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Team mission for chaplain lacing up her trainers for charity

A prison chaplain from Durham is preparing to swap her vestments for a running vest to raise vital funds to support vulnerable children.

Rev Rachael Farnham is part of a team of six prison chaplains from across the country who are taking part in this year’s Great North Run on behalf of The Children’s Society, a charity Rev Rachael feels very passionately about.

The team will be among 60,000 runners taking part in the half-marathon between Newcastle and South Shields on Sunday 11 September. You can sponsor them here.

Rev Rachael and her colleagues were persuaded to take part by Rev Helen Dearnley, who supports a 300-strong network of prison chaplains in her role as Anglican and HQ Advisor for Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service. Rev Helen wanted to do something to build camaraderie amongst her team.

The team are hoping to raise around £10,000 and are excited about the impact their fundraising could have.

Rev Rachael, who works at HMP Frankland, said: “The work The Children’s Society does is so valuable.

“I have one of their calendars up in my office and I love to read the testimonies from children they have helped. It puts a face to the charity name and is really helping to spur me on.”

She added: “Children are the future, they need a safe space where they can grow and learn. If this isn’t available they can end up in prison. I believe by investing in young people now it will benefit the public as a whole as they learn skills, including inter-personal ones, that will aid them as they grow into adulthood.”

Rev Rachael, who is now training for the run, said she had never done anything similar before.

She said: “Before signing up for this I would happily tell people I wasn’t a runner, that running was boring and definitely not for me, but I’m actually now quite enjoying it.

“I started out on a treadmill but have now started running outside and love taking in the beauty of the world as I go.”

Rev Rachael has been a prison chaplain for a year, but has been following the calling for more than a decade. She says her role involves supporting the prison community with pastoral care, helping prisoners and staff with relationships inside and outside the prison, help prisoners to cope with crisis and promoting the values of justice, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.

She added: “One of my favourite things is participating in one of the unit’s creative sessions where the men organise quizzes and games. Getting to be part of the day-to-day life is important to build up trust and relationships with both prisoners and staff.”

It is not only chaplains Rev Helen Dearnley is hoping to get involved in the run. The challenge is also being set amongst prison staff and prisoners, some of whom may run the marathon on treadmills in prison gyms.

Three Bishops who provide episcopal support to prison chaplains will also be covering the distance between them in their dioceses.

The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Libby Lane, who is Vice Chair of The Children’s Society; the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, who is also Anglican Bishop for Prisons and the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Michael Ipgrave, will all be putting themselves through their paces. Another two chaplains will be completing the distance in their home towns.

Gill Dean, Community Relationship Manager for The Children’s Society in the North East, said: “We are thrilled the prison chaplains chose to help The Children’s Society. The money they raise will really help us to support children living incredibly difficult lives, from those facing poverty, to those at risk of criminal and sexual exploitation and those experiencing mental health issues.

“It’s great that the team are not only coming together at the Great North Run, but also getting the prison community involved. We hope it creates lots of buzz and excitement amongst prisoners and prisoner guards.”

Rev Helen said: “Everyone knows getting exercise is good not only for people’s physical health, but that it can improve their mental health too. I am hoping that by signing up for this challenge the prison community can really come together to do something positive for children and their futures.”


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