Back at ground level

I would like to give a huge thank you to everyone for your good wishes and kind support during my Mt Everest challenge. This meant a great deal to me. Everest was an amazing and humbling experience and it was a privilege to have the help and support of Kenton Cool and the Sherpa team who amazed me with their resilience, courage and calm.

This is my second week back and I would like to express special thanks and gratitude to Assistant Chief Executive Malcolm Walker for heading up St Giles Trust during my time away. Undoubtedly, the best part of last week was seeing all the team again and hearing about the dedication and commitment they have continued to offer our clients.

We have made further headway in extending our award-winning Peer Advisor Programme in prisons so more people can benefit from the support offered by a fellow prisoner – someone credible and friendly who really understands how difficult it is to move forward from the confines of a prison cell. Our SOS Team will be working in partnership with Islington Council this summer to divert young people away from crime and anti-social behaviour during the holidays. Our frontline teams have continued to graft and save lives – in one instance helping prevent a recently bereaved prisoner from committing suicide.

I’ve kept in touch with other news from the mountain face. It was a grim read. The election produced a wholly unexpected result – placing the country in an uncertain position and clearly demonstrating that people’s hard won support cannot ever be taken for granted. Two horrendous terrorist attacks took place in Manchester and London (and a third one in Finsbury Park has unfolded on the news this morning as I write this). Then one of the worst fires in living memory tore through Grenfell Tower in West London, causing unimaginable grief and loss. Through St Giles Trust’s SOS work in this local community, we know it is an area already affected by deprivation and severe inequality despite the immense wealth in the tower’s shadow.

Our heartfelt condolences to everyone who has been affected by these recent tragedies. What has been striking is the spirit of togetherness and community that has sprung up as a result. The solidarity and support for the victims - special thank you to our supporters the Kensington and Chelsea Foundation for their fundraising efforts for the victims of Grenfell Tower – has been amazing. Complete strangers have offered food, safety and shelter.

This is the empathy and compassion that we seek to offer at St Giles Trust when we help some of the most vulnerable people in society out of the lowest point in their lives. It requires care, passion and unconditional support – the very things we have seen over the past few weeks in response to these awful events.

It also shows that we must never, ever neglect disadvantaged people. It is our moral duty as a society and we need to hold those in power to account when they fail to do so.

Just as I was supported by Sherpas – people who did not know me but with whom I trusted my life – our clients and those affected by these tragedies are reliant on support from wherever it comes. It shows that we all have our own personal mountains to climb and that there is innate bravery in all of us. And it also shows that unconditional kindness gives us the best hope of recovering and moving forward.