Shobbir first had contact with Switchback in HMP Aylesbury four months before release. It was difficult for him to imagine what a new start would be like but after talking things through with a Switchback Mentor, he knew he wanted to make big changes. Shobbir had clearly lost motivation and confidence during his time in prison, where he didn’t engage with work or education, but through his honesty about this he became a Switchback Trainee. Shobbir became excited about taking control of his life and looked forward to the challenge awaiting him.
Once released, Shobbir started working voluntarily as a front of house assistant in the Crisis Skylight Café alongside coming into Switchback for weekly planning, personal admin sessions and job hunting. The first two weeks were particularly difficult for Shobbir to adjust to, what with working a full day in the café, communicating with people from different backgrounds and cultures and managing various appointments. Balancing his busy schedule with mandatory appointments at the job centre and probation as well as demanding family commitments was all brand new to him. He felt exhausted and overwhelmed by his new responsibilities.
Shobbir is the oldest of his siblings and his parents looked to him to contribute to the stability of the family home, both financially and emotionally. Often he would feel conflicted over putting his own needs ahead of family responsibilities that included care of a severely disabled brother. Learning to say no and balance priorities was difficult for Shobbir, recognising what he was and wasn’t in control of helped him to begin to put this into perspective, he started to develop assertiveness and manage his family’s expectations better.
Shobbir would not travel on public transport; his fear stemming from having fallen onto train tracks as a boy in Bangladesh. Trains and the underground were a particular source of anxiety for him and this had a big impact on his independence as it made him reliant on family members. Initially resistant, he understood that part of being a Switchback Trainee meant doing things differently and began to use public transport to get around London. A real challenge for him came when he travelled on the tube with other Switchback Trainees in order to meet the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, at an event Switchback was invited to. Although nervous and somewhat reserved, he threw himself in at the deep end and overcame his fear. During rush hour!
Shobbir began to find that being open minded to new experiences and taking opportunities led to increased confidence. He also started to enjoy being organised and disciplined in certain aspects of his life such as being on time and reliable. Before too long he felt he was ready for the leap into paid employment. After visiting a busy café in Clerkenwell with other Switchback Trainees he was offered a days’ work experience. He impressed their team so much he was offered a full time job.
Shobbir’s time at Switchback was full of ups and downs but without these struggles, he would not be in the position he is today. He constantly stretched boundaries by putting himself outside of his comfort zone and has begun to build a stable life for himself. Shobbir knows there is still a long way to go he’s proud of the changes he’s made and knows he is now fully capable of challenging himself and building on his hard work.