VISIONARY ON A MISSION: Award winner Annmarie Lewis
SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR, ministry leader and PhD student Annmarie Lewis is currently on cloud nine following the news that she will be awarded a Churchill Fellowship grant from the prestigious Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.
Annmarie, 40, will use the grant to carry out overseas research to provide solutions in gang prevention, youth violence, and associated challenges.
“I’ll be visiting seven or eight American states, to spend time with key organisations who are trailblazing in these fields,” she enthused.
“One will be the Texas Offenders Re-entry Initiative, founded by Bishop T D Jakes. I’ll also be visiting with Homeboy Industries, they are the largest and most successful gang intervention, rehab, and re-entry programme in the world and has become a model for other organisations.”
The Master’s graduate is due to make her visit to the US in April and she expects the research to take several months. Once completed, Annmarie will put her findings to good use.
They will form the basis for a major conference Annmarie aims to host later this year, as well as other major plans.
“I want to host round-table discussions and am in the process of developing an international think tank looking at how we can impact and influence family, government, politics, communities, media,
black and minority ethnic (BAME) children, young people and young adults.”
As far as Annmarie is concerned, lasting positive change concerning key issues affecting black youth will only come about via a change in how we apply law, legislation and policy and how we address the disparities within society.
Annmarie has long held a passion for working with the vulnerable and dispossessed in society.
Following completion of her criminal justice degree at Thames Valley University, she was employed as a prison officer at Feltham Young Offenders Institution and Remand Centre. She was just 22 and the first black woman to hold the position. Working in a prison made her realise the view that they were like holiday camps was a myth.
She also saw first-hand that the bulk of prison inmates were from black minority ethnic backgrounds, and that often, they received longer sentences than their white counterparts.
With this fact in mind, Annmarie played a part in changing the culture during her time at Feltham. She wrote an equal opportunity policy, made sure the black inmates had access to specialist ethnic skin and hair care products and alongside an Asian female colleague, fronted a campaign to encourage more black and Asian people to work at the prison service.
Following her stint at Feltham, Annmarie worked for Southwark Youth Offending Team and with the Youth Justice Board. After a year-long spell at London Youth Annmarie set up Rainmakers Worldwide, an award -winning social enterprise which works alongside young people, young adults and women from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them set up sustainable businesses. She also trained in advocacy, conflict-resolution and mediation, is a qualified action learning facilitator and coach and has lectured at numerous institutions including with Reach Cambridge held at Cambridge University.
Annmarie became a Christian in 2006, and her faith in God has simply boosted her desire to help young people. She admitted:
“If I didn’t have my faith I probably wouldn’t be doing this.”
Currently worshipping at Judah International Church, Annmarie longs for the church to become more mission-orientated and relational to people beyond its four walls so it can have a greater impact.
In the interim she’ll do what she can, influencing policy and working with disadvantaged young people so that they are able to utilise their talents and fulfil their God-given purpose.
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