'Spurgeons actually saves lives'
Carl* left Feltham Prison four months ago, and is now back in the community and looking for work.
He shared how the Boys2Men programme at Feltham changed his life for the better.
Like many troubled youths, Carol found himself lacking direction and positive role models. "I never had any male role models," he says. "My family was just girls and then I had my little brothers, so I was always the oldest. I was a child when I went to Cookham Wood (young offenders institute in Kent for aged 15-18). Then I met Nii (Boys2Men Project Lead)."
The Boys2Men project is an intervention programme that aim to engage young men in turning their lives around. It looks to achieve this through encouraging the youths to reflect on their lives, their decision and where their lives can lead.
Boys2Men helped Carl find his autonomy, too, and make his own decisions. "Before I wasn't gonna say no, it'd be awkward to say no to people," he explains. "I'd just go along with it. But then I started speaking to Nii and thought 'I'm my own person, I'm my own man, if I don't want to get involved, I don't want to get involved'."
The importance of communication
Boys2Men also helped Carl find his voice to mend bridges with his family. Nii helped Carl to learn how to communicate effectively with his younger brothers by starting conversations and showing an interest in their lives.
"Carl didn't know how to go about a conversation on the phone because felt bad being in the position that he was in, " explains Nii. "He really just wanted to build a relationship with his brother. So we got a few cards together and just came up with questions. Whenever Carl was on the phone to his brothers, he would ask those questions to start a conversation. His brother actually came to the prison to come and visit him, and seeing them gel was really nice."
"We just started clicking and we got to the stage where it's like an 'I can't wait to see you' type thing," says Carl. "Then Spurgeons had a family day and Nii told me "you could get your brother and your Mom to come."
A new mindset
The Boys2Men programme aims to put young men on a solid path to a positive future with encouraging role models and a good community around them, leaving their past behind.
Carl has found himself feeling optimistic about the future and able to make decisions for the best. "The mindset I have now is that I'm not going to jail," he says.
"Even how I would communicate with people wouldn't have been good. Now I know what I stand for, what I will do and what I will not do, where to go and where not to go. I can look at scenarios and say 'that's a bad scenario. I shouldn't be doing this, I should be doing that'. I feel that's what sent me to jail in the first place, just following other people."
One of Carl's fiends at Feltham went back to his old life after leaving prison and was sadly murdered. Carl has moved away from the estate where he was brought up and has new people around him.
"Spurgeons actually saves lives,' he says. "With the same mindset you come out of jail, you go back into jail, you come out of jail, you go back into jail, you come out of jail, you die."
Writing poetry and moving forward with his life
Carl also feels motivated to use his time productively, and has taken to writing poetry. "Now it's: ok, there's only a certain amount of hours in the day, I've got to go write this poem for this, I gotta do that," he says. "It's good. I like it so much. It's helped me to start my life again really. The way I've been thinking, I love it."
Carl was switched on to writing by Nii, and it became a motivating hobby for him. Writing poetry encouraged him to get in touch with his soul and express himself, as well as help his recovery from depression. He is now busy submitting poems for publication, and has already been successful.
Becoming a role model
Carl's brothers now look up to him for turning his life around. "I used to think 'how can I tell you anything? If anything you're doing better than me'," he says. "But now it's like when I say stuff they actually take me in because they can see that I'm trying. I messed up but yeah, I'm trying to get back on my feet."
Carl is now actively looking for employment and continues working with Nii.
*name changed to protect identity