We caught up with John, formally known as Red, for a quick update about the COOK RAW Talent programme.
Watch the video below for a recap of his personal story.
A lot’s changed for John since we made that video. He and his wife are now proud parents to a little boy, who arrived in December. And, a few months ago, he started working a few days a week in the COOK office as a RAW Talent Advocate.
Q: So are you not in the Mix & Weigh Team in the Kitchen anymore?
John: No. I was in Mix & Weigh for over four years, but I’ve now moved to Prep for three days a week, which is easier to balance with the two days I’m in the office.
Q: How’s it been?
John: Overwhelming, to be honest. Eight weeks in and I feel like I’m just finding my feet. I’ve never worked in an office or even used a computer – I don’t even use my phone that much! Luckily Andrew in the office has been teaching me and now I’m hungry to learn more.
Q: What have you and Annie, the RAW Talent Manager, been up to?
John: I suppose the main thing is we’ve met with some partners and possible partners for RAW Talent at COOK. When I was in prison, I felt forgotten. All I could see were the holes in the system. But I’ve been so impressed with the number of organisations and companies now looking into giving people a second chance. It’s humbling.
Q: What have been the highlights so far?
John: So many. I’ve had meetings at the Shard in London, I visited Parliament with the charity Clean Sheet – which was unreal – and I went to Elmley Prison. That was a strange one, as I’d spent a lot of time there as an inmate. I saw a lot of people I knew and seeing the change in me brought a few of them to tears. It was a real moment. The prison officers couldn’t believe it, and said, “We’ll have to get the gov’nor.” In the past, he’d given me a lot of adjudications [the result of a disciplinary offence in prison] but he didn’t even recognise me now. I’m going to talk to a group at Rochester Prison next.
Q: What else is coming up?
John: I’ll be buddying all our new RAW Talents when they arrive, to help them settle in at COOK, as well as talking to all our partners.
Q: Doesn’t all this public speaking make you nervous?
John: Yeah, definitely! But it’s worth it, isn’t it?
To find out more about our RAW Talent scheme, click here.