The joy of gving something back

Prison

Phil Sampson has worked to help inmates prepare for life outside prison - Credit: Submitted

Last week I was involved in one of the first HighGround Programmes at Bicton College since the lockdown.

I have been involved in this charity for four years since they first started running horticultural programmes for both current and former servicemen and women who wish to explore and gain skills to enter that industry.

I have also been involved through the charity in programmes in Dartmoor Prison, again for servicemen who were preparing for their eventual release. But there is a big problem with reintegration into society. Many of our prisons are ruled by gangs and hence men who are detained at her majesty’s pleasure are released not as reformed characters but many are hardened criminals having lived and survived within such a toxic environment. Thank goodness charities exist to help and support people in finding their way again. 

HighGround programmes have always given me personally tremendous pleasure because they offer a real opportunity to turn people’s lives round for the better. For this session I had in front of me six individuals all of whom were Army veterans and all of whom had fallen on hard times.

My brief was to motivate them for their journey back into civilian life which for one reason or another had deserted them. They all had stories of despair, disillusionment and feelings of hopelessness. A challenging audience in so many ways.

One was a soldier who was from Liverpool who had lost his way after his brother was murdered in the city.  He had come to terms with life by becoming a free spirit who roamed the country sometimes in a good place sometimes in a bad place. Another had lost an arm and believed he would never be employable.  Another one a recent leaver of the army, then someone who had been homeless for a while had been deeply affected by Covid.

The final two of the six had relied upon the state to subsidise their lives and again had become lonely and disillusioned and needed to find direction with life as a result of Covid. They had all had an amazing week learning about the possibilities within Horticulture that offered them an outside life that was invigorating and stimulating. Several were now thinking about employment in horticulture but needed the motivation to do something.

During the session I was able give them that motivation, clarity and purpose so they could leave the programme with a real intent to enter the world of employment. Two wanted to work in Garden Centres, two wanted to become tree surgeons and one wanted to be an administrator. The last individual was still unsure of where or how but wanted to work in the great outdoors.
I had an amazing hour with them exploring what it was they wanted out of life and using coaching techniques to work out where their starting point was. They learned about the importance of self- image and challenging limiting beliefs.

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They learned about the importance of being yourself and I used Mark Twain’s line, “Be yourself because everyone else is taken”.

They also learned the importance of taking control of aspects of their life, by seizing the initiative using the anonymous line “If your ship doesn’t come in swim out to it” about being proactive in their search for employment.
They also identified their true starting point, i.e. where they were now against their plan. In a short space of time I was amazed by their change in mindset and motivation. I felt inspired by each and everyone of them in my battle with terminal cancer. I was truly lifted by this experience and returned home buzzing by these old warriors who were beginning to have the same glint in their eye as they would have had when serving. It was rewarding and a true privilege to have helped them on their way. This is the joy of giving back! 

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