Prisons and Primary Schools
By CHLOE ORVIS
Volunteering for Pro Bono has provided so many opportunities, which are incredibly difficult to access elsewhere, and which provide valuable experience for any degree or future occupation.
Unbarred is a programme operated by Pro Bono which seeks to reduce the barriers faced by offenders when they leave prison. I’m involved in visiting several prisons, including those for young offenders, and educating the offenders about their rights, realistic choices and responsibilities when they leave prison and enter society. The visits are informal, completely planned and organised by the Unbarred leaders and supported at every stage. We always meet prior to the visit to discuss the material so volunteers are never in the awkward position of knowing nothing about the content of the visit and always have plenty of time to ask questions. During the visit, we conduct talks about disclosure to future employers, information regarding how to access education, contact details for charities and support networks, as well as workshops to improve interview skills - integral yet often neglected aspects of rehabilitation. Providing encouragement to see their experience in custody as a process of growth and learning and offering optimistic yet realistic guidance is always key to the visits, which is undoubtably my favourite aspect of the programme. Unbarred provides support throughout every stage, giving passionate students the courage and the platform to inspire positive change the most vulnerable and stigmatised in society. For those reasons, it is something I would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in rehabilitation.
Pro Bono also run a programme called Aspire which, like Unbarred, I was keen to participate in. It involves visiting primary schools and educating children about key topics which are often neglected or excluded by the national curriculum, including how voting works and the meaning and impact of discrimination. I worked as part of a team to teach a class about the history of women’s rights through problem solving activities and team games. It was great to not only gain experience of teaching young children, but to also aid their understanding of crucial topics. Training, including safeguarding and DBS, is fully funded and supported, with project leaders present at every stage.
I would highly recommend volunteering for Pro Bono to anyone, on any degree programme. Don’t feel you have to be a law student – I’m not and, if anything, the programme leaders have always welcomed that. Pro Bono have a wide range of projects ran by truly amazing students with the best intentions. The experiences, knowledge, friends and confidence I have gained is incredible and unlike any other programme or opportunity. If you are passionate about changing something, please don’t sit back and assume someone else will do it.