Lester was in HMP Brixton when he first met his Switchback Mentor. He had spent six of the previous eight years inside and it was clear that, as he approached his 30th birthday, this was an unrecoverable loss. Accepting the result of his own actions meant an overwhelming feeling of guilt. He had very little self-belief, couldn’t see a positive future and was stuck in a pattern of short-term thinking. His sense of hopelessness grew just before his release when his mother passed away and he was only able to attend her funeral in handcuffs.
Motivated by the strong desire for things to be different, Lester made the most of Switchback’s wide network of opportunities, experiences and placements. He started real-work training in a café straight away on release. He proved himself reliable and was invited to visit a restaurant in Hackney. Impressed by his energy, they offered him work experience and after only a few days he was offered paid, ad-hoc work. He continued to challenge himself through new experiences and employer visits with other Trainees, even though these involved talking about his future which was extremely difficult for him.
This journey towards employability was only possible with a great deal of support. Switchback offered Lester a safe space to make mistakes in, working out who this newer version of himself was. Lester was learning that he was more than just someone who had done two lengthy prison sentences.
Together, he and his Switchback Mentor talked about future goals and set stepping stones that were realistic to reach. The more experiences he accumulated, the more he was able to let go of some of the guilt he was holding on to and look to the future. Through this process, he learnt that people could, and would, be truly impressed by efforts to change.
Lester has been working a demanding full-time role in a busy Spitalfields restaurant for 10 months and has been adjusting well to the next part of his life story.
“It’s hard to know what Switchback’s gonna be like when you’re inside, I guess you just have to experience it. It really doesn’t feel like the staff at Switchback are just doing a job, you know they really care & that means a lot. I got a lot of space for trial & error, sometimes things don’t go as planned but that’s okay cos you know your Mentor is going to listen & talk things through with you.”