Our project officer, Katy McCormick, visited our bike project in Workshop 6 at HMP Liverpool (Walton) to award Bronze, Silver and Gold Certificates of Achievement to some of the trainees. These certificates are given when the men reach a certain level of skill, and are also our way of saying thank you for their work. Many of these men have never received a certificate or any kind of acknowledgement before, and it can mean a lot to their self-esteem. She gave a short presentation about the bikes we had recently sent to Bulgaria and listened to some of them men talk about their experience of the workshop. Here is her report:”A really important part of the project is that the men understand what happens to the bikes they repair. I showed them pictures and talked to them about the bikes we sent to Baba Tonka House in Bulgaria. Bulgaria has the highest number of abandoned children of any country in the EU and these children are kept in huge, state-run institutions with little personal attention or care. Baba Tonka House offers an alternative, supporting disabled children and their families to reduce abandonment. The bikes were an unheard-of treat for the children, and a really useful means of transport for the staff.
I then had a chance to talk to some of the men, asking them about what they liked about the workshop and if they thought they were learning anything that would be useful when they were released.
The feedback about the bikes to Bulgaria made a big impact. “Not being funny but some of the lads had a tear in their eye.” “Makes you think that does. Those kids over there.” “It’s good that you came to talk to us.”
They all agreed they had improved their mechanical skills and some thought it might be useful in the future. “I’ll be able to fix the kiddies’ bikes.” “I wonder how I could set up a project like this when I get out.”
The calm atmosphere in the workshop was a plus. “Every other place I’ve been here I’ve been thrown out. Just my temper. Can’t help it really. But I don’t get stressed here.” “It’s just a good mood in here. Calm.”
The men said that in other workshops each man tends to his own work. Here, they are more likely to work together or help one another out. “Sure, I’ll show him [if he needs help].”
As I left, it seemed to me that the bicycles were almost a by-product. What they are really making in Workshop 6 is self-esteem.