Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Looking back at 2016

That was a year, that was! 

We settled into our new location upstairs at 5th Avenue Plaza and unpacked thousands of books.

One of the best things was when we were finally able to donate books to HMP Low Newton, a women's prison in county Durham. It took nearly a year to get that off the ground, but they came for a first load of books and were delighted at the range of subjects on offer. After only a few weeks they returned saying that they needed more books to fill up the shelves as they had not taken enough the first time round.

Open Gate is an organisation supporting women leaving Low Newton and they have also started a small local Borderline Books project for these women.

Later in the year we made contact with HMP Askham Grange in York and HMP Leeds. They came for two visits and were happy to take several hundred books for these two prisons. We are very happy to be able to donate books directly to prisons now and emphasize that they should allow the prisoners to keep any books they particularly like because we can refill the shelves as often as they want.  This is in such contrast to the situation a couple of years ago when it was so very difficult to get books into prisons.

In the longer term, we would love to work with organisations supporting people leaving prison to set up local editions of Borderline Books. The project can offer training in a wide range of skills which would help people to find paid work at a later stage. People who love books find it a wonderful way of indulging their passion while doing a useful and creative job.

Another first was a delivery of 200 books to the office of Police and Crime Commissioner Vera (now Dame Vera) Baird. These were for placing in the six custody suites within Northumberland in the hope that they will help make a difficult few hours in detention a little less taxing. We are waiting for some feedback on how this is helping.

We also donated books to a number of care homes, schools, organisations supporting people who are homeless or struggling with dependency issues, refugee organisations and others. We took part in the Teams Festival in the summer and wrecked our gazebo in the wind at the Dunston Festival... These two festivals are about the only occasions on which we give books direct to the public. Many people are over the moon to have access to books they can keep when they may perhaps be having to make use of the local food banks and could not possibly afford the luxury of buying books.

By the end of the year we had found new homes for well over 13,000 books. By the time of the AGM we will have a full set of figures of the numbers of books received and donated as well as the grants we received during the year.
Late in the year, our founder, Amina Marix Evans, received a letter saying that she had been nominated for an MBE. After some thought she decided that it would not be right to accept:

First, the concept of Empire is outdated, and given the groups we support, particularly the refugees, many of whom are in the difficulties they are in now as a direct or indirect result of the legacy of the late British Empire, it would have felt like a slap in the face to them to accept. Also I didn't want letters after my name that do not denote any kind of academic achievement setting me apart from those I work with and for.
Second, I honestly feel that if the work of the Kittiwake Trust is held in such high esteem, then it would be far more appropriate to give an award to the charity and not to the individual.

The Kittiwake Trust will continue with our work of supporting groups working with vulnerable and disadvantaged people and of sharing the delights of words and books in as many languages as we can lay hands on.
If you value our work it would make much more sense to nominate the Kittiwake Trust for local or national charity awards and to help us spread Borderline Books to other parts of the country.

Amina Marix Evans, January 2017

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