The Johnson Beharry Victoria Cross (JBVC) Foundation was established by Johnson Beharry VC who received the Victoria Cross – the highest military decoration – for twice saving members of his unit whilst serving in Iraq. His foundation supports our Southwark Through the Gates Project. Established in December 2016, it supports young men with gang affiliations with a connection to Southwark upon leaving prison to help prevent them drifting back into old lifestyles.
Carlie Thomas is the project’s Caseworker and since going live this year she already has nine young men she is supporting.
"We have to be creative with our solutions as the young people we work with are the most challenging to reach", says Carlie.
Carlie gets referrals from Probation and Youth Offending Teams three months before clients are released but as the project is only recently established she has handed clients who are soon to be released. Her aim is to visit them in prison at least four times before they are release to assess their needs and agree a support plan.
Carlie's eyes light up whenever she talks about the young people she works with.
"What I've found shocking about these clients is their aspirations to succeed legitimately. They have a lot of transferable skills and this is clear to all. They have aspirations and are inspired quickly, especially with the right support. I know first-hand how difficult it is to turn your life around, but it can be done.
"This is why the project is so important. We can get our claws into them and give them the best opportunities to break the cycle of them offending. I see their mindsets change and we need to capitalise on this window to lead them down a positive path."
Carlie balances her role going into prison to meet her clients with researching job or course opportunities the clients have discussed and want to pursue.
"I want to just enable the clients to realise that they have a choice in their futures and help them reach that place."
Carlie enjoys the frontline work the best, most of all her one-to-one interactions. She also loves seeing the positivity her clients have, their hopes and – most importantly – their aspirations.
When asked what keeps her motivated, Carlie says:
"The boy who joins the gang has aspirations, but has no place to go with them." – Lloyd Ohlin 1961