So here I am again… blogging.
As you know I love encountering new experiences and sharing them with you. So here’s another one- quite a strange one actually.
Last month I had the rare opportunity to visit a male, youth prison with the Cricket for Change team. When Adam (from Cricket for Change) initially mentioned the prison initiative to me I was a little apprehensive. Like most people I thought prison was dangerous and feared for my safety. As a result of my perception, it took me a few weeks to accept the invitation to the prison visit.
Now for my experience… read on.
The prison visit
On the morning of Monday 28th November 2011, I began my journey to the prison and I felt very nervous. I had watched prison films and television programmes and had seen what happened inside prisons, namely prisoners causing upheaval, injuring the “screws” and escaping. When I finally got to the prison entrance I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders and walked onto the premises. My heart was racing and my hands were sweating like crazy. The walk to the youth prison seemed to last for hours before I finally arrived at the reception.
Upon arrival I was asked to place all prohibited items into storage, had my fingerprints taken and entered the prison with Mike and Tony from Cricket for Change. By this stage I was very apprehensive but both Mike and Tony were strong guys, so I felt safer!
The prison walls were extremely high with barbed wire at the top of them and the prison was surprisingly quiet. I walked along a number of long corridors, which were separated by heavy metal doors. Then we finally got to the gym staff room. What happened inside that room was revolutionary.
Inside the room
Tony, Mike, Andrew and I were sat around a table discussing how lives could be changed. We acknowledged that life after prison would be very difficult for prisoners, especially at this time of economic hardship. Let’s face it; getting a job if you’re under 25 is difficult enough as it is without also having a criminal record. How could Cricket for Change help to solve this problem? Hmmmmm.
Solution: Cricket for Change have set up an academy for young prisoners. The aim is to give prisoners the opportunity to get a qualification in coaching. This will give the young people a qualification when they leave prison, the opportunity to gain work with Cricket for Change on release and a sense of achievement. Furthermore, the team have incorporated life skills such as self-esteem and session planning into the academy. This way, even if the graduates do not go on to become coaches, they leave with something valuable.
What I love about this organisation is its desire to see improvement in the lives of those they help. It has been a privilege to spend time with members of the team.
I’d like to highlight the fact that Cricket for Change is a pioneer as it is the “first Cricket Academy in the history of the Prison service” (according to Gary, the gym manager) and will no doubt change lives for the better.
Why is Cricket for Change so successful?
I believe that Cricket for Change is successful within the prison for two reasons:
- The team care. Mike was so passionate about his work that the prison guard called him “the best role model he had ever come across”. I totally agree.
- The team produce value for money. The young prisoners gain a qualification, role models and better job prospects.
I plan to re visit the prison soon and participate in a cricket session with the prisoners- can’t wait.
I did get hurt in prison…
I digress slightly but this was part of my prison experience so I’ll share it.
Mike invited me to a team workout after the meeting. I didn’t want to look weak so I said “Yes!”. Ohhhh did I suffer. It was an upper body workout, and here is the joke, I have virtually no upper body strength!!! By the time they were done with me I felt like my arms were going to fall off! My arms ached for 2 days.
The moral of the story is, know what you are agreeing to before you agree…but on a serious note, my arms are more toned than before so thanks Mike!
Cricket for Change is inspiring young people and helping to create hope in what seems like a misdirected generation. I applaud this organisation for all the work it is doing.
For more information on Cricket for Change please visit www.cricketforchange.org.uk
Until next time.