“I never enjoyed learning at school, so I ended up not being able to read and just managed the best I could. Here at [prison], with a drug problem and anger issues which after got me into trouble, I was encouraged to approach a Shannon Trust mentor. I got talking to a mentor called Andrew* and he told me how the programme worked, he also said that he doesn't judge, that we would move at my own pace and that if I wanted to miss an odd day because I didn't feel up to it then he would leave and come back the next day. I started a week or so later.
“I was surprised how little I knew as I had a hard job just sounding the letters but I was encouraged to carry on. To my surprise I started sounding not just letters but words and then putting words together to make sentences and then I found I could read.
“I did miss some sessions at the beginning because I felt I couldn't face it, but Andrew just came back the next day and we carried on. These days got less and less and I looked forward to learning more because Andrew made it fun, we always had a laugh. I wished learning at school had been more fun as I would have learnt more whilst at school.
“Some 6 months later I finished Shannon Trust and I can now read.
“Andrew still supports me with going forward with education. Shannon Trust has changed my life. My family started sending me greeting cards because I can read them. How joyful I was to receive a Christmas card from my family for the first time! I can now receive and write letters.
“Andrew said that by learning to read I was using parts of my brain that I hadn't used before and that I would think more and after we had chats and was taught how to deal with situations better. So now I think before I act. I don't hit out, I think and walk away more. How things have changed on the wing as staff see a different person in me! They sing my praises more and now I'm enhanced, have a job on the wing and I now am being considered for Cat C.
“Andrew won't accept the credit for what I've done because I wanted to and that he was just there to work through the programme, but he's changed my life not by teaching me to read but by encouraging me to react differently when problems arise both with staff and fellow prisoners. He didn't just teach me to read, he gave me some sound advice. With his help I now have just started with education but have been delayed after catching COVID but Andrew still comes to my door.
“Thank you, Shannon Trust, for changing my life and giving me so much hope for the future.”
*names have been changed to protect identity
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