Mindful leadership at Embercombe

Our secondees share about their experience at Embercombe learning centre and coaching sessions at Worth Abbey

Our Kenyan Prison Officers, Moses, Mwanahamisi and Elizabeth are featuring on our blog today where they share some of their experiences within our Secondment Programme - including time spent on retreat at Embercombe, coaching sessions at Worth Abbey and training with the University of Nottingham. Our Secondment Programme aims to empower the next generation of penal reformers in Africa.

A platform for senior prison staff who have a track record of excellence, providing them with the exposure, training and networks to enable them to develop as change makers in their own environments.

On the 12th-15th of October, the secondees travelled to Exeter to stay at the Embercombe retreat with the purpose of enhancing self-awareness. The secondees took part in Mindfulness and Authentic Leadership training lead by Dr. Inmaculada Adarves-Yorno. All the activities over the course of their time at Embercombe led towards self-reflection, mindfulness and deep reflection in nature (DRIN).

On the third day of their stay, the secondees experienced 5 hours of deep reflection in the woods alone. Moses writes “...a more notable memory for me was being able to realise that vulnerability is a strength, and that my ability to allow myself to be vulnerable is in itself authentic leadership. It is being mindful of the inbuilt leadership strengths and weaknesses and applying them within the different perspectives that life confronts us with.” He further says how he enjoyed the power of meditation and relaxation: “...the quiet time within the serene, natural environment made me feel a connection with the earth, the beauty of the natural forest, fruit trees, and natural organically grown crops. These created an enabling environment to perform an exploration of the mind and to rediscover myself and understand the very reason for my existence.”

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Swiftly after Exeter - on the 16th of October - the secondees boarded a train to Nottingham. Elizabeth recalls her journey as “...an adventure giving the eyes the pleasure of exploring the UK countryside away from the London busy life. The large farm lands and dairy farming ranches were quite a sight to see making the journey an exploration and expedition at the same time.”

During the week, they visited the University of Nottingham’s Human Rights Law Centre which facilitated human rights training. A number of topics covered life imprisonment, the human rights of prisoners and access to legal advice.

Elizabeth believed that the training provided a wealth of knowledge and she enjoyed the interactive aspect as it made it more interesting and memorable. Reminiscing on her favourite memory, she writes “...we took a walk down Wollaton Hall Gardens and Deer Park, which I learned was known for its association with the famous Batman film. The park was beautiful with a conserved forestland and lake that gives Wollaton a place worth visiting.”

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In early November our Kenyan officers enjoyed a stay at Worth Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, as part of our Secondment Programme. Elizabeth, Mwanahamisi and Moses went through a couple of days of coaching from our coaching partner Tom Kambouris, alongside spending time with the community of Benedictine monks who reside at the monastery.

Mwanahamisi shares her experience:

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“Worth Abbey is a place where you feel you are living a life closer to God. A breathtaking environment to live in, but also with a constant reminder that you have an obligation to serve God. Praying with the monks and looking at the kind of life they have chosen and dedicated all their lives to, prompts you to look closely at the kind of life you are leading yourself as a human being. Living a life where you are not supposed to think of riches to satisfy your ego, but to appreciate and share what you have with others as one people who belong to one God.

In saying this, it then reminds me of this quote that I saw on one of the walls at Worth Abbey; “give value to our little worth” which I believe carries a whole lot of meaning depending on how one interprets it. What actually fascinated me the most, is the level of discipline and respect that there was in that place. There is a school within the compound which is run and managed by the monks, and as much as there is a school within the compound, it is not easy to tell that there are students around because of the peace and quietness that you can enjoy while at Worth Abbey.”

As we have seen a glimpse of the secondees experiences in England, we can say that they are having an enjoyable time, learning from UK prison management systems through a range of training and resources that will support them in bringing positive transformation to Kenyan prisons.

Find out more about mindful leadership in the video below.