“Did u hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?…”* No? but you will hear from an Olive that grew on Safe Ground in her blog posts below. Olive, an A-Level student, joined us last week from a school in South East London on work experience. Olive encountered the routines of the office as well as the spontaneity involved in our Fathers Inside training at Newbold Revel. Olive’s input was greatly appreciated by each member of staff she worked with, and we really enjoyed her sense of fun and her ‘Max Factor’. Read her impressions of us:
MONDAY 10th September 2012
Today was my first day working at Safe Ground and I woke up feeling very excited about the week ahead. I arrived at the office at about 10:30 am where I was welcomed and felt immediately at home. I was asked by Holly to put together the ‘Fathers Inside’ booklets for the upcoming three days of Fathers Inside staff training. After this, I watched a 45 minute film that recorded a presentation of prisoners from HMP Parc, who performed in front of their children and partners after completing the Family Man course. At the end of the film, one of the men renewed his wedding vows with his wife. In this video I did not see the men as simply ’prisoners doing a performance’; instead I saw family men doing a performance about children’s stories, for their families. It immediately made me realise that in society we jump to conclusions about prisoners, that they are simply people who have done a bad thing and are locked up; however, this shouldn’t be the case. The more you push someone away from society, the more they feel the need to fight back. I felt extremely happy for the men and even though it is only the first day, I’ve changed my view completely on a number of situations.
After this, I had some lunch and then read the ‘Inside Time’ newspaper. This newspaper again taught me a lot about prisoners and how they actually feel. Another aspect of the magazine that really shook me was the Inside Prison poems. There was one poem called ‘Prison Life’ by Jimmy Abrahams from HMP Bure. He talked about how it feels to be in prison and the one line ‘You’re treated like you’re scum and in your mind you start to wonder, am I a human being or, am I just a number?’. The reason this struck me is because men and women in prison cells must feel as if they do not matter and that they do simply feel like a number. From this poem, I learnt so much.
Then as the day went on, we packed up the remaining boxes into the cars and set off, stopping off at ASDA to pick up a few snacks and set off on the journey (enjoying some cheesy tunes on the way!). When we arrived, we went straight to dinner and then dropped off our bags in our rooms, ending the day in the serene atmosphere of the countryside.
TUESDAY 11th Sepetmber 2012
Today was my second day with Safe Ground, but my first day on the ‘Fathers Inside’ training course at the Prison Service Training College near Rugby. It was an early start and I was all set the night before, but my alarm clock decided against that and went off at 8:15, leaving me only 15 minutes to get ready and eat breakfast…not a good start! At 9.30 everyone appeared in the room and we formed a circle and started the day. Holly and Orla introduced themselves to the group and we then did an ice breaker, which involved walking around the room and stopping to introduce ourselves to as many people as possible. This sort of activity immediately pushes away any awkwardness and people start to gain knowledge about each other.
Everyone shared what they knew about Fathers Inside and then wrote their aims for the training on different post it notes. I then realised that all these activities we were doing were exactly what the fathers in the prison were going to be doing. This means that the teachers know how the students will feel and can relate.
During a break, I talked with a woman called Alison about her job as a prison officer, she explained that she saw people change from being an angry person one minute and she said ‘a miracle’ happens in which their attitude changes. Speaking to people like Alison has made me realise that it is really important not to judge people by the way they look, and that however tough her job is, it is also extremely rewarding. Afterwards, we played a couple more games including the Name Game, Circle Exchange and Groupings activity. Groupings activity caused quite a lot of discussion (especially about the value of marriage) and it was interesting to gain knowledge on others’ opinions about such topics. A quick session review and then lunch time, in which I talked to a woman called Shez about her job as a social worker and what it actually entails. She explained people sometimes feel threatened by her job because there is an idea that Social Workers are there simply to take people’s children away. This is wrong; she is there to help and be there for the children, but also to help the parents, although this can be challenging as parents can often get angry with her and the young people she works with can get frustrated. Shez was so into her job and it was wonderful to see how much she cared and again she taught me a lot.
After lunch, we played ‘The Sun Shines on Me’, which woke us up from feeling extremely full and suddenly sleepy after a big Newbold lunch! We went over ground rules and I questioned how one would do this with the men and make sure they do not feel patronised. It was explained that the men actually make up and set the ground rules so they feel in charge of the situation and not threatened, and that the ground rules activity doesn’t take place until after a few sessions, so the men do not feel as though they are in school.
We then read the Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, in a great book which had been illustrated by a Wandsworth prisoner called Ted Eeles. The illustrations were beautiful and I was immediately ashamed at how surprised I was that they were illustrated by a man that had been to prison. I realised there and then that in society we grow up thinking people in prisons are to be banned from society. This is not true, just because someone has been to prison it does not mean they aren’t human, and it certainly doesn’t mean they are incapable of having a huge talent, eg being a brilliant artist. We then watched a DVD called ‘Blinda’, in which all the actors are prisoners, their families or staff. It is set in prison and is about a man called Frank who refuses to let his son Wayne visit him. Frank thinks he is protecting his son but really he is protecting himself, which is when you realise the film is based on the Selfish Giant.
We played some more games which were all linked to either parenting or group and teamwork skills and then worked in small groups to devise our own adaptation of some of Aesop’s Fables, which we modernised. Finally a review in which we discussed our challenge of the day, our overall impression and what we enjoyed the most (we all agreed it was the fables!).
As I sit here looking out onto the beautiful countryside I realise just how much I have learnt in one day and what amazing people I have met, and I yearn for the next day to come.
WEDNESDAY 12th September 2012
Today was my second day on the Fathers Inside course. Another rocky start for my clumsy self, managing to spill coffee all over my top, but you know, the day goes on! We started at 9 am with an overview and then a game of Babysitting Blues which woke us up and made us laugh a lot. We then went onto Accreditation and the students learnt about the qualifications the men would receive from the course and how to mark their work. After this we did a lesson exchange, where our homework came in. This was a very good way of learning because we all moved around discussing the different lessons we had learnt about and then passed this information onto another group. It was sociable and effective. A quick break of coffee and biscuits and then we played Any Impression and talked about the profile of the Fathers Inside team. Then we had lunch, which I have to admit is always exciting seeing as my appetite seems to be growing by the day!
During lunch I talked with Hayley about her job as a Family Interventions Coordinator and I learnt that she coordinates the activities that take place in the Family Intervention Unit at Parc prison in South Wales. I have also talked to Matt about his job as a prison officer, and Ruth and Zerqa’s jobs as teachers. It is really interesting for me to learn about all the different jobs in the prisons. It appears very challenging yet rewarding and it is fascinating how different people’s opinions are due to their different professions.
After lunch we played You’re Grounded and I had my first chance in running a game. This was slightly nerve racking at the beginning, but I soon got into the idea and it gave me the chance to experience what it is like to lead a group and definitely has built my confidence and people skills and is something I will remember for a long time. We discussed children’s behaviour and parenting skills, learning that parents tend to be either be authoritative; very much into ground rules yet giving their child independence, or permissive; letting their child get on with it and learn from their mistakes. We acted out different scenarios in which a parent was either: authoritative, authoritarian or permissive; which was very amusing! I played an extremely permissive mother, in fact actually falling asleep at my ‘child’s’ story about being excluded from school, whilst Matt, playing the father, was very strict and laying down ground rules. Of course we over exaggerated the situation, (don’t we all in these activities!) but it was very entertaining.
We then played ‘Pass the Cushion’ and then learnt about the ‘What Next’ session and course logistics. I found these two subjects quite difficult to follow because they were quite complex, however very interesting and I learnt a lot. I noticed how people seemed quite adamant about their roles whilst working in the prison and the air became slightly intense. To lighten the mood, we then got into a circle and said one nice thing about the person next to us. I love this activity and it certainly made everyone a lot happier and it was really nice to see how much people respected one another. Finally we allocated the roles for our big presentation tomorrow. Once everyone had gone, I helped Holly and Orla to laminate the course certificates.
Today was brilliant and I learnt a lot, Holly and Orla have taught me so much and are incredible facilitators. Now it is dinner time, and I am looking forward to having a relaxed evening with everybody, and sleeping well for tomorrow’s big day!
THURSDAY 13th September 2012
Today was my last day on the Fathers Inside course and it was also the day of our presentation. It was an early morning, which didn’t start well due to the librarian getting very annoyed with me! But the day got better once I got to the room we were working in. The first part of the morning consisted of putting together our presentation. I was a link, explaining one section and introducing another, and worked with Jason. I was also in the Child Thief with Ruth, Jason and Alison, which was a lot of fun to put together. After this, we went to lunch, although by this time I was feeling very full from the amount of food I was eating! But decided I needed the energy anyway…
After lunch we had a quick rehearsal and then a warmup, and then 3 visitors came in to watch. The presentation went very smoothly and everyone was brilliant. Hayley and Alan did a brilliant performance of the opening from the film ‘Blinda’; Alex and Steve did another touching performance with ‘An Honest Phone Call’ and there were some really funny parts including Sam and Sam’s quiz, which had us all up in stitches! Finally Alex, Sam and Katie finished the presentation with their fantastic poems and free styling rap. The presentation was really amazing to do because it made us know exactly what the men in prison will be doing. It was also great to see the teachers so excited about the prospect of the men doing it and how enthusiastic they were.
We all said our goodbyes and then Orla, Holly and I drove home, feeling very tired but very happy and content.
FRIDAY 14th September 2012
Today was my last day with Safe Ground. I came into the office at about 11 am, and worked with Obinna on my letters for sponsorship, asking companies to provide products to support Safe Ground’s sponsored run, which I will continue to work on. After this we all went for lunch, and after that I helped writing envelopes to contact all the potential sponsors. Then I talked with Eli about the course I went on and chatted with Orla whilst helping tidy up.
The day was quite short, due to it being a Friday and I went home, feeling actually quite sad to be leaving. I’ve met some amazing people this week and I will definitely stay in contact and will continue to work with Safe Ground, so it is not the end. I would like to thank Eli, Obinna, Orla, Holly and Adam for giving me this fantastic opportunity, and to Orla and Holly for taking me on the course. I have learnt so much, and not only changed in that way, but have also changed as a person.
I will never forget my week at Safe Ground and look forward to the upcoming future.
* The Rose That Grew From Concrete – Tupac Shakur
(The Rose That Grew From Concrete, MTV Books/ Pocket Books, 1999)