I started out as a volunteer, first at my local church’s youth
club, then later as mentor for young people at risk of offending.
Coming from a family of seven and with 14 nieces and nephews, I
found working with young people natural. I then became a youth
worker with charity Rainer, before joining Women in Prison.
When visiting prisons for the first time, I was shocked by the many
young people behind bars. I was blown away by women telling me that
where they are from it is normal for a woman to go to prison. Home
life was a mess, often with a history of abuse. A shockingly large
number of women used drugs.
I found it really difficult listening to some of the awful,
Prison officers are not always helpful. I hate forcing myself to be
nice to really nasty officers, who make the women’s lives and my
job that much more difficult.
It can be really frustrating trying to convince councils that
former prisoners desperately need accommodation. So many women
leaving prison have a long history of drug abuse or undiagnosed
mental illness but councils constantly find ways not to assist
Many women I work with have no one to talk to, no one to encourage
and support them. Yet it amazes me how so many of them are in such
high spirits. I have gained valuable lessons from them and admire
their strength and determination.
I am constantly looking positively towards improving their future
in some way.
I try to be honest about what I can and can’t do and realistic
about the amount of support I can give. Women I work with admire
honesty. The chances are, they have had people telling them lies
all their life, so they need to be able to trust me.
You need a genuine passion and caring nature to do this job, as it
can take a lot out of you.