Black History Month: 'We have made progress but we are not there yet'

Director of charity Belong Esther Wanjie-Nyeko grew up in St Albans

Director of charity Belong Esther Wanjie-Nyeko grew up in St Albans - Credit: Supplied

Charity founder Esther Wanjie-Nyeko is the director of Belong, supporting offenders to successfully integrate back into society and runs a nationwide mentoring scheme led by volunteers who often have lived-experience.

Having set up the charity on her own aged just 27 she now secures funding from big names including the National Lottery, Comic Relief and Children in Need.

Esther, who grew up in London Colney and went to St Albans Girls School, said Black History Month is a time to celebrate and reflect on her heritage and culture, but also to act to challenge the disadvantages that black and minority ethnic people continue to face, especially in our justice system.

"I am incredibly proud to have been born in Kenya and to have spent the first eight years of my life there. My childhood experiences in Kenya, have enriched my life and steered my decisions, more than anything they have helped me to work hard and to be grateful. 

"It was as a child in Kenya that I first became aware of the links between poverty, disadvantage and crime."

After studying law and working with a number of charities, Esther said she could see a gap in the criminal justice system and decided to set up a charity that would support the individual needs of people who had offended and been victims of crime.

She added: "I particularly wanted to increase the amount of psychotherapy, restorative justice and mentoring that was on offer to people in contact with the criminal justice system.

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"A consultation we undertook last year focused on understanding and responding to the needs of prisoners from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities."

This year, Belong will pilot its new programme ‘Amplify’ - a targeted service for BAME prisoners which will provide psychotherapy, family support and assistance with getting into employment.

Regarding attitudes to people from diverse backgrounds, the charity director said: "We have made progress but we are not there yet. Black men and women continue to face disadvantages that aren’t explained by factors other than the colour of their skin.

"The progress we’ve made so far gives me hope that we can make this better."

To find out more about Belong visit

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