Discovering New Bridge, or when writing letters can be quite the challenge!
I have been a volunteer for New Bridge for only six months, during which I have been writing to one prisoner.
I'm shy and very introverted, but I have always been very motivated to use my energy to make the world a more balanced and happier place, so one day, I decided that my introversion would not stop me from doing just that. I looked for ways I could contribute to some part of society in a way that respected my personality, and found the New Bridge website. I remember how excited I was: I absolutely loved the act of writing letters, and had always regretted that this means of communication has been lost to most people. I contacted New Bridge soon after discovering them online.
Soon enough, I started the training - because of the pandemic, it was an online training, which was quite a challenge for me, as for some reason, I'm much less shy in face-to-face situations than on the phone or during a video call. The training in itself was overall a very interesting experience: we had examples of letters to compare to, to help us write our first letters. We also got to learn more about New Bridge as an organisation and and were lucky to get both the testimony of a ex-professional from the carceral world and of an ex-prisoner who had benefited from having a New Bridge volunteer during their difficult years in prison.
I started writing to my prisoner around a month after. Words normally flow easily in their written form to me, but for some reason, writing to a prisoner has been a real challenge for me. Maybe it's because, particularly when you are a new volunteer like me, you know that each word you write has its importance when you are writing to someone in prison. Moreover, as a non-native English speaker, I often feel the need to check my spelling and the precise meaning of words I wouldn't normally think about twice, to make sure that I have conveyed my ideas well and in an appropriate tone. It is not an easy task!
Around the same time that I had started writing letters for New Bridge, I started a new job and got seriously overwhelmed with all my commitments, since I was also studying at the time. New bridge organises monthly meetings to give the opportunity to volunteers to discuss whatever experiences they have had during the preceding month in their exchanges with their prisoners. Newer volunteers like me get to ask questions to more experienced volunteers, which I think is nice. It has been a bit difficult with my job to attend these monthly meetings, but I know attending these meetings is really important. Sometimes, the content of a letter from a prisoner you have been corresponding with can be puzzling, and having other people to get advice from in these situations is a precious resource.
Anyway, my adventure with New Bridge has just started and I am looking forward to meeting other New Bridge volunteers in September, at one of the events organised by the New Bridge. Writing for New Bridge is a big commitment that comes with it own challenges (like everything in life!) but it will enrich other people's lives as well as your own!
Louise, July 2022
If Louise has inspired you to join our community of volunteers then you can sign up here: https://www.newbridgefoundation.org.uk/Pages/Category/apply-now