Celebrating Mother’s Day

Last weekend (15th March 2015), sixty-one year old Lesley, from Guildford, spent her first Mother’s Day since leaving prison with her two grown-up children.

A year ago, though separated from her son and daughter, Lesley remained positive and used her time to study with help from Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET). Following her Drugs and Alcohol counselling and Teaching English courses funded by PET, Lesley helped many other disadvantaged women to overcome their addictions and learn to read.

Her daughter Hannah, 29, said: “Mum did lots of courses to keep busy and to keep herself motivated, she learnt a lot from it and she also helped other girls.

"She enjoys helping others, she is a kind, big-hearted person, she took on a mothering role with a lot of the girls and it gave her a purpose.”

Back in 2009 when Lesley was sentenced, she was losing a life-long battle with alcoholism but with support from the Rehabilitation of Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPT) she recovered and hasn’t drunk alcohol since. Art and creative writing also helped her to cope, to reflect on her addiction and the impact it had on her children.

Lesley said: “I learned a lot about myself and that self-awareness leads me to be much more aware of my affect on other people.

"I now have such a positive outlook on life, which I didn’t have before prison.”

Much to the delight of her two children, in spring 2014 she was allowed temporary release from prison in order to graduate at the College of Teachers, just like any other student in cap and gown, after gaining a distinction in her TESOL diploma. This was a rare opportunity for the family to meet up and enjoy time together outside of prison.

Hannah said: “The nicest thing was to see how happy she was. I felt so proud. It was a landmark for her. She had been feeling rubbish that she’d made a mistake and was serving five years in prison but it was a lovely event, with lots of other families. And though she’d been coming out for a while, for the first time she had the freedom to make her own way into London and me and my brother went to meet her.”

Lesley believes that her achievements in prison also inspired them in different ways. Just before she went to prison her son was expelled from his sixth form college, but seeing her succeed encouraged him to go to university and last year he graduated with a 1st class honours degree in music. He is now studying a masters’ degree. Meanwhile her daughter, Hannah, 29, motivated by Lesley’s dedication to others, now volunteers for a charity helping the families of other people with addictions.

Hannah said: “It’s nice to feel like you’re helping people, but also personally it’s been beneficial. I never had a group like that growing up and it would have been useful, it’s been very therapeutic, I have the freedom to talk about my experiences.”

Lesley has now been out of prison for six months. She is working in an education centre and is settling back into life in her local community. Mentoring women to learn to read and gain confidence was really important to Lesley in prison and as she looks to the future, she wants to use her qualification and develop a new career in teaching. In the meantime, this Mother’s Day, as Lesley enjoyed a dance performance and a lunch with Hannah and Cameron, they all have lots to celebrate.

If you would like to help women like Lesley who are still in prison, please consider donating to PET. Click here.

(Stock images have been used in this story)