Marcia did not participate directly in either of our prison projects as we had not yet been able to work in a women’s prison, but she did benefit indirectly in a big way. She was an ex-offender who had always had bright ideas and hopes for herself, but as soon as she started school she knew she had learning difficulties and was told that she was dyslexic.
“I went to the library and tried to read a book,
but the teacher snatched it from me.
‘You can’t read that book,’ she said. I wanted to know why.”
Marcia says she was always slow at learning and she knew something wasn’t right. Because her spelling was so bad, she wrote important words on her hand every day so that she could copy them out.
She began her prison sentence in Holloway and was then transferred to Winchester. To get into the education department there, an offender had to apply for a place and be recommended as ‘good enough’. After failing to get in a few times, she finally got a place, but her first day was a disaster.
“My teacher called me a dunce in front of everybody
and I burst into tears.”
When she was released, Marcia enrolled at the local college to do an Information, Advice and Guidance course. She thought she would be able to cope with the reading and writing, but she was struggling. Her tutor spotted that she was having difficulties. She tried to write things properly, but she couldn’t spell them and she couldn’t pronounce words properly when asked to read something out loud. That scared her.
Her teacher, Wayne, had a quiet word with her while the others were working and said “Don’t worry. You’re not stupid. I can help you with all this if you want.’
She says he was really great. He helped her to look at words and break them down.
“With Dyslexia, when you really want to learn something,
you can learn it, not by the old-fashioned methods but by
using the creative side of your brain. I know that now.”
Over time Wayne has given Marcia a lot of help and he’s encouraging her now to do other things, including her NVQ. And it’s not just one way – Marcia is a wizzkid at the computer and now she’s passing on her skills to Wayne. As she continues with her education, Wayne continues to support her and boost her self-esteem.
“He gave me the confidence to do the course
and succeed at it. It’s really exciting. Now I know
I can go into the room and learn.”
Wayne and Marcia have been together ever since and neither has reoffended for seven years. They both hope to be able to come and work on one of our projects as we expand over the next two or three years.