Interview with Volunteer Orderly at HMP Eastwood Park - March 2016
What attracted you to become a Ruby volunteer/orderly?
I was hoping to work in a different dynamic. I find that more mature people are incredibly interesting, have broader views, experiences and perspectives.
What were your expectations working with the older ladies in the Rubies Group?
I knew there would be challenges trying to cater for the different needs of individuals and because I like to look after people I knew this would be a good role.
How would you describe the needs of the older prisoners?
The ladies are very independent. In terms of their personal care they are quite straight forward and more complicated needs are met by nurses. Aside from health needs, I think they just need to feel validated. In here the majority of prisoners are under 30 and the older ladies seem to go unnoticed. Because their behaviour is ‘normal’ and they don’t draw adverse attention to themselves, they are often overlooked.
You will be leaving us soon on release, what was the best bit of your job?
There are so many best bits! Meeting and getting to know the ladies - they are funny, caring, genuine and brutally honest! Meeting Alma has been a privilege – her unwavering support and genuine interest in the ladies is amazing.
And the most difficult?
Saying goodbye when they leave – but worse is when they come back.
What are you looking forward to the most on release?
Seeing my surrogate child Allan! (my cat). Putting my new knitting skills to good use (thanks Alma!). I also can’t wait to go shopping for a craft package to send back for the ladies. And, of course, seeing my other half, Ian. I’m even looking forward to doing his washing!
What advice would you give to the over 50’s in Eastwood Park?
Keep your dignity. No-one can take that. Support each other. Look after yourselves. Never forget how truly wonderful you all are.
Any ideas on how the Rubies could be improved?
This is difficult to answer because everything that can be done, Alma does. She goes above and beyond for these women and they are so appreciative. Improvements are beyond her control. A bigger room and equipment (scissors for instance) would be great, but that can only be provided by the prison. Funding and materials need to come from external sources. Many Rubies have sent items in on their release, otherwise, Alma depends on the kindness of strangers to donate or, in her private time, tries to collect things to bring in.
What have you learnt from your volunteering job?
Aside from awesome crafty skills, I’ve become more confident. The ladies have been so kind and accepting and I’ve been able to value my good qualities. When I first came here, I believed I was a bad person, but they’ve made me realise that good people can make a mistake - that doesn’t make you bad, it makes you human.
Anything you would like to add?
I will miss Alma and the Rubies so much. They have always made me smile, shown such compassion and understanding. They truly are amazing women – each and every one of them has unique qualities that make them unforgettable.
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