Lewis's story - Stitching can transform lives

Lewis's story - Stitching can transform lives
"I’ve done things I regret, and I may not be able to change the hurt I’ve caused in the past, but I can give back by doing good things now."
 - Lewis, a Fine Cell Work stitcher.
This Easter, Lewis reflects on how he found hope, healing and restoration in an unexpected manner.

Prison is a place where time stands still. You have too much time on your hands and nothing to help you get through it. I was desperate to find something to do, to keep me busy, or just make the time go. One day, I spotted some women coming into the prison carrying bags of cloth and threads. One of them was showing another prisoner a pattern and lots of colourful material. It piqued my curiosity and I later asked my fellow inmate about it. He showed me a nine-piece cushion front he was working on. He said the women were from the charity Fine Cell Work, and they were teaching prisoners to stitch.

So, the next time the women came back, I went to meet them. I said that I wanted to join the class. They said there was a waiting list, and they would put my name on it. 
I didn’t want to go on a list. I wanted to start doing something right away. Seeing how eager I was to get going, They gave me some material, showed me some basic stitches and sent me away. In an hour I was stitching with ease. I was impatient to take the next step. I couldn’t wait for the next class and so went to my mate and asked him to show me what to do next. I put together my own 9-piece in a few days! 
My time in prison was now spent with my needle and thread. This was very important to me. It still is! Stitching kept me calm and gave me focus. I can be a bit of a loner, keeping to myself, but stitching made me interact with others. I was working with them as part of a team. Working with others who were keen on stitching gave me a lot of satisfaction.
It makes me very happy and proud when people want to have products I have stitched. When I made my first blanket, a coordinator at the Forward Trust who supported me said he wanted to buy it even before it was completed! When I left prison, I gave away 6 cushions to people who had helped me during my time in prison. I wanted to gift my work to the people who have helped me, who have given me hope. In fact, I didn’t want to get paid for the things I made. That's why I told the volunteers to pick a charity that the money could go to. My wall is covered with every card I’ve received about my stitching. It makes me proud. 
Fine Cell Work helped me find purpose in prison.
I really struggled when I came out. I didn’t know what to do with myself, with all this time I had. I felt something precious had been taken away from me as I wasn’t stitching. Thankfully, I was able to apply to join Fine Cell Work's Open the Gate Programme. This really calmed me down as I had something useful to do again. I am now back doing what makes me happy.
I recently saw a post on Instagram where another stitcher had said that you join Fine Cell Work as a friend and then you leave as family. This is exactly how I feel. I found family when Fine Cell Work found me. 

This Easter, help us bring the message of hope and restoration to more people in prison.


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