and commandeering friends and family to support. He was finally able to register Margaret Carey Foundation with the Charity Commission in 2010 and to establish it as a limited company the same year.
In the 18 months since then, offenders have refurbished 550 bikes and 600 wheelchairs, which have been distributed to needy people in South Africa, Uganda, Eastern Europe, Fiji and Sri Lanka.
Voluntary and community groups, individuals and private companies contribute the “raw materials” of disused bikes and wheelchairs, and the charity is currently seeking more donations of this type.
The Longford Prize recognises the contribution of an individual, group or organisation working in the area of penal or social reform in showing outstanding qualities of humanity, courage, persistence and originality. It is awarded annually by a prize committee on behalf of the trustees and patrons of the Longford Trust. It is sponsored by the Independent newspaper and organised in association with the Prison Reform Trust.
The prize was awarded at the annual Longford Lecture, given this year by Jon Snow on the subject of “Crime, punishment and the media. “
The True Story of a Troublesome Prisoner
The workshop at HMP Garth had refurbished more than 100 wheelchairs, which were being sent to Chennai, India. The shipment included a specially made chair that had been built by one of the prisoners for a young orphan named Manikandam. The workshop manager, Dave Kellett, went with the shipment to Chennai and took videos and still photographs whilst he was there.
In the meantime, a prisoner in Garth was given instructions to report to DK’s workshop on the Monday DK returned to work from his trip to Chennai. I will call this prisoner, RTP (You will understand why very shortly!). Apparently RTP had asked around on the landing as to the nature of the workshop he was instructed to attend and what the instructor was like. In the many years RTP had served in prison he had been troublesome and had never worked for any length of time and certainly with no enthusiasm in other workshops where he had been placed. In fact he had been disruptive on many occasions.
He found out that the work was fixing wheelchairs, and was told that DK was “a good bloke” so he RTP arrived in the workshop. DK had promised the men that on his return from India he would show them video footage and photographs. This he did on that first Monday morning, and of course this was RTP’s introduction to the workshop. The video featured the orphan, Manikandam, and his specialised wheelchair, along with other distributions.
RTP stayed in the workshop and began to be taught, mostly by the other men, as to what was involved in restoring wheelchairs. About two weeks later RTP gave DK a letter and after DK read it, he gained RTP’s permission to share the contents with me. It contained a testimony as to the life changing effect the video, photographs, and DK’s account had had on RTP.
The prisoner wrote, “the experience that Monday morning made me realise I could be different, I could help others less fortunate than myself even though I was serving a long prison sentence, that I had something to offer and that being troublesome was negative and unproductive in all sorts of ways.” He wrote “watching that video changed something in my head” and TP – troublesome prisoner – became RTP – reformed troublesome prisoner. RTP settled into the workshop and helped restore wheelchairs, which the following year went to Chennai via the same arrangements.
A True Story About Manikandam
by David Brown, Chief Executive of the Margaret Carey Foundation
This is a true story about the wife of the Deputy High Commissioner of Chennai, India, a little orphan boy called Manikandam, and a prison workshop in Lancashire, England.
Elizabeth H was, in her own words, “not best pleased to be where I was on this our last posting” and initially did very little in the first few months in Chennai. However, there were a group of people who had volunteered to help teach English to children in a local orphanage and Elizabeth was persuaded to join them and into her class (and life) came Manikandam.
It was the way Manikandam entered the class that caught the attention – he dragged himself in across a courtyard. He was unable to use his legs or lift his head, and didn’t speak or communicate in anyway – but still he kept coming to the class. The Deputy High Commissioner’s wife set out to get Manikandam a wheelchair, which proved an extraordinarily difficult and protracted procedure. Eventually, after many months a wheelchair arrived but it proved totally unsuitable for Manikandam who was more uncomfortable in the chair than he was dragging himself through the mud and dirt. Also he was still facing down, so communication did not improve. Everyone concerned with the boy thought he was mute and probably deaf as well.
At this juncture Elizabeth came home on leave, met a friend and told her of Manikandam and his plight. This friend knew of the Inside Out Trust (a precursor to the Margaret Carey Foundation) and Elizabeth attended a staff meeting to see if the Trust could help. I was able to offer her the services of HMP Garth where I had established a wheelchair project and in which they (in the form of a gifted prisoner, and with the help of adjoining workshops) made a specially adapted wheelchair for Manikandam, making use of the workshop instructor’s home computer and the wonders of email.
During the course of these events, someone asked me, if we can send one wheelchair to Chennai why not more than one as the need there was very great. We enlisted the help of British Airways who flew one hundred wheelchairs in crates that had been made by Wymott prison next door to Garth. The workshop instructor at Garth, Dave Kellett, went along at his own expense and landed with these one hundred chairs and met Elizabeth.
What followed was the distribution of these wheelchairs, which DK recorded and photographed. When Manikandam was placed in his chair it was so designed that his head faced forward and was slightly raised so he could see his surroundings.
What amazed Elizabeth, the other volunteers, and DK was the beautiful smile Manikandam gave to all around him, what was even more amazing was the fact that the boy had learned some English and could hear and speak. He was in fact from another part of India and so did not know the local language. Which was partly why he had never spoken. Although still living in an orphanage, he is now more independent and of course able to communicate and join in with the other children. E.H. Dave Kellett and others still stay in touch and offer support to Manikandam and as far as I know he is still doing well and has proved himself to be a bright student.