Befriending prisoners, accepting them as individuals, regardless of the crime they committed, can be difficult and sometimes demanding. Nevertheless volunteers find it rewarding to know they have made a difference to one person’s life.
If you are up for the challenge, are over 18 and prepared to commit to befriending a prisoner for at least 2 years, writing a letter every two weeks and visiting a prisoner three to four times a year, please complete the attached application form at the top of the page.
Here is Gary’s story about becoming a Volunteer:.
“As a self-employed business man I could not remember the last time I had constructed a CV, let alone prepared for an interview. The process of applying to New Bridge as a volunteer made me think about my motives and if I could do the job. I did have doubts.
After submitting my application I was asked to attend a one to one interview and was made to feel at ease. I felt intrigued and had the sense that perhaps I could offer something positive to a section of the population often reviled and literally out of sight.
A couple of months later I attended a two day induction course and met an extraordinarily diverse bunch of people. We had a riveting presentation from an ex-prisoner about the importance and influence that having a volunteer had on his life. He talked of the nervousness he felt at first meeting his volunteer, his fear of being rejected or saying the wrong thing.
I appreciated the fact that the charity provides strong guidance protocols but otherwise leaves the volunteer to create his own prisoner relationship.
A few weeks later I had my first chance to meet my local support group, a friendly collection of ten or so. It became clear that although each prisoner is unique, the problems they face inside certainly aren’t. The first prisoner I established a good relationship with was an ex-biker from Birmingham. I found the experience of writing both therapeutic and natural. Of course there are restrictions on what you can write about personal details. But I found it quite easy to establish a range of topics we both felt comfortable with.
After about a year of exchanging letters we arranged our first visit. I don’t know why it took so long but I’m glad as it gave our relationship time to develop. He talked pretty much for two hours solid. After a while he calmed down – I guess he was very nervous – and admitted that I was the first visitor he’d had in twelve years. Driving home I realised it’s a two-way thing. It can bring happiness to a prisoner who has made disastrous choices in their life. For the volunteer it brings the pleasure of actually making a difference.”