Norma's story - a visitors' centre volunteer

(Norma - pictured right)

I have been a volunteer in the visitors centre at HMP Northumberland since January 2000. But volunteering wasn’t new to me. I have always volunteered in my local community, helping to run Sunday schools, youth clubs and I have been a member of the Mothers Union for a very long time. 

The Mothers Union and Nepacs have a lot in common as both organisations aim to support parents and  strengthen families especially in times of adversity. I enjoy being able to mix both of my volunteering roles by giving talks and sharing information with Mothers Union branches throughout the north east. This has led to the Mothers Union donating hundreds of backpacks filled with  toiletries for residents leaving prison, especially those who have no support or who are going to live in hostels.

When I moved to Northumberland and contacted the Mothers’ Union to ask about volunteering projects, I was offered roles with their holiday scheme, helping to clean Mothers’ Union holiday caravans on change-over day, or volunteering with NEPACS in the prison visitors centre. I am thrilled that I chose the visitors centre as I am constantly amazed by the loyalty of family members who visit.  I remember one winter the buses would not come to the prison due to the snow so they dropped visitors off over a mile from the prison and the families walked to and from the prison in the cold and dark.  

If you are thinking about volunteering, I would say just “give it a go”, you will not be asked to do anything you are not suited to. I have been here 20 years and I still enjoy it. Every time I volunteer is different and I love being part of the team or ‘family’ at HMP Northumberland.