We were delighted one of our Trustees, Stuart Cole, travelled up from London to speak at the Manchester Family Day.  He spoke movingly about the circumstances that led to him serving a prison sentence in St Lucia, his return to the UK following his prison sentence and his continuing involvement with Prisoners Abroad as a Trustee. 

Stuart writes:

Having been a recipient, as a service user, of the great work Prisoners Abroad do with incarcerated British nationals abroad, and having served six years as a member of the board, I was happy to accept an invitation to speak at the Family Day meeting in Manchester, on the 16th of September.

I shared my experience of being a prisoner abroad; the reality of the ups and downs, emotionally, mentally and physically. What helped and what hindered my stay in a strange new volatile environment. My story enabled family members to have first-hand knowledge of what their loved ones may possibly be going through. And challenged thoughts and behaviours of the way they viewed their situation, as opposed to the situation their loved one(s) are going through.

I met family members who shared the experiences they were currently going through, and the related behaviours which followed; the tearing down of walls (literally), with a hammer, when emotions ran too deep to contain. The anger felt, from being let down by a brother, to such an extent that not much time was given to reflect on the conditions that their loved ones were living in because of their mistakes, (for some the price being paid, is already enough).

Most shared the frustration and the difficulty of trying contact their loved ones, or getting information, not knowing what is happening to them and at times not even knowing where they were.

Family members spoke of the value and gratitude for having Prisoners Abroad on their side. The positive impact the team made. ‘Without them, I do not know what I would have done.’ Came from most in the room.

The family members also spoke of being grateful for bringing other family members together to share each other’s experiences through these traumatic times, and for them to understand; ‘we are not alone’ and 'being here is a great help’ echoed around the table with hardly a dry eye, from family members, in the house.

I thank the staff; Alan for inviting me, and Kate (the group’s facilitator) for such a warm reception. And 100% the family members, for hearing, and sharing, during such emotional stories in such difficult times.

I wish you all well.

Stuart Cole

‘I was deeply moved by Stuart's story especially to gain an insight into what it is like for an inmate as sometimes we forget how tough life can be inside a prison’  - a family member

‘….you provided some much needed insight into the mind and heart-set of someone struggling inside …. thank you again Stuart it means the world to me to have met you’ - a family member