Well, I’d been into see the Cambridge & District Volunteer Centre, initially curious to see about opportunities to keep me going in the meantime. As you may have noticed, some employers aren’t quite so sure when you mention a surgical date coming ahead, but I still wanted something to do, and I didn’t want to be on the proverbial scrapheap as it were! They have a weekly drop-in facility whereby you can pop along to the premises in Regent Street, and get advice on what you can do. Now, as this was the first time I was volunteering, they were able to give me some advice, as well as some suggestions.
So, I left the centre with ten different suggestions, had a bite to eat, and then went for a bash to Cambourne on the citi4. It was on that run, as we went through west Cambridge, that I had the call from Liz. What happened after that, as they say, is history.
Once all the GRS related stuff was out the way, I dug out the sheets again. I managed to get it down to three possibilities that might look flexible enough (i.e. not for specific dates) to wrap around my time off work, and didn’t involve too much physical work. (Well, it’s not a good time to start doing it).
One of the potentials was to work on a helpline for the families of prisoners, to give them advice, information and support. The trust involved in running the service near Cambridge came highly recommended from the woman at CVC, as she says “they always look after their volunteers very well”. So, I emailed them, didn’t hear back until last week I think it was, because Jo was away. (In the meantime, one of her colleagues, Hilary, had emailed me the application). So, to cut a long story short, I had a phone call on Friday, asking me to come in today for a chat, and a talk about things.
After Caroline left for work for the day, I got ready with the usual blouse & skirt, plus a ‘butterfly’ necklace that I found in Tesco just over a week ago. 26 to Cambridge, then a citi2 to Milton. The village was quiet enough, and the helpline occupy part of a converted house! As I’d shot past it (and in fact, all the way up to Milton High Street), I walked back down Cambridge Road, and as a result, I bumped into someone getting out of her car, who I was coming to see!
So, after a brief time upstairs in the call centre (one room with two phone lines – and an almost identical facility exists in Manchester), we had a chat about my life, forthcoming surgery commitments, what I’ve done before, why I want to volunteer etc. After all that, we got our diaries out, and worked on dates and stuff. So, I go back a week on Thursday – 30th August – for my first of two days of training.
While I’ve changed so much over the last few months, the one thing missing was a job – something to do, something to keep me busy. Now, I’ve found it. Voluntary, short hours, just enough to have a break from the norm, and to be able to maintain my skills in a new environment.
As I am sure you will have questions, I will explain a little more about the work… taken from the website…
The Prisoners' Families Helpline is a free and confidential service for anyone who is affected by the imprisonment of a close family member or friend. The Helpline is a consortium of 3 organisations and co-ordinated by Action for Prisoners' Families. The service is provided by the Ormiston Trust in Cambridge* and POPS in Manchester.
When someone is sent to prison you may feel as if you too are serving a sentence. Perhaps you feel confused or lonely and would like someone to talk to. You might find you have questions about the prison system or visiting and keeping in touch.
We can provide you with up-to-date information and guidance about prisons in England and Wales. We can also link you with different services and local support groups in your area. If English isn't your first language we can connect you to a translation service. We can give out information over the phone and also have a range of printed information sheets that can be sent to you.
As well as providing information, we offer non-judgemental support and a listening ear. Please call us if you would like to talk things through.
We are usually open:
Monday - Friday 9.30am - 5.00pm
Monday evenings 6.00pm - 8.00pm.
Saturdays 10am - 3pm
We are not open on Sundays or bank holidays.
Prisoners' Families Helpline can only support families of prisoners in England and Wales. If your friend or relative is in prison elsewhere, there are other organisations that can help. Families Outside is a Scottish charity which helps hundreds of families a year through the Scottish Prisoner's Families Helpline. Through research, training and partnership work they aim to raise awareness of hte needs of families affected by imprisonment so that they can get the information and support they need to cope.
Freephone 0500 839393 Monday - Friday 1pm - 5pm
*The Ormiston Children and Families Trust works to promote the well being of children and young people, especially those disadvantaged by their life experiences or circumstances. This is achieved through direct service provision and by raising awareness of related issues through research, publications, conferences and events. We are one of the largest voluntary providers of support services to children and families in the Eastern Region. Ormiston opened its first project in 1981 and we currently have twenty five community and prison based projects across five counties – including the Cambridge facilities for PFH.