Interviews with Peer Mentors
We want to work with you to stop you re-offending again and support your progress to develop a lawful and beneficial lifestyle.

Dave Gamble, service user co-ordinator for the CRC explains: “Peer mentors are either service users, who have been given a community sentence or are being supervised because they are on a post custody licence. The third option is that they are not involved with the criminal justice system and have volunteered to take part in the training programme because they want to help other people to deal with some of their issues and problems.”

The featured peer mentors wanted to share their stories.

Don, who moved from Sussex, when he read about peer mentoring work in the specialist newspaper – Drink and Drug News. He was looking for some purpose in his life.

Danny, who wanted to join the peer mentoring programme after dealing with his substance abuse problems and completing cognitive behavioural therapy.

Rosalind has been appointed as ‘Volunteer Ambassaor’ to champion the role of peer mentoring.
Don (name has been changed)
This may shock you but I have been drinking alcohol since I was five years old. I’m in my mid-sixties now. At my worst I was drinking cans of special brew 24/7. You could say I was a functioning alcoholic.  I used to have my own building firm but eventually I went off the rails.  In the end I was living on my own and unemployed. I was in a dark place and I was no longer in contact with my family. Trust me when I say that I had hit rock bottom.

I felt motivate to change after I had been in hospital for a period on a detox programme.  I met a young man in his forties who was dying of cancer. I took him out in a wheelchair around a nearby lake and we just talked about ordinary stuff. As I prepared to leave hospital, he dragged himself up off his pillow and put his arms around me to say thank you for his trips out from the hospital ward. This was a man who had no choice – I still did. The drink was killing me and I had to stop.

The impact of peer mentoring on myself and other people has been tremendous. Working with the probation, peer mentors can help men and women get their lives back on track. The offender knows that we are there because we want to be. We are not getting paid so why else are we doing this? I think they start to trust us because they know we have been through similar experiences.

You progress through recovery and your self worth starts to improve. What’s marvellous about peer mentoring is that you are given responsibilities as you start to progress. Self-worth and self-value go hand in hand with getting better. Working as a peer mentor has given me purpose.

 

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Danny

I came out of treatment for drink and drugs and I needed to feel useful.  I used to get so drunk that I would meet someone and think it was for the first time as I had forgotten we’d met the day before … when I had been drinking.  I wanted something in my life that was positive as I wasn’t going out. It’s hard when youare feeling that lonely and isolated.

Volunteering as a peer mentor gives you a feeling of belonging to a very special community. We can be honest with one another and we respect what we have each achieved. It’s important to have somewhere to go that is safe and supportive.

FINDING NEW FRIENDS
Sometimes you have to leave old friends behind because they just want you to go back to your old ways, and really they are not friends at all. But it can be lonely and we need the support and the opportunity for our voices to be heard and respected.
NEW DEVELOPMENT AS ROSALIND BECOMES ‘VOLUNTEER AMBASSADOR’
Leicester-based peer mentor Rosalind Cosa has been appointed as a ‘Volunteer Ambassador’ by the Cabinet Office for their ‘Safe and Stronger Communities’ initiative.

Fifty year old Rosalind has regularly volunteered to support with offenders engaged with the Intercept Dual Diagnosis Service that was awarded funding from the Cabinet Office’s Rehabilitation Social Action Fund.

The LCPT Intercept Project works alongside the drugs and alcohol team in Leicester and works with offenders who have a mental health diagnosis. LCPT was originally known by its full title of Leicestershire Community Projects Trust.

Project Manager Carol Dawson explained that the additional funding from the Cabinet Office enabled another fulltime post to be created and to recruit and train up to 15 volunteer peer mentors.

Rosalind said that being a peer mentor she had personal experience of living with alcohol dependence, which was combined with a mental health illness.

She added: “I think knowing this allows service users to relate to me in a way they perhaps feel less able to do with their treatment worker, as they perhaps perceive me to be somebody who understands what they are going through better than most. This helps me to engage with even the most reluctant clients in their own way, and in their own time, without prejudice or judgement.”
Peer Mentor ‘Kerry’ (Her name has been changed)
Kerry explains how training to be a peer mentor has had positive benefits for herself and the people she has engaged with.

Opening up to your probation officer begins when you start to trust them. I guess I needed drawing out of myself before I could begin to talk about what had happened to me. That’s not easy when your memories are so painful. Trust is really important when you are volunteering as a peer mentor.

Peer mentoring has helped me to have a better understanding of someone else’s viewpoint, their perspective. My ex-boyfriend used drugs and he went through a detox. I never thought about how he scared he was probably feeling. Peer mentoring has enabled me to deal more positively with things in my life. I’m better at coping and I’m not reaching for a drink as a way of dealing with stuff.

People want to come round to my house now and sit and chat to me. I am proud of what I have achieved, particularly with the women’s group. One of the women said that she owed her life to me. That made me feel really good, but it was down to her hard work and determination to change. I’ve got the peer mentoring bug and I want to do so much more.

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