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Stories

We go into prison, reminding people they matter and bringing hope.

Dean’s Story

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Dean lives in a house supported by ACT and came on our recent retreat. Here is what he had to say about what life has been like for him since coming to Oxford:

“I used to be into drugs – a dealer and an addict. I was in and out of rehab a lot. Even when I was inside I could get hold of drugs. I would get some on my day out, take as much as possible, then head to the gym to work them out of my system so that they wouldn’t show up on the weekly tests. Because of my addiction my relationship with my partner broke down. I took up cage fighting and boxing (I enjoyed fighting because I knew I was good at it) and after a while I was bare knuckle fighting to pay for my habit. I carried a weapon around with me and ended up stabbing one guy. I narrowly avoided prison but things were spiralling out of control. I didn’t care if I lived or died, I didn’t want to face reality and I was constantly in trouble with the police.

My family didn’t know what to do with me. They packed me off to stay with my uncle in Oxford. He took me along to church and introduced me to ACT. I didn’t like it and wanted to leave. But I went back a second time and it hit me – in a good way. I started to go regularly and soon I was offered a place in an ACT house. Things started to change…

Over the last few months it’s been like I’ve got a new heart. I’ve loved worshiping God and feel closer to God through Church. Church now feels like a family. I went on the retreat and loved it. We played football, went swimming, hung out round a campfire. One evening I stayed up most of the night talking with a friend about the difference God can make. Thinking about the way I had treated my family and friends before, I realised I was like a beast. Now I want to be different, I want to be a man.”

Paul’s Story

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“I came from a home where there wasn’t much love and didn’t have a real childhood. I was often locked in the coal shed, but that was a safe place because my father couldn’t beat me there.

I learned never to cry, even later on when I was in the army and saw my mates die in combat. I ended up doing a life sentence for violent crime and over the years when I was told that my father and then my mother had died, I didn’t care.

In Bullingdon prison I started to come to the chapel, not because I was looking for God, but because I wanted to play the guitar. When I first came to the ACT group doing the Alpha course I was closed down and didn’t want anyone to come too near. I felt as if I didn’t belong there but people prayed for me.

Then in my cell while I was writing some music out I heard the words, ‘Don’t stay on the outside, step right in.’ I had a sense of God being with me that I can’t describe. The next time I came into the chapel I knew I belonged to a family.

My faith means I talk to Jesus constantly and all the things I missed as a child, like playing and running in meadows, he has let me experience with him. I got baptised in the chapel and started to feel really emotional and went back to my cell and cried and cried. I feel that he is repairing the broken pieces and I am filled with love.”

Bob’s Story

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"I was in HMP Bullingdon serving a sentence for armed robbery, when I first heard of ACT from the Alpha course that was run there. I was fearful about being released from prison and falling back into active addiction which had led to me being locked up. I was feeling hopeless, however I decided to contact ACT and a few days before my release Rob came and visited me this gave me my first sign of hope.

Meeting up with him on the day of release was amazing. Prison for me was a hostile and desensitising environment. To be greeted by someone at the gate reminded me that there was still warmth, love and hope out there. Rob met me at the gate and accompanied me to my appointments which really helped me feel less anxious.

We arranged to meet once a week while I was staying at an approved premises. I quickly found out that I could trust Rob and we got on really well. Rob introduced me to the wider ACT community. We also started running together and working on the allotment. We have also just completed a couple of landscaping projects. I started to feel more confident and began to volunteer in the kitchen helping out on a Monday night and serving at the staff lunch. My days started to take on structure. I also helped on a gardening team that does work once a month at a beautiful Cotswold retreat centre. This has really helped me feel valued and given me a sense of belonging to a community, that feels more like a family. I am now feeling hopeful and looking forward to the next chapter of my life."

Tom’s Story

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Tom has spent his entire life in some form of institution – when he was brought along to ACT by a friend, the longest he had ever spent out of prison was six months. He had recently been released from Bullingdon prison and was now sleeping rough in Oxford. At first he was very wary of us but as he joined the community and participated in our activities, we gradually gained his trust. We were able to offer him a place in one of the ACT houses .This was a large adjustment for Tom and it has had its ups and downs but ultimately it has been a pleasure to work with him and journey alongside him as he begins to experience a sense of ‘home’ with us.

“I’ve been supported by ACT for around four years now and they have always been good to me in more ways than they probably know. If ever I’ve had a problem they have been there to help me resolve the issue. Through ACT Housing I have a key worker who is always trying to do the best she can for me. The whole ACT team is more like a family environment than an organisation to me. Anyway all I have to say is I am very grateful for the help and guidance ACT have shown me and they really do care which is surprising in this day and age.”

Jack’s Story

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Jack had been in prison for a year, and was living in our local Approved premises (previously known as a bail hostel) when we met him. Prison had been a new experience for him, and left him shocked and lost on release. The hostel staff referred him to ACT, and he has now been living in an ACT house for 6 months. Having a residential address enabled him to apply for jobs, and he now works locally in a well known restaurant.

“I was introduced to ACT while at the bail hostel and started having weekly conversations with Rob, who explained what ACT was all about. He suggested doing some volunteer work in the kitchen - I did so and have been doing it ever since, as well as attending the Monday evening meetings. After having a coffee one day with Rob I told him all about my problems about not being able to find housing because of being in prison. That’s when he told me about ACT Housing. The feeling I had when I was told I would be housed was like a new lease of life, an enormous weight off my mind and totally restored my faith in God. It is a lovely house that I share with one other person. We have our own space which is important and has a lovely garden. I feel extremely lucky to be living here and being part of ACT, it makes you feel like you are part of one big happy family. Without their help and continual support I would not have made the enormous steps of advancement that I have achieved since moving here.”

Contact ACT

ACT
40 Pembroke Street
Oxford
OX1 1BP

office@actoxford.com
01865 254 800

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