The workshop at HMP Garth had refurbished more than 100 wheelchairs, which were being sent to Chennai, India. The shipment included a specially made chair that had been built by one of the prisoners for a young orphan named Manikandam. The workshop manager, Dave Kellett, went with the shipment to Chennai and took videos and still photographs whilst he was there.
In the meantime, a prisoner in Garth was given instructions to report to DK’s workshop on the Monday DK returned to work from his trip to Chennai. I will call this prisoner, RTP (You will understand why very shortly!). Apparently RTP had asked around on the landing as to the nature of the workshop he was instructed to attend and what the instructor was like. In the many years RTP had served in prison he had been troublesome and had never worked for any length of time and certainly with no enthusiasm in other workshops where he had been placed. In fact he had been disruptive on many occasions.
He found out that the work was fixing wheelchairs, and was told that DK was “a good bloke” so he RTP arrived in the workshop. DK had promised the men that on his return from India he would show them video footage and photographs. This he did on that first Monday morning, and of course this was RTP’s introduction to the workshop. The video featured the orphan, Manikandam, and his specialised wheelchair, along with other distributions.
RTP stayed in the workshop and began to be taught, mostly by the other men, as to what was involved in restoring wheelchairs. About two weeks later RTP gave DK a letter and after DK read it, he gained RTP’s permission to share the contents with me. It contained a testimony as to the life changing effect the video, photographs, and DK’s account had had on RTP.
The prisoner wrote, “the experience that Monday morning made me realise I could be different, I could help others less fortunate than myself even though I was serving a long prison sentence, that I had something to offer and that being troublesome was negative and unproductive in all sorts of ways.” He wrote “watching that video changed something in my head” and TP – troublesome prisoner – became RTP – reformed troublesome prisoner. RTP settled into the workshop and helped restore wheelchairs, which the following year went to Chennai via the same arrangements.