John McCrae, volunteer

“It is about seeing people grow and develop and learn from their interactions with those they would not normally come into contact with.”

  • Name: John McCrae
  • Job title: Custodial Manager
  • Organisation: Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service

Can you tell us a little bit about your job and how you got to where you are today?

I am a Custodial Manager with 21 years’ service in HMPPS. I am currently based at HMP Onley, a 742 bed Category C Adult Male prison in the Midlands. My main role is to provide opportunities for individuals to change, rehabilitate and break the cycle of re-offending whilst serving a custodial sentence. Prior to joining HMPPS I had a background in the haulage industry as a driver and operator.

What did you want to be when you were in school?

Growing up I wanted to be a tree surgeon, this was because an uncle was a qualified tree surgeon and my dad worked within the horticultural industry for all his working life.

Who or what inspires you, and why?

The men in my care, the men I lock up, inspire me as I can see them change and develop as individuals. Wanting the change their lives and gain hope for their future, hopefully leading them to live law abiding lives upon release.

When did you begin volunteering with Inspiring the Future, and why did you decide to start?

I joined Inspiring the Future in 2014. I believe in giving something back, reaping and sowing etc. I participate in charitable events etc previously and still do, but I was looking for a more long-term commitment. Through opportunities within prisons I became an able public speaker and trainer and I had been invited privately to speak in a school setting. Once I had witnessed the engagement and positivity from the children and for myself, I realised I could make a difference, so I explored volunteering opportunities further and signed up with Inspiring the Future. My 21-year service allows me, through my experiences to not only broaden to minds of children through exposing them to this area of work but can also highlight the pitfalls of making wrong life choices and the consequences of such choices.

What Inspiring the Future activities have you participated in so far?

I participated in careers fairs, world of work events, career insights, speed networking, ‘What’s my Line?’ and mock interviews. I have delivered inspirational, aspirational and motivational talks to students of all ages. I would like to think that I have exposed them to a career path they might not ever of considered, whilst inspiring them to think about their own futures and where they want to go in life.

How have you benefited from volunteering with Inspiring the Future?

I personally have learnt a lot about myself. I have improved my public speaking skills, I have become more flexible and adaptable with my talks, responding to the needs of the audience. Through volunteering with Inspiring the Future it has enabled me to highlight all the positive work that takes place within the criminal justice system rather than the negativity often portrayed.

What would you say to those thinking of joining our volunteer community? Do you have any tips or advice?

Just do it, it is so rewarding. Everyone should give something back in their lifetime so why not make a difference with young people, after all they are the next generation, we need to invest in.

If you could give one piece of advice to a young person, what would it be?

Don’t let anything hold you back and anything is achievable if you put your mind to it. There is a big wide world out there waiting to be explored so go and explore.

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