From one girl boss to another: Eva Hamilton of Key4Life

From one girl boss to another meet Eva Hamilton MBE, founder and CEO of Key4Life – a UK Charity that addresses the root causes of youth reoffending by providing a dynamic rehabilitation programme to young people in prison and those at risk of going to prison. I have been lucky enough to work with Eva and this fantastic charity for the past couple of years by employing ex-offenders at Social Pantry and working inside prisons across the UK as a mentor and guide.

Earlier this year, I organised the Social Supper club to help raise awareness of the fantastic work that Key4Life do; the night was an extraordinary success and gained features in Guardian Weekend, Harper’s Bazaar, Stylist and on London Live – 5 chefs, 5 ex-offenders and over 60 guests. What a night.

I was thrilled to sit down with Eva to discover more about the amazing work she does and ways in which all businesses can make a difference to a young mans life. Read on to find out more.

What was your inspiration to start the charity and how did you initially go about launching?
I have spent the last 30 years working with some of the most marginalised groups in the UK, from launching and running the veterans’ charity, ‘The Warrior Programme,’ to ‘Ready for Work’ at Business in the Community, helping homeless into employment across the UK. My work on these grassroots programmes, trying to develop innovative and radical approaches to some of the UK’s most intractable social problems, made me appreciate the importance of addressing the causes rather than the symptoms of peoples’ issues.

The tipping point to establish Key4Life was seeing children as young as 8 years old rioting on streets across the UK in 2011. Taking key learnings and methodologies from my other charities’, I launched the charity in 2012 with a pilot in HMP/YOI Ashfield, near Bristol with 23 gang leaders. From the outset, the aim of the charity was to empower young men, specifically multiple offenders, as well as those at risk of going to prison, to secure employment and reintegrate into society on a positive path away from crime.

What are the core values of Key4Life?
The charity’s core values are centred on our beneficiaries – our purpose is to serve our young men to help them unlock their potential and untap their talents. The charity is measured on our re-offending rates and helping young men into sustained employment – a Key4Life participant is four times less likely to return to prison and four times more likely to secure a job if they go through the Key4Life programme.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced since starting you founded Key4Life?
Dispelling the public’s and businesses’ myths about offenders is, and continues to be, my biggest challenge. With over half of businesses saying they do not wish to employ a former offender – but jobs are the key to breaking the cycle of crime – our campaign to change mind sets, to give our former inmates another chance, is unrelenting. But we are making very positive inroads with over 80 businesses now on board!

From one girl boss to another, what advice would you give you other women wanting to start their own business?
Women are incredible adept at multi-tasking, problem solving, taking risks, innovating and having a ‘hands on’ and ‘can do’ approach – these are all attributes vital to successful campaigning and pioneering of meaningful social ventures.

What are your future goals for Key4Life?
Our big goal is for our model to be the blue print to effective rehabilitation for young offenders and to be widely adopted in prisons across the UK, while maintaining our consistency of delivery and our extraordinary results!

What is your go to meal to cook when you are at home?
Homegrown salad packed with flavours – asparagus, pomegranate and seeds with goats cheese; and a warming vegetable soup with crusty bread and butter.

If we came over for dinner, what sort of food would you serve?
A traditional roast lamb (home reared), potato dauphinoise and greens, with lashings of gravy.

Are there any specific ingredients/foods you couldn’t live without?
Hot water and lemon – my alternative to tea or coffee; fresh basil, garlic, good olive oil and tomatoes to rustle up bruschetta to share with family and friends.


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