Thomas recently moved to Norfolk, where he has connected with the Secular Franciscans and has been playing guitar at St George’s in Norwich. He is a former member of the Worth Abbey Lay Community and has been a keen pilgrim to the shrine at Lourdes, which he has visited more than a dozen times.
He and Adie are now reflecting on their first year together and celebrating the many achievements Adie has made in his personal and social life and his volunteer work.
Community Chaplaincy Norfolk (CCN) is a Christian charity that, since 2018, has trained volunteer mentors to support people as they leave prison to live in Norfolk. Thomas completed training in 2021, and soon after CCN Manager Mel Wheeler introduced him to his client, Adie.
Thomas is blind, and one of his first meetings with Adie’s ended up being quite eventful when his guide dog, Chester, got confused by an unfamiliar route. “I didn’t know the way either,” laughs Adie, “and we ended up down the wrong end of Queen’s Road.”
“Adie has always been really helpful,” adds Thomas, “understanding Chester’s responsibilities and how to teach him the route.” The trio were eventually rescued by Thomas’ wife and have since bonded over their early adventure.
Thomas and Adie realised early on that they shared an interest in music, and Thomas started bringing his guitar to their meetings and teaching Adie how to play. Adie was recently gifted a brand-new guitar by an old school friend, enabling him to practise at home. The pair also share an interest in boats – Thomas lives on a boat with his family, and Adie would like to buy a boat in future and use it as a base for helping people who are struggling with addiction.
In the future Adie hopes to use his skills and experience to help others. He recently signed up for a counselling course, and Thomas’ support helped him to overcome his anxiety about going to register. “I asked Thomas to come with me because he knows me,” Adie says, adding that in the end, the experience was a positive one. “The person running the course said that they need people like me. When I do the course, I want to give it 100%.”
When asked what the best thing is about the mentoring experience, both men mention the enjoyment they find in each other’s company, and the mutual respect and appreciation they feel for each other. “We just get on,” Adie says. “I never lie to Tom.”
“It’s been nice to spend time with someone who’s so open to going through different doors and trying new things,” said Thomas, who Adie calls ‘Brother Tom.’ “I appreciate how positive Adie is, even when going through low points.”
“If you didn’t have the bad times, you wouldn’t know what the good times were,” Adie adds. Thomas helps Adie to reflect and focus on the positives, of which there are many, including Adie’s volunteering in a local community café and garden, and how this has helped him connect with people and build a support network.
“When you list out all the good things, suddenly your day seems quite positive,” Thomas says. “It can help to remember that when things don’t seem to be going so well.”
“At CCN, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the enthusiasm and commitment of mentors like Thomas, or the dedication of clients like Adie to changing their lives for the better,” says CCN Mentor Coordinator Abby Erwin. “It’s inspiring to see what positive difference they have made to each other’s lives.”
“CCN mentors support their clients in everything from that first, overwhelming day through the prison gate,” she adds “to meeting up regularly for a coffee and a chat, or even going to an art gallery or on a dog walk together. Each mentoring relationship is as unique as the people involved.”
CCN is currently seeking new mentors to work with people leaving prison and help them to rebuild their lives. “Mentoring is a uniquely varied, challenging and rewarding voluntary role,” Abby says. “All our mentors attend an 8-week training course and receive ongoing support in the form of one-to-one supervisions and group meetings. We welcome mentors from all faiths and none, and from all walks of life. We are looking for people over 25 years of age, who are confident and empathetic, IT literate, and who have some relevant experience.” CCN’s next training course begins on September 6.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor, CCN are holding a Volunteer Open Day on Wednesday, June 1 at St Stephen’s Church, Rampant Horse Street, Norwich. Drop in between 10am and 2pm to meet CCN mentors and clients and find out about how you can get involved. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit norfolkchaplaincy.org.uk/volunteering/.
Pictured above is Thomas teaching Adie the guitar and, below, Thomas with Chester.