Befriending, gardening and training projects at Magilligan

Magilligan Prison, Co Derry.
Magilligan Prison, Co Derry.
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The Quakers have revealed details of a range of befriending and community initiatives they are seeking more volunteers to help develop at Magilligan and other prisons.

Sinead Bailie, People Connections Manager with the Quaker Service, told the Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee that the organisation’s core work today included providing befrienders for people in prison.

She said this was centred around people who had no family support due to being brought up in care or other reasons. “They are the ones that don’t have anyone to talk to or discuss how they are feeling,” she said, adding that not all befriender volunteers were quakers, with many coming from Derry. “They have to be non-judgemental,” she said. “They have to see the person, not the crime that was committed. We never ask what was done. One thing we are no there to do,” she added, “is counsel souls or save souls. We have no motive other than that they are isolated and we are there to offer support.”

She said that at Magilligan the population was older and as that happens, people tend to become more isolated. She said: “Mental health is a big issue. There are quite a number of men in jail with dementia. That is going to increase.”

Sinead said that among the programmes being developed were community and prisoner-led teaching classes at Men’s Sheds, as well as prisoners growing, producing and cooking their own food, with the Quakers working with the Prison Service at Magilligan to develop a garden for this purpose.