In the first in a series of LandWorks staff profiles, Project Coordinator Sarah looks back on the last two years of her time with the project.
As well as marking the second birthday of LandWorks, July was also an anniversary that I wanted to celebrate personally.
The week the project began in 2013, I can remember turning up at Quarry Field with a sizeable knot in my stomach and a packet of hobnobs (I was told prisoners were big on these), ready for the first day of a six-month internship. Fresh out of Plymouth University with a degree in Criminology, this was to be my first ‘grown-up’ job.
I had stumbled across the job description some months before and knew instantly that this was what I wanted to do: to use my degree, doing something that might make a real and tangible difference. But despite that, at that point I found it hard to see what I, so early on in my career, could offer to such an important project. Like many of the guys at LandWorks, I had struggled with self-confidence issues of my own.
Two years after those first steps and two job title changes later, it’s hard to believe how happy I am in my new full-time role of Project Coordinator. My confidence, along with that of many of the guys at LandWorks, has grown considerably.
Confidence, that extraordinary, life-transforming quality, is about being able to like yourself, about feeling like you are good enough.
So, what do I do? In a nutshell I provide ‘behind-the-scenes’ support for Chris, and for the project. It’s brilliantly varied: writing funding bids and organising fund-raising events; putting together ‘release packs’ for the guys when they leave prison; organising a Christmas lunch for everyone; talking to school children about offenders and resettlement; putting this newsletter together and making sure you all feel informed and involved. I’m also the day-to-day point of contact for LandWorks so if you ever have a query or an idea, I’d love to hear from you.
Although I’m office-based, I try to get down to Quarry Field as often as I can. That’s where my favourite memories are. It was the day LandWorks broke up for Christmas. After giving the guys their Christmas cards, and receiving another talking-to about the state of my dirty car, Chris and I headed into the porta cabin for a final catch-up. When I emerged an hour later, I found my little Clio spotless, gleaming in the winter sun. I was speechless. ‘Sar, we couldn’t get you a present [for obvious reasons, day-release trainees can’t bring anything out of the prison] but we wanted to do something for you. Happy Christmas!’
Part of my new role includes responsibility for the formal assessment of the trainees, capturing evidence of their progression as they move through the project and beyond. I remember the first trainee I interviewed, six days into his placement. I’ll call him Mike. During our chat, Mike was slumped with his head low, and he told me how much he dreaded the lunches and felt unable to say a word to new guests. He just wanted to do the practical stuff. Six months later, my parents came to LandWorks for a lunch. It happened about twenty minutes in. I looked over to see Mike with my parents, laughing, chatting away, and asking questions about their lives. He sat taller; he made eye-contact.
Confidence, that extraordinary, life-transforming quality, is about being able to like yourself, about feeling like you are good enough. But when it’s not there, and there seems no route to finding it, it can be debilitating.
I believe that LandWorks can be that route. It is so much more than a training scheme. Helping people rebuild their lives after a prison sentence includes making them feel that they are worthy of a happier life. It is about encouraging them, possibly for the first time, to explore their abilities and interests, develop relationships, and build trust.
LandWorks helps people gain the skills and confidence they need to move on and take advantage of life’s opportunities. It does that for our trainees but LandWorks has also done that for me.