Amber Ponton

Write To freedom Trustee

I became aware of Write to Freedom in 2012. At the time, as part of my own journey of recovery from addiction, I had a regular commitment attending 12 Step recovery meetings inside HMP Channings Wood, a local prison here in south Devon.

 Whilst I felt privileged to be part of these groups, to witness the collective wisdom in the rooms, to give and receive experience, strength and hope, I also found myself wondering at the hopelessness of these men’s predicaments and the revolving door of addiction and prison life.

 
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I felt sad that not only these men (the majority of whom had no recollection of their crimes due to being in drug/alcohol induced blackout) but very few people (in our Western culture), have a rites of passage into adulthood, an ongoing initiation held by a safe and supportive group of men and women.

Magic happens on Write to Freedom residentials. The safety we create as a staff team enables participants to really feel held and to trust the journey we take them on. The stunning wild beauty of Dartmoor does the rest. I love witnessing the change in people’s faces and their body language as the days unfold. I love the unique programme of activities, reflection and rituals that we weave around our core text Tribe Warrior – using myth as a mirror for our own experiences.

I am currently a trustee for Write to Freedom and also volunteer as support staff on residentials up at High Heathercombe on Dartmoor.

My day job is at Transition Network helping support the global Transition movement.

Mick Wade

New Staff Volunteer 2017 (Course Participant 2016)

Job Titles past & present

  • YMCA Exeter (Group Co-Facilitator; 'Perspectives' Course)
  • Five lives (School Workshop Facilitator, Addiction/Substance Misuse)
  • Write To Freedom (Volunteer/Peer Mentor for Residentials and Mentoring Days)
  • Recovery Promotion & Visualisation
  • Beyond The Gate (Trustee & Representative)
  • Emotional Intelligence & Empathy
  • Public Speaking & Oration (Recovery, Change & Rehabilitation)
  • RISE (Ex-Service User & Former Peer Supporter)

Hello! I'm Mick. I'm an addict & alcoholic in recovery, and have lived experience within that chaotic lifestyle, as well as being within the Justice System for over 20 years, since early teens.

I am passionate about Recovery; whether that be from alcohol, drugs, Crime or 'all of the above'. Having got to grips with the tatters of my own life whilst still in HMPs, I realised that I not only had a calling, but a duty to use my own negative experiences and mistakes in life to help those either already on a destructive path, or showing signs of entering that dark realm.

Having made inroads to that end in 2011, I then discovered a stronger desire to be involved with preventative work. I see life in a totally different way these days and I feel extremely privileged to be doing the things that I do today.

Write To Freedom:  Involvement, Connection & Shared Vision

 In May of 2016, I found myself in the privileged position of being offered a participant place on the residential weekend with W2F at High Heathercombe on Dartmoor. It totally changed my life for the better and sent me in a new direction within my recovery & professional life – and my whole life in general. I believe, support and hold dear everything that Caspar and the entire Write to Freedom team set out to achieve. Their ethos and integrity is 100% solid gold, and my role with them is not only a blessing, but an integral part of my own recovery and future objectives.

The backdrop of Dartmoor is the perfect scenery to help those with certain social difficulties and substance misuse problems, to address them in the vibrant arena that is our shared love of nature, whilst being gently immersed into the sharing nature of love... 

Faith, Trust & Fellowship will guide those who are in need of a holistically healing experience – even if they don't yet know it...

John Elsworthy

Lead Nature Connection Facilitator

After a decade of studying and working in outdoor venture and education I went on to work in the care industry alongside people of all walks of life, but largely with those suffering from mental emotional and physical issues. After several years of this I travelled extensively throughout Asia and Australasia to broaden my horizons. When I came back to the UK I decided to bring nature connection and wilderness skills more strongly into my work. Seeing others light up in nature feeds my soul.

I’ve lived in the woods in a self built home with my partner and 3 children for the past 13 years and continue to revel in the mystery of life. Write to Freedom gives me the opportunity to bring my gifts and be of service to those who wish to deepen their connection with the natural world. I  am truly humbled and honoured to be able to do this work.

My favourite saying is "the more I learn the less I realise I know"

Amanda Player

Write to Freedom Trustee

Movement Psychotherapist

My interest in working with people, how to identify our own needs, what changes we want in our own lives and  discovering who we are, began by accident. I needed a job and found an admin role in a housing association near where I lived in Hackney. This was the 80s and I soon found myself campaigning alongside my peers for not only the miners but also rented housing, racial equality,  women's rights, gay rights, workers rights and significant for my choice of future work, user participation. I moved on to manage supported housing for ex-offenders where there was an interest in resident involvement. I then worked with tenants participating in managing their estates and through the mediation skills I learnt there, helped develop and work in a pilot project providing mediation between victims of crime and young offenders. 

Working in a co-op, I was allowed time off to train. Initially thinking I would become a probation officer, I trained instead as a dance movement therapist! As a therapist, I joined a programme designed to support drug users in Holloway Prison and a local hostel. On moving to Devon, I continued to work for some years with movement as a therapist, with groups and individuals in the NHS mental health sector. I now work in the community offering movement psychotherapy and somatic experiencing to individuals.   

As a new trustee, I would love to bring what I have learned and experienced to support Write to Freedom and the team to continue developing this valuable resource. Write to Freedom appears to me as very much a place where participants are encouraged to identify their own needs and start to trust themselves. Participants have the opportunity to consider changes they want in their own lives supported by  the environment offering the potential to feel safe and have fun. As I have found in an initial outing with Write to Freedom,  connecting with nature and stories helped my inner nature to free up, and express itself in good company. I feel glad to know that there will be  more participants each having their own unique experience of this miraculous unfolding in nature.  

Freddy Weaver

Write to Freedom Trustee

Why I joined W2F

I have been working as an Addictions counsellor for 12 years, in rehabilitation centres, charities and private practice across the south-east and west. I recognize a particular, heart-breaking strain of tragedy in the self-destructive patterns of addictive behaviours. Assisting addicts to change to self-nurturing and self-empowering ways of being continues to bring a huge sense of privilege and meaning to my work.

I am especially excited to be engaged with W2F because the contribution to the addiction recovery world is somewhat unique. Exploring these patterns and dynamics in the W2F context of deep nature connection, mytho-poetic narrative and creative expression is both inspired and inspiring.

Whilst living in Bristol I worked for the Southmead Project – a great initiative focusing on working with recovering addicts with trauma – at which narrative therapy was a central approach. In recent years I have become deeply interested in ‘ecopsychology’ or nature therapy, and have studied at Schumacher College with many leaders in this field. The power of taking clients out of their usual environments, immersing them in the wider frame of the natural world and exploring personal story has become clear to me and I look forward to assisting this to reach more people at Write To Freedom.

Hopes and personal contribution

I hope to bring my experience of working with the client group and my network of addiction recovery professionals and institutions to the team. I would like to help the continuing development of W2F by acting as a regular sounding board for Caspar and the team, to help clarify the vision for where W2F wants to go and stabilise the organisation. In time I am excited to explore the possibility of becoming a facilitator for W2F and delivering on the ground support to the vision.

Caspar Walsh

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Creative Director & Lead Facilitator

Caspar designs and leads our courses and supervises our team of mentors. He founded Write to Freedom in 2008 initially to support disaffected young men to undergo a rite of passage through nature and myth. His personal journey through addiction recovery for the last 30 years has developed our initial vision to now support men and women in ‘recovery’ in the widest sense.  


Caspar Walsh’s schooling at A.S. Neil’s Summerhill has had a lasting influence on his approach to his creativity, learning and teaching. Throughout his career he has worked directly with his life experiences in crime, addiction and mental health, transforming a destructive path into a lasting highly positive and inspiring journey. He has become a respected facilitator, speaker and leader in helping to transform the lives of individuals throughout the world.

His publication history reflects an extraordinary life. His first short story was published in Shenanigans (1999 Scepter). From the success of this, the literary production company, Words Allowed was born in Bristol in 1999, commissioning unsigned writers nationwide to perform alongside the likes of Ian Banks, Clive Barker and Helen Dunmore.  Out of Words Allowed came Caspar’s first short story broadcast on BBC Radio 4 followed by two critically acclaimed Radio 4 Radio docu-dramas. His memoir Criminal (2008. Hodder) is the first of three deeply personal, internationally acclaimed works. Blood Road (2010. Hodder), an autobiographical thriller and Tribe Warrior (2014. W2F Press) a work of historical fiction and is part of the Write to freedom curriculum*.

His work with The Guardian and Observer since 2005 includes a three-year online column and continuing freelance contributions. His journalism focusses his dedication and commitment to criminal and social justice and the arts. Following regular articles, stories and comment, he was made film editor for Resurgence and Ecologist Magazine in 2010 and is a regular contributor to Positive News. He has written many articles, features and comment for national and local press.

His three collections of poetry include, New ground, The Hunted and Lost Gods. Caspar is a seasoned spoken word performer bringing his electrifying, emotionally charged poetry to the stage.

His regular broadcast work includes appearances on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 2. His television appearances include Channel 4, BBC TV and ITV. He has appeared on local radio and television, UK and Europe wide. His varied public appearances and speaking engagements include The Hay International Literary Festival. His first TEDx Talk was in Totnes in 2015.

His career working in the UK prison system began in 1988, including voluntary drug support work, writer’s residencies in HMPs’ Parc, Ashfield, Usk and Channings Wood.

His groundbreaking work in rites of passage led to the co-founding of Abandofbrothers, working with young men throughout the UK. This in turn led to the founding of the award winning charity,

*Write to Freedom.              

His continued passion for facilitation and teaching led to the creation of Words from the Earth in 2016, bringing together his life’s’ commitment to community, working with the natural world and the creative word, supporting groups and individuals in their journeys into personal and professional development. He runs regular retreats throughout the UK working with wild nature, creative writing and meditation. He lives, works, walks, writes and rests on his beloved Dartmoor with his beloved partner, Amber.

Amanda Berry

New Staff Volunteer 2017 (Course Participant 2016)

Passions & Jobs

  • Communing with nature
  • Being on or around water
  • Family
  • Supporting others
  • Recovery
  • Book binding
  • Working with the landscape
  • Peer supporting and working with, and alongside my recovery family
  • Recovery champion training to start within the week which will allow me to do one to one work within the recovery community
  • Co-facilitating groups within recovery
  • Carer for three disabled people

As soon as I became a peer supporter I was offered the most wonderful opportunity of a weekend on Dartmoor. Caspar visited a group of us and gave us a vague outline of how the weekend would be structured. It fired my imagination but also a great deal of apprehension felt in my stomach. All the old neurosis came flooding back which increased in the following months culminating in the day to leave when I felt scarcely able to breathe as I approached the minibus. This was alleviated by the welcome of my friends who would be going with me with their free and easy banter and much snack food. The chatter was all about things that we had shared during our recovery journey so far. By the end of the weekend the neurosis was but a distant memory and we had all joined as a tribe. NEVER TO BE SPLIT

Hopes and passions for W2F and what I will bring

Over the next few years I would truly love to see W2F recovery partnership grow and prosper and I would wish for as many people as possible to be offered the same opportunities as I have within the freedom network. It has had an extremely positive effect on my wellbeing both physically and mentally. I would like to join the residential as a co-facilitator and I believe that my own original apprehension about the project will bring me a better understanding towards future participants. I am involved in an exciting fundraising adventure later on this year which should allow this to happen.

Nicki Glassbrook

Chair of Write to Freedom's Board of Trustees

Job Title: Senior Public Health Officer at Devon County Council

I have been working with and for socially excluded people for the last 20 years. I passionately believe that everyone has the right to decent housing, healthcare and opportunities to follow their dreams, irrespective of their background and past behaviours. 

I have worked and managed a hostel for homeless men and went on to  set up the Street Homeless Outreach Team in Exeter. Since 2010 I have been based at Devon County Council, in Public Health with a wider remit around health inequalities. In this role I helped establish Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) in Exeter which is a more holistic approach to working with people with complex needs. I also worked with people in recovery from drugs and alcohol enabling them to contribute towards commissioning a new substance misuse service for Devon. I now work with the Communities team who's vision is to support communities in Devon to flourish. 

It is a privilege to be part of Write to Freedom. Everyone I talk to raves about the charity and the great work it does.  As Chair of the Board of Trustees it is my role to ensure that the charity is fit for purpose. My aim this year is to support the charity to recruit more trustees who are passionate about the work that the charity does and have the skills to support it. I am also looking forward to attending a residential!

Chris Lomas

Write To Freedom Trustee

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Job title: Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner 

Work Experience:

I have worked with high risk offenders both within a custodial setting, focusing on substance misuse and in the community focusing on support and resettlement. I currently work as a CBT Therapist in the Depression and Anxiety service. Through my working life I have experience delivering group workshops, training, mentoring and delivering CBT interventions. I have navigated the labyrinth of services both as a service user and now as a professional. I believe the breadth of this experience helps me understand the barriers and challenges of finding recovery but also means I can identify opportunity and resources for anybody hoping to improve their current situation. I joined right W2F because I have a passion for recovery, I was inspired by what I saw on offer at W2F, I was captivated by the unique, creative approach to recovery and really wanted to build on my own nature connection. Like most if not all in this organisation I viewed this work as a calling, I was blessed enough to hear the call and daring enough to answer that call. I am grateful that I can call this my tribe. 

Hopes for the year: 

My hopes for W2F over the next year is for us to solidify our place working in the addiction and recovery field, really bringing our story and the stories of our participants to life. I hope we continue to stand out, shout out and reach out to those who feel isolated or marginalised. Providing a visible touchstone for all our tribe members past and present. Having recently changed career paths to focus more on mental health, W2F is now my anchor to working in Recovery, something which I am truly passionate about. I will be bringing my own story, my experience and my truth whether that be at the “coal face of love” on residential weekends or more strategically as a guardian and trustee.

Ali Chapman

New Staff Volunteer 2017 (Course Participant 2016)

Job Title – Support Worker with a passion to help people break free from whatever it may be that imprisons their soul

Five lives – School work/ Addiction/Self Harm

Bridge Collective – Expert by Experience, Dual Diagnosis

Recovery Champion - RISE

Career/ Background/ W2F

I have a variety of roles – all intertwine and connect in that they are working with people experiencing difficulties with addiction or mental health. I have lived experience of both.

I passionately believe that we all have the capacity to change and grow if the conditions are right and we are willing to take a leap of faith.

In a world that I found too fast, too confusing and uncaring at times Write to Freedom offered me an alternative. I could re connect with the landscape, notice all the beauty around me and potential within me and begin to forge connections with my kind of people. My tribe.

In my capacity as a support worker and facilitator I try to introduce key themes to people that have really worked for me in such a dramatic way: Nature, environment and connection. The importance of being grounded within myself and the world I live in. The power of creativity whether writing, art or music. The sense of power and release when pen is put to paper and that emotion/feeling is out of my head and can no longer destroy me.

I joined Write to Freedom as I still had within me the memories of how at one I was with the Moor when I was growing up – the sense of calm, wonder and mischievous adventure. I wanted to see it through the eyes of recovery.

They say muscle has memory – when my leg muscles touched that warm damp mossy ground on my first day at Higher Heathercombe I was home.

Hopes for the Next Year – What I can bring

I am so delighted that Write to Freedom (W2F) has four residentials this year – I want desperately for as many people in as wide an arena as possible to be given the chance to experience a spiritual transformation as I did. My hope is that I can continue to grow in any direction that W2F takes me. It can be totally unexpected – on the last residential, my first as a team member I was totally taken aback by the power of connecting with an all woman’s sharing circle. To feel comfortable, awakened and connected to these wonderful women who had so much to offer I felt truly blessed.

I would like to see the opportunity for people to attend these transformational wends to be opened up beyond peer supporters in RISE (http://www.riserecovery.org.uk/) – In my own recovery circle I know so many who would seize the opportunity if it arose.

I personally wish to continue growing learning and challenging myself to be of service to both the team and participants.

I bring passion, exuberance, calmness, creativity – I bring all of me.

Ben Ford

Write to Freedom Project & Admin Coordinator

I am Write to Freedom’s Project and Admin Co-ordinator. It is my job to make our organisation run smoothly. I’m also in the lucky position where I can step away from the office, and help out on our courses in the great wilds of Dartmoor.  

I came upon this work through my own journey in rites of passage and men’s work. I am continually awed by witnessing people’s personal development work in dramatic natural surroundings. 

It is my mission to sustainably grow Write to Freedom into a community change maker, by implementing effective systems that allow for more connection, and less bureaucracy.