I became aware of this service run by inmates back in 2018, a little while after coming into prison and was intrigued to find out a little bit more and get a greater understanding about what they did and if they could help me. I’ve really struggled with my reading and could hardly read anything that was posted through my door or understand what it was about. I struggled to complete my food menu and my canteen sheets and used to order mostly the same things every week. My writing and my spelling was hideous and I used to spell things how I wanted to and how I thought they were spelt.
I wasn’t interested in learning or going to school as a child. I moved around a lot and was never in one place for too long so I didn’t get an education and I had very little education before coming into prison. I didn’t even know the months of the year in the right order, however, an inmate spoke with me one day about the Shannon Trust mentoring. He used to help out on the wing servery and noticed that I always ate the same thing for lunch and dinner. He asked me one day if I liked what I ate and I replied "not really." He said "so why do you always get the same thing?" I told him I looked at the pictures and didn’t really know what the descriptions said and he asked me if, in the future, I would mind if he helped me? I was a little taken aback by this because I didn’t even know this person and we had only spoken on one other occasion. I didn’t know what to say or if I even wanted to learn at that time. I felt embarrassed more than anything so I sort of just shrugged it off and walked away.
A few days went by when I got a knock on my door, it was the Shannon Trust mentor, he was handing out the canteen sheets for the week and he asked me if I was going to be ‘sweet’ filling it out. He said when he had finished he would come back and help me. I wasn’t sure about this but it was a nice feeling because I had never had help just offered to me. When he came back to help me I was quite surprised. I realised that he was just there to help and didn’t want anything in return and we started talking. I found it really easy to get along with him, which really helped break the ice and he said that he was going to become my mentor. He said he was going to teach me 3 days per week just for 20 minutes at a time and any time I wanted to stop I could do. He made me feel comfortable learning at my own pace because he made it interesting and fun. We would have a laugh at the same time and I didn’t have to sit in a classroom or sit in a group. It was all one to one and confidential. He never told anyone about teaching me which I found really good because I would get distracted very easily if I thought other people were talking about me or making fun of me. This would make me stop what I was doing and lose any focus or interest that I had.
I found Shannon Trust really useful and it has helped me so much. They have taught me to spell, read and write to perfection and I’ve gained so much confidence, knowledge and qualifications that I never dreamed of achieving. The mentor got me to where I am today (currently level 1 in literacy and numeracy) and working towards my level 2. Now I’m mentoring other inmates myself, helping others to have the opportunity that I was given. Helping them to change their ways and to achieve what I have from Shannon Trust.
I really want to give back to anybody who wants to learn. I used to avoid anything to do with education but now I can’t get enough of it. I really enjoy learning as you don’t know everything and there is always time to improve. There’s always time for learning, making a difference and improving your education and skills. I really enjoy teaching others and it makes me happy helping others in need - those that struggle to do ‘everyday, normal things’ which are simple to some but not to others. That’s the reason I took up being a mentor and really think it was the best move I have made in a long time. It’s worth considering and creating a new you, it’s worth making a difference and giving yourself a chance.
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