A PIONEERING project to turn around the lives of repeat offenders in the Capital has been awarded £84,000 of National Lottery cash.
The money will help police deliver their youth mentoring programme run by adult mentors with first-hand experience of beating the “revolving door” back to prison.
Police Scotland is one of 11 recipients sharing in nearly £1 million of donations from the Big Lottery Fund.
“This project is so vitally important because there are so many young people out there needing help,” said mentor and recovering addict Donald Tumilowicz, 45, from West Lothian.
“We provide a range of peer support, one-to-one sessions and advice helping to signpost them to other things like training or employability schemes.
“We are there at the end of a phone 24/7 and they can contact either one of us at any time to share their worries or concerns.”
Addicted to drugs and alcohol from an early age, Donald spent decades in and out of prison but has been clean for five years.
“As someone who spent most of his life caught up in the system using my addictions to boost my confidence and self-esteem,” he said.
“I want to help stop other young people making the same mistakes as I did. Doing this work has changed my life.”
Edinburgh teen Lucien Okoth, 17, is one of the youngsters to benefit from the scheme.
He said: “I was caught up in drugs and my crimes were all about getting the money to feed my habit. I was in the cells when I was introduced to the mentors and straight away I saw myself in them.
“Something just clicked and I think it was an inspirational person telling me their story which was one I could relate to.
“They’ve supported me in lots of ways and even helped to get me into work as a canoeing instructor and bike mechanic.
“I know I can always go to them if I need to and this has given me real structure, goals to work towards and a chance to get my life together.”
Senior police officers praised the mentoring scheme for fighting crime and changing lives.
Chief Inspector Gill Geany said: “We are very grateful to the Big Lottery Fund for supporting our project that will inspire young people to break the cycle of re-offending.
“The money will assist the funding of two peer mentors, who will engage with and empower vulnerable young people to break the cycle of re-offending and pick up their shattered lives and assist them to make positive decisions and changes.
“This will in turn strengthen communities, transform lives, reduce crime and the impact it has on victims.”
Announcing the funding yesterday, Maureen McGinn, chairwoman of Big Lottery Fund Scotland, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, today’s £923,000 investment will reach into many communities across Scotland and will transform the lives of local people.”