My heart goes out to the volunteers for all the time they give to helping prisoners. Some folk would wash their hands of criminals but these people accept us for what we are and are willing to give us a chance. For this, I am very grateful.” Prisoner, HMP Wandsworth
Volunteers are at the heart of Fine Cell Work's activities, and we currently work with around 200 volunteers in total. Our charity has, from its very beginnings, depended on and learned from the expertise and initiative of its volunteers and we now have an extensive and ever-growing network across the country.
Without them, we could not achieve all that we do.
We could not function without the Fine Cell Work volunteers who teach embroidery, tapestry, quilting and other needlework in prisons throughout the country. As well as teaching and supporting prisoners, they take kits and materials into the prison and send completed work back to head office.
Prison volunteers usually work in small teams that are assembled by Fine Cell Work. We operate in prisons all over the country and there are not always openings in all areas for new prison volunteers. It's therefore quite common to wait a long time before an opening arises in your area; most commonly, we will ask to keep your details on record and invite you to regional meetings so that you feel involved, but it may not be possible to find opportunities for you immediately
On average, Volunteers visit prison twice a month for a two-hour class. The average length of time they remain volunteers is 7 years and our longest-serving volunteer has been teaching in prisons for 16 years.
Qualities and Experience
Many of our prison volunteers are members of the Embroiderer's Guild and have been taught at the Royal School of Needlework. We do require a certain level of needlework skill. More importantly, however, this role requires a kind, patient and non-judgemental temperament.
Ideally, you will have some teaching experience and/or will understand the issues arising from working with vulnerable adults. You also need to be comfortable with completing a small amount of admin before and after classes. It is essential that you have some computer skills: as a minimum, you must be comfortable using office packages such as Word and Excel, and that you are comfortable communicating with the office via email.
The growth and success of FCW in reaching and selling to the public is due to the contribution of people who make events happen.
People get involved on all levels, from inviting friends to helping with sales, and serving on event committees. We hold regular events around the country and are always keen to hear from people who want to support or set up an event in their local area.
Qualities and Experience
You don't need any specific skills or experience to volunteer at events; just bring your positive attitude and enthusiasm.
At the office
Volunteers at our head office in London Victoria do a wide range of jobs. These include stitching small items, helping with cutting fabrics and making up kits for our prison groups. We also regularly advertise for interns to support the administrative work of the office.
Volunteering at the office usually involves helping with the production of kits, cutting fabric, sorting wool and similar tasks. It also occasionally involves some general office admin, or working on specific projects. We do occasionally have volunteers who are trained at the office but who then do their volunteering at home.
The office is located in central London, very close to Victoria Station. Therefore office volunteers must be able to travel here. Our office is not wheelchair-accessible and we are on the first and second floors; there is extremely limited parking nearby and barring exceptional circumstances, we can only reimburse the travel expenses of volunteers who come here by public transport.
Qualities and Experience
Depending on their activities, office volunteers need some level of experience with stitching and textiles. Those helping with commissions need to be excellent embroiderers, whereas those helping to make kits need only be comfortable in the stitching environment.
We welcome applications from potential office volunteers and interns throughout the year: however, due to work and space restrictions, we do not always have roles available. Intern role specifications are posted here when a position becomes available.
What our volunteers say
Some of our prison volunteers have shared with us what makes the work with FCW so special:
I absolutely love the work I do with FCW and feel so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given which have led to my own personal development. It’s not always easy but I’m constantly learning and growing as a person.”
"I think that as well as making a huge impact on the lives of these prisoners, they do the same for us. As I drive home after each class I realise how lucky I am.”
I thought working in a prison might upset me, even that I may not be able to cope with it. On the contrary, I often leave feeling inspired and impressed.”
"When we are sitting round the table in a group the men enjoy the relaxed atmosphere created by the needlework and the freedom from cell life. They are a hard-working group and help and support each other both during the evening and back in their blocks. It is great to see the men working together to get the best out of each other.”
I have just come back from the prison and I am still on a high. They were so enthusiastic. Never once did I think of them as prisoners.”
How you can volunteer
If you would like to apply for any of the volunteering roles below, please read the information on this page carefully, then complete a Volunteer Application Form. We will acknowledge your application within two weeks. If you do not hear from us within this time frame please do not hesitate to contact us.
We receive an extremely high level of interest from potential volunteers and are not always able to respond in depth to every application, but we will acknowledge the form once we have received it, and at the very least ask whether we may keep your details on record until an opportunity arises.
If you have any difficulties in completing the survey, or have any additional questions, please contact us. We will get back to you by email or phone.
We look forward to hearing from you!