We are delighted to announce that the Reverend Fiona Sample, CEO of The Oswin Project has been awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire Medal (MBE) in the King’s Birthday Honours list 2023 for her work founding the charity.
On being informed of her award Fiona said ‘I am immensely grateful to whoever nominated me. However, I do not feel the honour is solely mine, the accolade should be shared with my amazingly dedicated colleagues. Without them lives would not have been changed and the Oswin Project would not be flourishing and growing. Thanks, are also owed to HMP Northumberland and our Trustees for their support and congratulations to all our Oswinners (as we call our clients) not forgetting my long-suffering husband!
Reflecting on her early days with the Oswin Project, Fiona said:
“I volunteered my time and worked with one part time member of staff to give prison leavers second chances through mentoring, training and employment opportunities and raise funding. It was rather challenging. We now have 12 permanent staff, a Bakery and Café in HMP Northumberland, a Café at Newcastle Cathedral and a skilled and qualified team who work on restoration projects, landscaping, decorating and forestry management. I am pleased to be able to tell prospective employers that 1/3 of our salaried staff are prison leavers. They are key members of our team. We practice what we preach”.
Fiona is also Employment Advisory Board Chair for HMP Durham. A national initiative of James Timpson to connect prospective employers with prisons to enable training and work in prison and grow connections so prisoners have a job on release. Over the past year, the Oswin Project has helped nearly 100 people into employment or training. They have supported people writing CVs, disclosure statements, open bank accounts and secure housing.