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My Voluntary Experience for Spurgeons at HMP/YOI Winchester

Adam Alldridge studies Criminology and Psychology at The University of Winchester. As part of Student Volunteering Week Adam has shared his experience of volunteering at our Invisible Walls service in HPM/YOI Winchester.

Brief description

The ‘Invisible Walls Family Support Service’ aims to support families of offenders serving convicted or remand prison sentences throughout Hampshire. Part of this service is delivered through the Visitors centre at HMP/YOI Winchester, where visitors are greeted with a warm welcome. They are served light refreshments and given advice and support during what is typically, a stressful time. All of this is achieved and implemented through the voluntary work force; that of which I am now a part of.

Initial thoughts

Firstly, I feel the need to say that Spurgeons’ Invisible Walls is an exceptional solution for the families who come to visit their loved ones held within the prison. It offers them a warm and welcoming environment when they are likely to need it most.

I sometimes see these individuals or families that are going through the process of visiting an inmate at the prison for the first time; and it is clear to see that these people are scared, nervous and anxious.

The process of visiting

The process can be very daunting and extremely upsetting for these people seeing that they are only here to simply see their loved ones; an act which is perfectly acceptable under conventional circumstances. But now, visiting a loved one has been made into a psychologically intimidating task, especially for those individuals who come for the first time.

This experience made me realise how essential this charity is. Simply due to the service we provide, which appears to be invaluable to newcomers. And by ‘service’, I mean no more than simply being empathetic and compassionate; that of which is substantial to make anyone feel better, even in the most adverse circumstances.

The ‘experienced’ volunteer

As the most experienced volunteer on this particular shift, I was required to oversee everything that was going. I conducted advice to the other two volunteers and made the necessary decisions to ensure the overall ‘smooth running’ of the visitor’s centre.

Leadership, job allocation, decision making skills and effective communication were all the attributes needed and thus implemented by myself.

The volunteering experience has enabled and facilitated my growth and progression as an individual. These developing skills can be utilised and applied to alternative practical applications in similar working environments.