A hundred teddy bears have been donated to Leicester's prison by De Montfort University (DMU) so that men serving time over Christmas have a present to give to their children.
The cute eight-inch-high bears had originally worn a mortar board so that they could be used as mementos at DMU graduation ceremonies.
But when Carol Manley of the university’s Alumni Team saw there was a surplus of unused bears, she suggested they would make ideal gifts for the children of men who will be in prison over Christmas.
So over the past couple of weeks student volunteers from #DMUlocal have been wrapping and tagging the teddy gifts – minus the hats - ready for them to be handed over to men in HMP Leicester as presents this Christmas.
Karen O’Donnell, Supervising Officer at HMP Leicester, said: “I think this is a great idea. I am also a Family Liaison Officer and so I work with some of the children when they have family visits.
Karen O'Donnell, Leicester Prison, (left) and Harriet Pole, #DMUlocal, (right) with students
“For the children to receive something like this – a gift they can cherish until their father is home – is a nice little touch.”
Student volunteer Danielle Oates, a BSc Nursing student, was joined by five others to finish wrapping the gifts this week.
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She said: “I love wrapping presents and want to give something back. It should make no difference if a child’s dad is in prison. They are still children at the end of the day and I find it a bit sad that the men in the prison can’t be with their families on Christmas Day. It must be hard for them.”
Vinita Raichande, who is studying a BA in Accounting and Finance, added: “I saw the appeal for gift wrappers on the volunteering website and thought I should do it. Volunteering at DMU helps you get to know more people and I feel this is a really good cause.”
Andrea Porter, who is studying a Master’s in English, said: “It is such a lovely idea. I have a friend who is a prison tutor and when I told her what I was doing she said ‘Thank you. The one thing the men feel strongly about is being able to give their children a present at Christmas.’
“I have a disability which means there are some things I cannot do but wrapping presents is something I can do. This helps me feel more integrated and helps build my confidence.”
DMU has had volunteers working closely with HMP Leicester for the past year through the #DMUlocal scheme. It has seen them redesign the prison gardens, give a makeover to the waiting area and the DMU orchestra has also performed there.
Harriet Pole, Widening Participation Coordinator for #DMUlocal, said they were proud to give back to the community.
“Being involved in this gives the students a chance to think about the impact their work is having on others. It is a small token but such a big thing for the families of men in prison.”
Mark Charlton, Head of Public Engagement at DMU, said: “Leicester Prison’s governor has always maintained that the men should keep close relations with their families so they have the best opportunity for a positive start when they leave prison.
“We were given the opportunity to donate these bears to different communities across Leicester so we’re delighted HMP Leicester has been able to make use of them in a way that will help the men and their families celebrate Christmas.”
Posted on Friday 8th December 2017