Stories Resettlement An update from Jane When I wrote to you two years ago I had just been moved to a new prison in India. The conditions were appalling; the sewage tanks were too small and often overflowed into our exercise yard, the electricity regularly failed due to being wired incorrectly and our water frequently ran out. I mentioned in my letter to you back in 2017 that the food in prison wasn't nutritious. Unfortunately, this was the same when I was moved; the food was void of all nutritional value, and it was hard to stay healthy. With all I had to worry about in prison, being away from my daughters was still the hardest part for me. The new prison I was moved to had an international telephone which I could use thanks to Prisoners Abroad's Survival Grant. At last, I could speak to my daughters again. Hearing their voices kept us connected and powered my hope that one day soon I would be free and we would be reunited. These phone calls were so important; when I was really down they fed my soul. At the new prison there was more space so I was able to practise yoga fairly regularly. I also managed to grow a few plants in a bit of waste ground round the back of the cells. The simple act of watering these plants daily gave purpose to my very shallow life. I spent a lot of time thinking about life in England, where my daughters were. Prisoners Abroad sent me information booklets about the Resettlement Programme they ran for those returning to the UK following release. I read them over and over again and kept them safe, hoping that before long I would be back in the UK making use of them. And then, one afternoon, I went to court and the judge quietly and quickly acquitted me of all the charges against me. After three years and seven months of being in prison, I was finally free. The knowledge that Prisoners Abroad and their Resettlement Programme were there to support me was a beacon of light as my deportation date became imminent. When I did arrive back in the UK, I visited Prisoners Abroad’s office within a few days. I was warmly welcomed and assigned a Resettlement Officer, Umme. Within moments she had everything under control. She completed the arduous online applications so I could begin to receive Universal Credit, she made sure I had somewhere safe to live, she typed letters and got me registered with a doctor and even asked if I needed money to buy food or other basics. I can’t even begin to imagine how I would have coped being back in the UK without Prisoners Abroad. Knowing that Umme was taking care of the paperwork gave me space to adjust to being in the UK. She completely understood the psychological, emotional and physical wrench that accompanies resettling in a new country and was incredibly sympathetic, as well as being superbly pro-active. Once my basic needs were organised I then had to look for work, but I had lived outside the UK for so long I had little idea about what I could do, let alone what I wanted to do. I was still trying to process my return to England. The much anticipated reunion with my daughters hadn’t materialised. I felt confused and under pressure. I felt lonely and on some days quite hopeless. Umme supported me through that too. She helped me realise that these feelings were normal, that I didn’t have to suffer alone and she encouraged me to speak to my GP about my mental health issues. Then, she introduced me to Koestler Arts and suggested I apply to be an exhibition host at their annual art show. At the same time, she told me about the Work Preparation Programme run by Prisoners Abroad. I applied for the job and started the Work Preparation Programme run by Shirley. I got so much out of the course. I compiled my CV with Shirley’s guidance and with her support I identified what skills I have. This helped me to become more focussed and confident in my search for work. To my complete surprise, soon after I was offered the job with Koestler. So, four months after returning to the UK, I’m working for Koestler Arts at the Southbank Centre in London, hosting their exciting annual exhibition of art created by people in prison. This is all thanks to Prisoners Abroad who helped me from the moment they found out I was in prison through to now. They picked me up, dusted me off and put me on the right road to a successful new life here in the UK. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without their incredible help and support. I’m still separated from my daughters. Unfortunately, we don’t live near to one another but I know they are happy and settled where they are and they know they are loved. We’ve been apart for so long and a lot has happened during the time we were separated. They have grown and we have all changed. We have a long way to go but as I write this we are slowly building our relationship again. Although we may have lost a few years, we know we have many more ahead. Thank you for supporting me along my journey these past few years.