Our focus for May was Volunteers - celebrating the hard work and dedication offered by hundreds of people who give their time to us throughout the year.

A New Team of Volunteers

What a way to kick off Volunteer month in our 40th year, by having a team of volunteers from Edelman in the office helping us refine our communications strategy. 

It was a fantastic way to join forces and educate each other on what makes us tick, what inspires us to take notice of something, and how we can formulate ideas to continue to develop our work at Prisoners Abroad. 

Interview with a Volunteer

We asked Alastair some questions about his experience of volunteering at Prisoners Abroad. Alastair has been volunteering with us for three years and is a valued member of the team. 

                                                                          Alastair responding to letters

1)      When did you start volunteering for Prisoners Abroad and why

After 20 years in Probation and Youth Offending I retired in 2012. Happy enough with my new-found freedom, I missed the feeling of being useful and looked for voluntary work which in some way reflected my work experience. For a couple of years I was on call as an occasional driver delivering patients to and from the Hampstead Marie Curie Centre for treatment, but kept on the lookout for other opportunities. So when a friend from my Probation days (my first manager in fact) told me about PA and her role as a volunteer, I was immediately interested. I applied and in early summer 2015 started working here one day a week.

2)      What does a typical day at PA look like for you?

My main tasks are: 

  • forwarding to friends and families mail from prisoners which arrives in free-post envelopes supplied by PA; 
  • dealing with mail - books, newspapers, books, birthday and Christmas cards - sent to prisoners by PA but returned by the prison, usually because the prisoner has been released or moved; 
  • contacting British Consulates for updates where the reason for returned mail is unclear or contact with prisoners has lapsed or their release date has passed; 
  • putting together the introductory packs sent to prisoners and to families.

So, I turn up around 11.30 on Wednesdays with my cup of coffee, turn on my computer, read and reply to emails, and check with Sarah, my manager, if there’s anything particular she wants done - mail forwarding usually but occasionally something really exciting involving a trip to the dungeon* where the files are kept. Then it’s back to whichever of the above tasks is a priority

3)      How would you describe the casework team?

Risking their blushes, quite the friendliest, funniest, least-assuming, most professional group of people I’ve ever worked with. Their dedication, patience and expertise is beyond praise.

4)      What do you like most about your Wednesdays here? (don’t say your Happy Days** lunch)

The lunchtime Times quiz*** is a highlight, being part of a very appreciative and friendly team is always a joy and the work is too varied ever to be boring. Happy Days lunch is good too.

5)      What has surprised you most since working with us?

The sensitivity and composure of PA staff working with worried, frightened, often distraught and occasionally difficult people is impressive enough; dealing with officialdom in the same unflustered, diplomatic way but in a foreign language is miraculous. 

*the affectionate nickname for our basement storage area!
**’Happy Days’ is a local café and team favourite
***Some of the staff team attempt the devilishly tricky Times daily general knowledge quiz over lunch. Only once have we managed to get a full 15 out of 15, with Alastair’s help!

Trustee Volunteers

We are incredibly lucky to have such dedicated and engaged trustees to set the strategic goals of the organisation. 

Stuart Cole spoke movingly at one of our Family Information Days about the circumstances that led him to serve a prison sentence in St Lucia. Start is a drugs councellor and writer and last year spoke on BBC Radio 4 about 'Spice' - warning of the crisis in our prisons caused by the synthetic cannabis. 

You can also catch up on what our Trustees say inspires them to be on the Board at Prisoners Abroad. 

Volunteer Translators 

Prisoners Abroad is extremely fortunate to have a team of nearly a hundred volunteer professional translators on our books, covering over twenty different languages, who give up their time and expertise to help our clients understand key documents that could potentially make all the difference. Hear from Masako about her experiences of being one of our amazing volunteer translators. 

GREAT BIG THANKS to all of our volunteers - yesterday, today and in the future. You make such a significant difference to our work.