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Bryn Price: Safer Kent

PUBLISHED: 07:14 25 September 2015 | UPDATED: 07:14 25 September 2015

Bryn Price, director, Safer Kent

Bryn Price, director, Safer Kent

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Safer Kent's director Bryn Price combines a love of sport with a desire to make his adopted county a better place for us all.

Using sport to help young people has become part of the ethos of Safer Kent (formerly The Kent People’s Trust), the charity dedicated to creating a better environment for everyone in Kent.

Which is why Bryn Price couldn’t be a better fit as its director; a phenomenal endurance athlete, he takes part in gruelling sporting challenges every year not only because he simply loves them but also to help raise funds.

Bryn grew up in Africa, where he was a cross-country schoolboy runner and rugby player. His first career was in the Rhodesian civil service as a district officer working out in rural areas, which led to getting heavily involved in training people, an area he discovered he not only enjoyed but was good at.

A natural preference for extreme sports also became a lifelong passion and Bryn took part in events including The Comrades Marathon, the world’s largest and oldest ultra-marathon race.

It was originally started to commemorate the South African soldiers killed during the First World War and run for the first time on 24 May 1921 (Empire Day).

After Rhodesia became the independent Republic of Zimbabwe in 1980, Bryn’s job was no longer available and he moved to South Africa before relocating permanently to Great Britain in 1991.

It wasn’t his first sight of the UK, however: he’d come over in 1988 specifically to run the London marathon, achieving a place in the elite fast-start group. Simply unstoppable, after he turned 50 Bryn decided to break into triathlons and is currently in training for the world’s longest non-stop canoe race.

With a job at Kent Police as a training officer, his new life quickly took shape, from buying a house in Maidstone to being introduced to his wife (who grew up in Zambia) through the local hairdresser, another fellow South African.

Kent Police asked Bryn to run its management leadership programmes, which included setting up a Masters Degree programme for the police and fire service with Canterbury Christ Church University. Kent was the lead in this brand new initiative and not only did other forces subsequently follow, but the lessons they leant there were picked up by other organisations – including the Church of England.

Some of the lecturers on the programme were approached to run what became known as ‘the baby Bishops’ course, applying the same principles that when a police officer moves up to senior manager, similar lessons are needed when a vicar moves on to being a bishop.

Despite not being a police officer, Bryn then got the chance to take on the role of staff officer to the assistant police constable, as a short-term strategic secondment.

At that time he was in charge of partnership and income generation and part of his role was to look after Kent People’s Trust.

This had started in 2000 when a group of public and private organisations, led by the High Sheriff of Kent, recognised the need to help prevent crime before it started. They wanted to support local people who were committed to helping themselves and their communities.

Since then, the Trust has donated more than £800,000 to local projects in Kent and Medway, working with a wide range of individuals and organisations providing everything from youth clubs, security advice for the elderly, youth mentoring programmes to drug rehabilitation schemes. These projects not only help prevent crime but also genuinely improve the safety and wellbeing of local communities.

When Bryn reached pension age a couple of years ago, The Trust asked him to stay on to look after the charity, which brings us full circle and explains why we are chatting in an office in Police HQ, Maidstone – the base for what is now Safer Kent. Bryn explains the background to the name change. “We realised that we had to reach far more into the business community because public sector funding was drying up.

“That meant we had to look at how we were perceived and we started work on rebranding the Trust, which is how Safer Kent came about; it allowed people to understand immediately what we are trying to do.

“Wherever people are working together to make Kent a safer and better place to live, Safer Kent is working alongside them.”

It all began eight years ago with the introduction of youth inclusion programmes where young people referred by a range of agencies are put through structured projects. This started off with sailing and has now spread all the way through to judo, football, rugby and a planned cricket programme.

“Basically, anything that will get the kids to understand that behaviour is a responsibility, discipline is something they should be doing – but we don’t tell them that, because we’d never seen them again!” laughs Bryn.

“However, you don’t do judo or rugby without a sense of discipline, and you can’t lose your temper when you’re sailing a little dinghy, but if you learn to control your temper and listen to people, then you sail back safely and everyone cheers you: you’ve achieved something.

“It’s all about learning to work with other people, break down the barriers – which is great, as some of the kids are in a very narrow peer group, and very often that’s part of the problem. Then all of a sudden they are interacting with other people and realising they are actually able to celebrate other people’s achievements, for example, getting a pass in judo.”

Bryn adds: “The big advantage with Safer Kent is that we don’t have a template, we don’t just do one thing and say well, that’s how we do it. Anything that is going to make a safer Kent can come into this office, however small or big.

“Very seldom does a project fail because usually the people who’ve come up with the idea are so enthusiastic, and that’s the fun of it.”

Bryn explains that many of the coaches started off on their programmes, so when a youngster says to a coach ‘but you don’t understand,’ he says ‘I do actually, I was in the first programme and I’m now in the Academy and have the chance of maybe being a professional football referee.’

On the judo course, for example, there are kids who were referred onto the programme by the police or social services but who have now come back as volunteers. Another bonus is parental pride, often being shown for the first time. “One parent said her son had been turned from a thug into someone who is so well behaved because he doesn’t want to come off the programme.”

However, as in any charity, money has to be put in to get money out. Bryn points out: “We’re the bridge between the donors and the doers, we take people who are prepared to give money to put into youth projects and link it through to the people who have identified the problem and usually identified a solution – we then help put them both together.”

Safer Kent isn’t just about sport programmes, however, and many projects start in a very small way. For example, a group in East Kent expressed concern that local people didn’t know where to go to report domestic abuse. They wanted to run training courses for hairdressers, on the basis that people confide in their hairdresser.

So successful has it proved that that the same principle is now being used in West Kent to train taxi drivers in the same role.

Another success story is the street pastors, volunteers from churches across towns in Kent who go out on the streets Friday and Saturday nights to provide practical help to anybody who needs it, including handing out flip flops, bottles of water, foil blankets, first aid and lollipops.

“Because we have no template, we can’t tell donors exactly what their money is going towards,” explains Bryn. “The easiest answer is saying it will go towards making a safer Kent via community projects.

“Every quarter we have grant applications to put before the board and most get approved and are between £1,000 and £2,500. It won’t pay for a full-time youth worker, but if a volunteer needs training, for example to be a football coach, that sum will make a real difference.

“Community groups are our backbone; they say what the problem is, we help them on the next step, ie how they are going to solve it, then we put them in touch with other people who can help and work out if their budget is realistic.

“That can sometimes mean suggesting they need more money, which can be a real culture shock, being offered more than they asked for.”

Bryn adds: “Safer Kent needs about £80,000 a year and while most of that sum comes in from corporate fundraisers, we are trying to get people to understand that even a small donation is wonderful.

“For example, £50 will allow us to help a young person from Kent or Medway turn their lives around, using sport to achieve self confidence and build a constructive peer group who will help them grow and flourish as members of society.”

You can help by sponsoring Bryn in his next epic challenge (see ‘find out more’), which even he describes as a ‘monster.’ He is in training for the world’s longest non-stop canoe race, the Devizes Westminster International Canoe Race, taking place 25 to 28 March 2016.

“You have to get to Teddington lock in time to catch the tide so you can get into the finish point at Westminster. Timing and teamwork is 
everything,” says Bryn, in what sounds like a metaphor for this marathon man’s life work. w

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