The highs and lows of being a Community Chaplaincy volunteer mentor
Mentoring 'R' - New Leaf Community Chaplaincy
"I went to the prison with a member of staff to visit 'R’ – a 30 year old man completing his first custodial sentence. He had asked to work with the Community Chaplaincy, as a member of his family had also been a mentee. The first thing he said to us was ‘Im never coming back in here’. My thoughts were: ‘I've heard THAT before!’
We went through his concerns – he drank heavily and had used drugs, although he was working toward a substitute programme.. He also suffered from quite severe anxiety issues. It was agreed that I would visit him on my own the next week, before his release date. My first time going into a prison by myself.
At that visit, we made a list of his needs, prioritising the most urgent ones. He was able to go to his parents’ house upon release, although this was for a limited time only. He was in a Housing Association flat before his imprisonment, and still owed money for rent.
On release day, the staff member and I collected him, and we went to probation and got his appointments set up, and to Jobcentre Plus. He insisted he would not be signing on as disabled, and got an appointment for Jobclub. He was still determined he would not be seeing old associates, and wanted to change for the sake of his family. I admired this attitude, as it is one of the hardest things to do.
We met in a cafe two days later, where we filled in forms for Housing, and made a list of his outstanding debts. (There always seems to be more of these, the more the mentee gets to know you!) I had some information for him from a training provider, which he took home with him.
I also found that making lists of the day’s tasks, in order of importance, would calm him down and make him concentrate on one thing at a time, as opposed to it all rattling around in his head. By the end of our time together, list-writing had become part of his way of dealing with things. At one of our meetings, he arrived very agitated, saying that the Jobcentre had written, telling him they could not pay him. My heart sank, thinking of what could happen now. We phoned them and they told us there was a problem with his address, and that was the reason the Post Office would not accept the payment! A couple of phone calls later, and it was sorted. ‘R’ told me that he was on the verge of giving in when he received that letter, and thanked me for sorting it with him. This was a good day!
He contacted me a few days later, asking to meet. I went, and was thrilled to hear that Jobclub had got him a full-time job at a local large dairy. He said he had to tell me in person – he was so proud. He said working with me had kept him on the right track- and then it was MY turn to feel proud! The job was only temporary, and only lasted a couple of weeks. When it finished, we had many long phone calls when he got disheartened, but I kept encouraging him that with his attitude, something will happen for the good. And it did! He got an interview with the dairy company, and they have taken him on as a permanent member of staff. He is earning more, and is saving for a deposit on a flat. His parents are very proud of him, and he is able to see his young daughter regularly. His heavy drinking and drug-taking have ceased."