When I was in junior school I really struggled trying to get my head around a lot of the work. By the time I was 9 my confidence was at an all-time low. But I then got a new teacher. I felt he saw potential in me and built on my strengths. The amazing thing was by the end of that year I felt better about myself and my work had improved as I gained in confidence. It demonstrated to me at an early stage the power of being believed in. I was reminded of this by one of my congregation when I was a prison chaplain who had just heard he had got a progressive move. When he came to talk to me about it I asked him what had made the difference over the many years he had spent in custody. Whilst pointing to many people over the years, wing staff, psychologists, chaplains and so on the person he especially mentioned was a chaplaincy volunteer. This person had come in faithfully every two weeks for many years and treated the person with dignity, respect and care helping him to believe in himself again.
Through the letter writing scheme and through meetings, New Bridge volunteers help people believe in themselves again, help them to see that change is possible and bring hope. The journey away from crime is challenging and includes dark times when the person faces the impact of their crimes on their victims. This can be especially difficult and the support of a volunteer bringing light into that darkness of guilt and shame can make an enormous difference, and be instrumental in helping people to move forward.
As Chaplain General, I know from conversations with prisoners that New Bridge volunteers are believers in change, who bring light and hope, and I would like to formally express my thanks to all of them who give of their time and energy so generously to make a difference.
Mike Kavanagh is Chaplain General of Prisons