We are delighted to announce that Pact volunteer, Simon Hockin, was honoured at the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) Volunteer of the Year Awards. Simon, who volunteers at the Pact Lunch tea bar in HMP Cardiff, was one of the 10 Highly Commended Volunteers in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The Pact Lunch Snack Bar is an important service because it is the only opportunity that people have to share food together whilst someone is in custody. Simon helps us every weekend and often on week days as well. He helps to prepare and serve drinks and snacks, operate the till and clear up the kitchen after visiting times. However the role involves a lot more than just serving refreshments. Apart from their contact with the Security staff for essential ID checks and searches, Pact volunteers and staff are often the only other people that visitors will come into contact with on their visit. The encounter with Security is essentially an official and formal experience for obvious reasons. In contrast, the encounter with Pact has to be relaxed and friendly in order to put people at ease and help them to enjoy the short time they have with their loved one.

Simon has been a very dedicated and loyal volunteer at HMP Cardiff since being recruited in August 2014. He is an outstanding example to other volunteers as he is reliable, always carries out his role to best of his ability and always with a big smile.

He is unable to work for health reasons and is currently receiving ESA benefits. He was referred to us by Penarth Job Centre by his Employment Adviser. The Job Centre staff say they were quite surprised that Simon chose a prison based opportunity as he is a quiet individual. However both the JC and Pact are delighted with the way that he has integrated into the team. He takes a keen interest in Pact and attends additional training sessions and team meetings apart from the essential sessions required for volunteering. Simon says that he chose Pact because he wanted to help disadvantaged people. In the long term he hopes the experience may help him to gain employment if his health improves. He says that volunteering with Pact has been a two-way process for him. As well as helping others, he has hugely gained in confidence.

He says, "A year ago I would not have been able to walk into a prison and feel comfortable in that environment. Being part of the Pact team has changed my life. I have made new friends and I really enjoy helping people."

To find out more about volunteering for Pact, please click here.