"None of us can predict the future, but I hope to be leaving prison very soon. I would like to take this opportunity to try to express what Fine Cell Work means to me, has done for me, and, I hope, will do for me in the future.
I came to prison a broken man with little to live for. Apart from my offence I came with a lot of ‘baggage’: mental health problems, self-harming and alcoholism had, thus far, defined my life. Prison was a daunting prospect and I had no enthusiasm for the battle ahead, nor, indeed, for life itself. My first years passed in a blur of self-harming, self-hatred, hopelessness and depression. Could things get any worse for me? No, probably not, but they could get better.
I was introduced to Fine Cell Work as a way to constructively occupy my time, to take my mind off the worries and problems I had, and of course, to earn me some money. However, I was not prepared for everything else that FCW gave me, and continues to give me. I took to sewing like the proverbial ‘duck to water’, I found I had a natural ability, the patience, the attention to detail and of course the time and commitment to produce a variety of pieces.
Over the months, and years, I gained a lot of experience and soon other prisoners were coming to me for advice. Coming to me! I had never experienced that before and being honest it was a tremendous boost to my self-esteem, self-respect and pride. I enjoyed sewing, it cleared my head of the clutter of life, it was me, my needle, my pattern, my colours, counting, sewing, re-counting, the disarray and disorder of life in prison was replaced with calm, quietness, order and self-possession. I was getting so much from FCW and putting so much into it that I was delighted when I was offered the role of FCW coordinator for the prison. It is a role that I have done for a number of years now.
Since the beginning I have grown into the role, developed my skills and, I believe, have become a competent stitcher. But more than that, FCW has helped me deal with my mental health problems in a practical way, it has helped me manage my self-harming, it has given me back my sense of pride in myself, my self-esteem and self-worth. These are things I can hold onto forever. My skills in sewing which FCW has taught me, will stay with me, and I hope, develop and continue to provide me, and others, pleasure and contentment."
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