"To set examples for others is a good feeling." Stephen on his PLA Peer Mentor Award

25 Sep 2018


As a peer mentor at HMP Portland, Stephen works with men in catering and helps support people with substance misuse issues. He told us what it felt like to win a PLA Award for Outstanding Peer Mentor and what motivates him to help people inside.

How did I feel about getting the awards? Well it was a big bag of mixed emotions – I just couldn’t believe it - this wasn’t in my sentence plan! I shouted “woo!”, but I didn’t make much of a noise because of the lump in my throat. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone – it wasn’t just me who won this award it was the whole team.

It’s in my nature to help people. I get it from my mother who was a nurse. She was always busy in the community, caring for people, always on the go.

"One of the guys came back in tears saying he'd passed. Wow - I nearly cried with him."

I’ve completed an Open University course through PET: an introduction to counselling. I loved it because you not only learn about others, you learn a great deal about yourself. It’s nice being a role model, steering people in the right direction. To set examples for others is a good feeling.

The thing I enjoyed most about supporting prisoners is seeing the positive change in their attitude and actions. If you give it time the positivity does rub off onto a cell mate or a friend next door. I get to see the change through the guidance I’ve given, with the knowledge I’ve gained.

One of my most memorable moments was helping a guy on the wing who couldn’t read or write through the performing manufacturing operations course. At first I thought he can’t read or write but he’s not silly. So day after day on association we sat down and we went through the course. Two weeks later, he came back in tears saying he’d passed the course. Wow, that was a moment – I nearly cried with him. His first ever certificate at the age of 48. He couldn’t wait till the phones came on to tell his parents. He’s now a red band in his place of work – happy days.

"It’s always someone’s first natural instinct to help someone if you can; it's then whether you choose to act on that instinct."

Setting examples, guiding people in a positive way, and trying to stay grounded yourself can be a task, but with every negative there’s always a positive around the corner. It’s a nice feeling being looked up to and an even better feeling using that status to help others who are not so fortunate in education or have had bad luck through life’s journey. It’s always someone’s first natural instinct to help someone if you can; it's then whether you choose to act on that instinct.

Thank you very much for giving me this award – it means so much. But it was the teachers, facilitators and tutors who gave me the tools to do a good job – they all deserve a mention because they work just as hard as I do.