By Lauren Sweetlove, Casework Assistant

Lauren is currently a Casework Assistant for the Prisoner & Family Service team as part of her university degree. In honour of Student Volunteering Week 2024, she has kindly shared some thoughts on her experience so far.

Volunteering at Prisoners Abroad has been such an enjoyable and rewarding opportunity. As part of the Casework team, I have had the opportunity to participate in some really exciting projects and events, and I have gained some firsthand experience of many of the topics and issues I study at university.

On a day-to-day basis, my responsibilities include the registration of new clients, communication with consular staff, and responding to letters and queries from clients. I have also had the privilege of participating in a range of other exciting activities, including attendance at an event organized for Prisoners Abroad by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, participation in various interesting meetings, and the composition of several articles for the quarterly overseas newsletter.

I am particularly proud that my contribution to larger projects, such as the development of handbooks tailored for clients with specific needs and input into the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Employee Resource Group, will have an impact beyond my short time here.

A particularly interesting insight I’ve gained from working in the Casework team is the understanding of how charitable and governmental entities respond to global human rights concerns. Issues such as arbitrary detention or the death penalty are brought up in meetings with the Casework team and Human Rights Advisors to discuss the circumstances that individuals detained abroad have to endure and what approaches could significantly improve their positions. Not only has this provided the invaluable opportunity to learn from the insights and experiences of the team, but I’ve encountered tangible examples of challenging issues that I’d previously only come across in theory at university.

While recognising the general value of volunteering – as demonstrated by a 2010 NCCPE-commissioned study finding that 51% of graduates under 30 in paid work attributed their employment success to volunteering experiences – my experience with Prisoners Abroad has developed my writing, critical thinking, networking, and adaptability skills beyond initial expectations. I have participated in discussions outside of my typical comfort zone thanks to knowledge I’ve learnt here and have gained a wider understanding of future career options I may have.  

Out of all the exciting opportunities and benefit I’ve gained here at Prisoners Abroad, my biggest takeaway is the positive contribution I feel I’ve made to the experience of our service users. The simple things, such as sending out birthday cards or sudoku puzzles, have the largest impact on those we support on a day-to-day basis, and it’s wonderful to know that I am providing a bit of light for someone going through a very difficult experience.

Being offered a lifeline can change everything. 

Prisoners Abroad translates human rights law into practical life-saving actions by providing prisoners access to vitamins and essential food, emergency medical care, freepost envelopes to keep in touch with home and books and magazines to help sustain mental health.

Can you help to support our life-saving work by donating today?