My story - Volunteer education and literacy officer

Erin Jones talks about her role for MindWise and Together For You as an Education and Literacy Officer within Maghaberry Prison.

"I first heard about this voluntary position through a family member who works on the Together For You project.  As I am currently studying Criminology and Social Policy at Queens University, the opportunity to volunteer within a prison setting seemed perfect for me.  I had been looking for opportunities to volunteer in a relevant setting and so was ecstatic to begin in this post in December 2014.

Working with MindWise specifically has been important for me as I have had serious mental health issues in the past.  With the insight I have I am aware of just how vital services such as MindWise are for people who are struggling.

Although my first day in Maghaberry Prison was one full of nerves and self doubt, I soon relaxed into the role and am now much more confident.  Working with the men in the prison has been a privilege for the past few weeks and I hope to continue in this role for as long as possible.  The rewards for me are the opportunity to work in a prison setting, helping to promote good mental health and assisting men with their literacy skills in order that they gain an OCN qualification.

The level of literacy amongst the prisoners varies greatly.  Some are confident in their written work, others need more support. One man in particular really struggles with his literacy.  He becomes embarrassed, distressed and panicked at the prospect of writing.  The role I play is to calmly assist him and hopefully help to boost his confidence.

Recently I have been lucky enough to be able to take on a second session in the same role working with female prisoners in Hydebank Prison.  Again, the opportunity is a privilege, and I look forward to starting this new role soon.  

Going forward, I intend to continue in these roles as long as possible.  I will use all of the knowledge I have gained to continue working towards graduating from University and hopefully gaining employment within the area of criminal justice in the future.

I have also just trained as a Befriender for another Together For You partner organisation, The Rainbow Project, and plan to meet my first befriendee this week.  Through Together For You I have already gained certificates in Sexual Orientation Awareness Training, FASA Drugs Awareness Training and SafeTalk Suicide Alertness Training.

I am thoroughly enjoying my voluntary positions and feel that not only am I giving something back to people who may be struggling for many reasons but also the impact these roles have on my own confidence and hope for my future employment.  Volunteering with Together For You is most definitely something I would encourage people to do." 

If you are interested in volunteering with Together For You, please contact Deborah McCready from MindWise on 028 9031 5060 or email: Deborah.McCready@mindwisenv.org

For the latest volunteer opportunities, click here.

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