Prison Link Worker
I am the prison link worker at HMP Manchester. Once a week I go onto the wings and workshops to interview men who have expressed an interest in having a volunteer linked with them. The relationship usually starts with a letter or a visit by the volunteer a few months before release. Some of the men continue the relationship after release and come down to Cafe Central on Oldham Street. For many who are cut off from family and friends this is a lifeline of support at an insecure and lonely time in their lives.
I started volunteering at GMCC about 8 years ago by spending time in the café to welcome any new visitors. Over time this developed into a befriending and mentoring role particularly with men I had met whilst leading Bible study groups in HMP Manchester. I then spent twelve months working as the Chaplain here at GMCC before also taking on the role of manager. In many ways this is a particularly challenging time but it is also a great privilege to be involved with people who have decided they want to make a fresh start in life and have reached out for help. It is a great blessing to see some of those who came to us for help now helping others and playing a crucial role in making sure the same opportunity is on offer for those ready to begin again.
I first came to GMCC as a client for support (after meeting Marlene in HMP Manchester) which really benefited me and helped me to get where I am now. I started at GMCC as a Volunteer in September 13 helping out in the Café and with their accounts one day a week, gradually building up to 3 days a week working in the office. When GMCC was awarded funding from the Big Lottery Fund and WEA (ESF Grants), I was employed from June 2014.
I am the Centre Manager at GMCC, I am a former police officer having served for 16 years. I realised that I wasn’t getting any job satisfaction because as numbers of police dwindled so did my ability to help people and get involved in the community.
I took on this role in order to rectify this and begin to make a positive difference. Even though GMCC is a small charity the influence and effect it can have on peoples’ lives can be huge, it’s amazing to see the success stories from clients who have used the service and completely changed their lives and I hope to see many more. I’m really happy to be a part of this wonderful charity.
I have a history of getting into trouble and of making mistakes that I regret. It was actually whilst in prison that I met Arthur as he was doing the Bible group and he told me about GMCC. I first came in October 2013 and since then my life has changed a lot and there are attitudes and things I used to do that I have left behind. I began as a volunteer in the kitchen in February 2014. Once funding became available I was employed from June 2014. I love cooking and the whole environment of the kitchen and the café. I like to produce good food that people enjoy and always have an eye on how to keep the cost down which is exactly what GMCC need. I have experience in training kitchen skills and this has proved crucial as it formed a major part of one our recent projects. It has been great to see confidence grow in those I have trained, some of whom have since found work while others have stayed with us to volunteer. The provision of great meals to the public, clients and volunteers is right at the centre of what GMCC do and I am really glad to be leading the team that do such a great job in achieving this.