Today’s volunteers are tomorrow’s award winners

Dartmoor PrisonLast week the Charity Awards 2007 winners were announced. The overall winner was Storybook Dads based at Dartmoor Prison. It's an organisation that helps to support family ties between prisoners and their families, by facilitating learning for prisoners who produce story CDs for their children.

According to Storybook Dads' website: "The children love these stories because they can hear their parent's voice whenever they want and the feedback from prisoners and their families is overwhelming. The dads feel that they are doing something for their children and this goes a long way towards strengthening family ties."

Storybook Dads is a great example of the strengths of volunteering and what can be achieved. It's great to see them getting this recognition. I always find it fascinating finding out how such initiatives come about- as it's almost always due to someone somewhere volunteering their time to make a difference. Storybook Dads is no different- I found this extract in Public Finance from an article written last year about Storybook Dads founder- Sharon Berry:

"A professional life spent behind bars is not a career choice that would appeal to everyone, but Berry, 44, decided soon after passing through the prison gates for the first time that it was right for her.

Perhaps this is because she knows a thing or two about second chances herself. She decided, aged 36 and a single parent, to go to university as a mature student to take a degree in English. After graduation she began volunteering one day a week at another Devon prison, Channings Wood, helping to set up a radio station.

Her empathy for the men comes through as she talks about them and she is clearly at ease being among prisoners who, in some cases, have committed serious crimes. 'As soon as I started working in prison, I knew it was what I wanted to do. It is fun and rewarding,' she explains. 'I've never had any grief from them. The prisoners treat us with the utmost respect and they appreciate what we're doing for them.'

Berry first got the idea for Storybook Dads during her time at Channings Wood, where she and the prison's writer-in-residence began using the radio editing equipment to make the CDs. During this time she also trained as a further education teacher and, in 2002, she got a job in the education unit at Dartmoor.

For a time Berry taught by day, while running Storybook Dads in her spare time. She would record the prisoners herself and then edit the files on her computer at home in the evenings."


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