Get Inspired - Big Changers

Get Inspired

Big Changer of the Month: Ruth Ibegbuna

30 October 2015: posted by BigChange

UNP Indy 29087 Manchester Riots 21/7/12 Owen Jones feature on Manchester a year on from the riots . Reclaim project . Ruth Ibegbuna . © Chris Bull/UNP. 01274 412222.
© Chris Bull/UNP.

Where do we even begin with Ruth?

She’s a former teacher, social activist, and head of Reclaim – our newest project partner. She is some one who gets the job done, and she leaves everyone she meets feeling incredibly inspired.

We interviewed Ruth to find out a bit more her passion for social change and equality, and her experiences founding and running Reclaim.


In a nutshell, what inspired you to begin Reclaim?

I’d left teaching after 6 years and knew that I was passionate about working with young people, particularly those young people who had potential but needed additional pastoral support. I’d lost my faith in the UK educational system and was interested in working outside of the classroom, to help inspire young people whose potential may otherwise not be realised.

What there one “aha” moment that stands out in particular that drove you to dedicate your life to social change?

‘Dedicating my life to social change’ sounds pretty daunting! I’m still not sure that I’ve done that. I definitely feel angry about the inequality in the world and sometimes utterly frustrated at the fact that people feel powerless to change it and therefore don’t try.

If there was one particular standout moment it was watching my city burn (during the Bradford riots) and watching anger and hatred destroy a place I called home. I left the city shortly afterwards but I was clear in my mind that I wanted give a voice to the marginalised and work to combat social injustice and community tension.

We have young people who may have a multitude of pressures at home yet are committed to achieving positive change in their communities and work hard, in their own time, to achieve this.

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What is the most challenging aspect of your work with RECLAIM?

Working outside of London carries many challenges. I think there’s a real danger that the voluntary sector becomes London first and then the rest of the country a long way behind. We should be working together to find effective solutions to complex social problems. Attracting funding and recognition when based in the north is often hard work; good ideas can stem from anywhere. There are so many other organizations here doing urgent, important work who struggle to have their voices heard.

And the most rewarding?

Easy. The incredible and inspiring young people at RECLAIM. They demonstrate a wisdom and resilience that inspires me every day. We have young people who may have a multitude of pressures at home yet are committed to achieving positive change in their communities and work hard, in their own time, to achieve this.

If you had a magic wand that you could wave to make any change, what would it be?

That those at the top would lead with honesty, wisdom, passion, integrity, courage and empathy.

We know that the young people that you’ve worked with have learned incredible amounts from you. What do you think you have learned from them?

To judge a tree by the fruit it bears, not where its roots are laid.


Have you been making changes in your community? Do you know someone who has? Tell us about it! Email emily@big-change.org.