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Health and Social Care Student at Plymouth University

About me
I am 22 years of age and I am in my third year at University, I am a mum and I work as a healthcare assistant through a nursing company.  I have been volunteering at a Prison for almost a year and I thoroughly enjoy it.  I am very much interested in the criminal justice system and would hope to gain employment after university in this field.
Where it all started
A fellow volunteer for RECOOP came to a lecture at University and asked if any students would be interested in gaining placements in a local prison, of course I was delighted to take this opportunity as I was enrolled on a health and social care degree at Plymouth University and felt that my learned skills would be valuable as well as improving my knowledge and gaining experience in such a challenging environment.
Next step
Training was required to enable me to be a volunteer which took place at HMP Leyhill.  After this training I was enlightened to many of the challenges and well as rewards that I was to face.  It also helped to become a little more confident and ready to go into the prison as I was slightly apprehensive and nervous.
First time
The first experience of being in a closed prison was nerve racking.  We had a tour of the prison for safety reasons as well as to familiarise ourselves with the environment.  It was surprisingly OK and as time was to tell after each visit I became more and more confident.
What have I been doing?
One of the most rewarding sessions that I helped to organise was a poetry session with the theme of fruit where the prisoners got into groups and chose a fruit to write a poem about.  It was very fun and stimulating for them and after they were all very proud of their poems.  Some sessions involved activities such as card making with the prisoners, of which they thoroughly enjoyed, as they had something to send to a relative. I have also taken part in health related quizzes such as diet, exercise and been part of sessions organised to encourage weight loss and healthy decision making.  I also attend sessions where speakers come into the prison and do presentations which help inform the prisoners of what services are available, in and out of prison, and also helps them to deal with issues and concerns such as housing needs, pensions, health complaints, benefits, work and family.  As part of being a volunteer, I was lucky to be able to attend a personal protection program in the Prison with the staff. This training gave me a lot of confidence both in and out of the prison and taught me a lot about the dangers and how to protect myself from harm. 
Rewards and benefits of being a RECCOP volunteer
It is very satisfying to feel that I have contributed to helping the prisoners to make more healthy and informed choices both in prison and with hope that they will use the advice given outside out of prison too.  Some of the sessions are designed to encourage a bit of fun competitiveness and it is rewarding to take part in that ,especially when advice is put into practice such as using the stepometers to help lose weight.  Of course the experience is beneficial to me also as I have gained enormous amounts of knowledge which will be valuable in my future practice.
For the future
I wish to remain a volunteer for as long as I see possible as it is absolutely amazing to be part of RECOOP and the help that it provides.

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