Gemma Brown and Coral Lockwood met through the resettlement work provided by Peterborough Youth Offending Service. Here they explain how their relationship developed
Coral Lockwood, 19, former young offender:
“I first met Gemma when I came out of prison last March. I had been inside for 10 months and found it really strange when I first came out to be around crowds, but Gemma made me feel safe. She was helping the youth offending team worker who was dealing with me at the time, and I happened to mention that I liked her. She apparently said the same about me, and we took it from there.
“We tend to meet up once a week and maybe go for something to eat. I wasn’t a very nice person before, and I find it easy to talk to Gemma about that because she knows the person I am now and I know she isn’t going to judge me over what I used to do. I trust her.
“Generally she can only meet me for an hour because she has to look after her little boy, but I understand that. I am pregnant myself now and she has been giving me lots of advice and has promised to pass on some baby clothes, which will be a great help. And I know if I have any problems I can ring her and, if she can, she will always help.
“Gemma is a very positive person who helps me stay out of trouble and gives me good advice when I get into a state of mind where I want to explode. She is very honest with me and tells me how it is. But she also has a very calming voice and talks to me like an adult. So I give her the respect back that she gives me.
“I would advise anyone else in my position to take any help on offer from people like Gemma. It does work, providing you listen to what they say. They just want to help you become a better person – and Gemma has certainly helped me do that.”
Gemma Brown, volunteer mentor:
“I became a mentor because I wanted to give young people support and confidence, and help them have fun and be themselves. I was in care when I was young and was never really given the opportunity to have a mentor and feel it is something that is invaluable to young people. I am also hoping to have a career working with young people.
“When I first met Coral last year I felt a little nervous and didn’t really know what to expect, but it turned out that she was very polite, funny and easy going. Coral and I bonded very quickly I felt comfortable in her company and she made me laugh with her quirky sense of humour!
“We generally meet once a week and maybe go for lunch, play pool, or go bowling or ice skating, which is quite embarrassing as I am rubbish at it.
“I used to work for a cosmetics company and asked Coral if she would like me to give her a makeover, which she was really pleased to have. I also took Coral to see the musical Fame, which was amazing. Before we went in, Coral agreed to help me fundraise for charity as I was taking part in an event the following month.
“Although I have only tended to see Coral once a week, I give her a call or a text to see how she is doing every now and then too.
“When I first started mentoring Coral I was working part-time but in October I started working full-time at Peterborough drug services, which makes it very difficult to see Coral as I am also a single parent. But we will be meeting on Thursday mornings as I generally don’t start work until midday on that day.
“Throughout the time I have known Coral she has been a breath of fresh air. I admire her strength and courage she’s a survivor and I see her going a long way in life.”
➔ For more information about volunteering as a mentor in Peterborough, contact Martin Webb at the Better Together Volunteer Project on 01733 566919 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article appeared in the 17 January issue under the headline “‘She is a very positive person who helps me stay out of trouble'”