Prison Charity Fine Cell Work Is Honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

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    Prison charity, Fine Cell Work has been given the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Fine Cell Work, founded in 1997, is a social enterprise that trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework – undertaken in the long hours spent in their cells – to foster hope, discipline and self esteem. It’s a way of life that enables them to serve their time with dignity and purpose and the earnings give them hope, skills and independence. The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest honour that can be given to volunteer groups across the UK for outstanding work. It is the equivalent of an MBE for the organisation. It is given for outstanding achievement by groups of volunteers who regularly devote their time to helping others in the community, improving the quality of life and opportunity for others and providing an outstanding service.

    The award specifically recognises the work of Fine Cell Work’s south-eastern branch of volunteers, which includes London – the longest standing and most evolved region of volunteering. The volunteers train the prisoners participating in the scheme to achieve world class embroidery and needlepoint, often working in an unfamiliar and unfriendly environment. Fine Cell Work relies almost entirely on its volunteers’ efforts. From the start, they have shown courage and ingenuity. They are Royal School of Needlework or City & Guilds qualified, and are almost all women. They have had to win the trust and respect of prisoners, 75% of whom are male. They teach them irrespective of the offences for which they are in prison.

    Acknowledging the award on behalf of Fine Cell Work, its chief executive Katy Emck said, “Fine Cell Work’s volunteers are not just needlework teachers. They are figures of continuity and humanity in dehumanizing places.’

    ‘After 15 years of the volunteers’ dedicated work in obscure places, fine embroidery in prisons has become not only accepted but in some quarters orthodox. The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is recognition that their efforts are at the heart of Fine Cell Work’s achievement and we are exceptionally honoured to gain this award in the Diamond Jubilee year.’

    ‘In 2011 Fine Cell Work worked with more than 400 volunteers teaching in prison and helping with events, administration and promotion. This is an army of support and it is growing. We are always looking for more volunteering offers.”

    “The volunteers treat us like people. They are not in it for themselves,” said a prisoner in HMP Littlehey. These sentiments are often expressed by prisoners, who say Fine Cell Work takes them beyond prison and puts them in touch with normality, making them feel socially useful and that they are “giving back.”

    Daniel Fountain / 27.06.2012

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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