Peer counseling, a source of growth

The Fire Inside interviewed Melody about the
beautiful friendship and peer mentor she had with
Darlene while incarcerated at CIW. Melody?s mentor
helped her learn job skills, but more importantly
helped Melody to heal and grow as a human being.

FI: Darlene was a peer counselor to you. What did
that relationship look like?
Melody: You can sit across from a professional
and open your heart and spill out your soul and the
closest you?re going to get to any kind of compassion
or sympathy is an occasional ?and how did that make
you feel.? Talking to Darlene was talking to someone
who had been abused, knew first hand what it was like
to be lost, trapped, to feel alone with no help in sight.
She didn?t have to ask how something made me feel,
she already knew. To hear that there was hope from
some one that had been through the same hell made all
the difference to me.
It helps me stay clean remembering that Darlene
took time from her life to teach me things my own
family and friends wouldn?t. She shared her heart and
soul with me and the unconditional friendship she
gave me is something I will cherish forever. The only
way I do even half for her of what she has done for
me, is to be out here fighting for her release.
FI: What kind of job and life skills did you learn
from Darlene?
Melody: Computers and running. I knew absolutely
nothing of either one and by the time I left I knew
enough computer stuff to start my business and help
others, and I can do a 5k or 10k run. I have always
felt that emotionally and health-wise you have to be
straight, you need that to be strong.
I also learned coping skills, such as writing down
things that I was holding inside. Those that had hurt
me and the anger I couldn?t let go of, I learned to
express what I felt and how they had hurt me. I would
write and lash out on paper, rather than through actions
like I had in the past. I was able to release that
emotion in a positive way.
Darlene helped me get a good job at CIW in a department
that required excellent computer skills, and
I didn?t even know how to turn one on at that time.
Darlene taught me everything she could to help me
advance. I learned to create Power Point presentations
that were shown to all staff at CIW. I learned how to
create a monthly magazine that went to every employee
at CIW, as well as a copy to every institution in
California. Today I use the skills Darlene taught me to
make brochures, fliers, notifications and postcards for
my own business.
FI: How have you used the knowledge you learned
from Darlene to help others?
Melody: There?s always someone better off than
someone else and there are others less fortunate as well.
Envy, jealousy, and being judgmental are three things
that will always hold you back. I learned from Darlene
how to learn from those who may be better off, and
then take that and teach those less fortunate than me.
I share with my daughter that everyone makes
mistakes. Some people make bigger mistakes then
others, but that doesn?t make them less of a human being.
Everyone has a heart and soul; they have feelings
that can be hurt. It?s what you do after the mistake that
makes the difference in how you change or how you
better yourself.