As part of Prison week 2016, we asked members of our ACE project’s Men After Prison (MAP) Group to tell us about their life after prison and how Caritas Care has helped them create a positive future for themselves. In his own words, this is Gary’s story…
“When released I honestly didn’t know where I would end up or what I was going to do. The reality of prison is that it is somewhere safe, and as bad as it affects you mentally and emotionally, it is a comfort blanket it is what you know. The work and effort you put in does give you some understanding and belief in yourself but the reality of the outside world does hit you and is at times very overwhelming.
Working with the ACE Project volunteering has been so rewarding. I have helped decorate various buildings both under supervision and on my own and this is something I have really enjoyed.
Nothing has been more challenging than being involved in delivering workshops at UCLAN or with youngsters on the fringes of crime. It has been a great way of building self confidence and the pride you feel afterwards is beyond description.
It has also helped me with my relationship with my son, understanding the impact my behaviour has had on him has been the most difficult and at the same time most rewarding. I now have my son Taylor living with me full time.
I have spent the last two years learning about myself and how destructive behaviour affects other people.
I take enormous pride in being a founder member of the Men After Prison (MAP) group a peer led peer mentor group which through the ACE Project has given me the opportunities and drive to learn and to do well. I don’t always get it right but the staff and service users don’t judge you they help you and, just like in anything in life, you realise making mistakes is OK. They help steer you in the right direction, offering help, advice, and support that is unique as you are.
My hopes are to get employment and to be able to support my family through legitimate means is huge for me. I want to help those that have come through the system as I have and show them no matter where you come from or how far you fall it is possible to get up and get on.
If this is where I am now with more hard work and dedication who knows what I can achieve!
The ACE Project now also gives young people the opportunity to spend time in an environment they wouldn’t necessarily get access to with a new service called Alternative Highs. These are weekends away were volunteers such as myself can offer advice on what lead us into crime and encourage these young people avoid it and make a better life for themselves.”
Gary, ACE Project MAP Volunteer