Charity inspiration interview - Release into Victory
This month, we talk to founder and representative of Release Into Victory (RiV) Gina Gonzales about her not-for-profit Community Interest Company, which deals with the sensitive subject of the trauma of childhood sexual abuse (CSA).
Gina, when and how did the dream of RiV become a reality?
It really started back in 2012, when the whole Jimmy Saville case hit the news. For me, as a survivor of CSA, it triggered something in me – I found it very frustrating as I realised lots of people would be searching for help and support, and there was little available. When the media picks up on a story like this and everyone is talking about it, it’s a time when memories come to the fore for those who have survived CSA; it’s a crucial time as they look to seek support and offload. When I looked around, there was no support offered in my local area. Yes, there were big national organisations, but nothing local. It’s still a very hush-hush subject.
I thought about it from a personal point of view: what would I need to see or access? I’d want to make a call, go somewhere, chat to someone. I’d want to go to my doctors and have him or her signpost me where to go. With that in mind, more and more ideas came to me.
I visited the Community and Voluntary Services (CVS) and they thought my ideas were relevant. I registered with Companies House, set up a bank account, looked for funding, got into the local paper – and this was all at the end of 2012, beginning of 2013.
How many of you run the charity?
At the moment, it’s just me. I have two directors on board – they’re professional people who deal with all the paperwork and give me some advice when it comes to getting policies up and running. But, really, it’s my baby – I built it from the ground up. I’ve developed a training package and would like to recruit volunteers, but I just don’t have the structure in place when it comes to funding – mileage and other expenses that they would claim for, for example.
Have you faced any challenges along the way, and how have you overcome them?
One of the main hurdles for me is not having a business adviser – and the lack of business support and advice that comes with that. I have had to teach myself everything – PAYE, for example – and learn as I go. It’s all new to me, and I try to learn a lot of it online.
Before this, my roles have included being a support worker, social care for people with learning difficulties, admin – but I’ve got no experience when it comes to finances. I have to juggle a lot of things – paperwork, policies, insurance – all on my own with no advice.
Another challenge is, quite simply, that it’s exhausting! I have to make money, so I work in the evenings and at weekends to pay the bills. But I keep going because I feel like I’m now at a breakthrough point – I’ve put together a big bid for a five-year lottery fund and have been networking like crazy.
What advice would you give to other organisations?
Keep going. If you feel passionate enough about something to set up a charity or organisation in the first place, then it’s obviously something you need to do – a compelling urge. So don’t give up; keep trying to get more support, and don’t wait for it to come to you. It’s good to test yourself and, while I would welcome more advice, I am proud of what I have achieved on my own.
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