Donna Bowdler was so impressed by the support she received from the Ex-Forces Action Network (E-FAN) that she has written to her local MP.
Donna, who served in the 141 Parachute Regiment, first came into contact with the legal system when she was fined £200 and received 24 RAR activity days for breaching free speech legislation. Since leaving the forces, where she served in Bosnia and Northern Ireland, she had hit a downward spiral and found it difficult to engage with people. She found herself in the Criminal Justice system and it was only when she was referred to E-FAN that she felt she was “talking to one of her own”.
“Probation has helped me a lot. They are polite and positive people. Before I spoke to E-FAN I wouldn’t engage with anyone. I had retreated into myself. I felt I did not need to explain myself to them because they understood.”
Poetry was her saviour, together with Jake her dog “who saved my life” and goes everywhere with Donna. Leaving school at 14, Donna is self-taught and has now written poetry for more than 30 years. E-FAN is giving her the opportunity to share her love of words with ex-forces veterans.
“I paint pictures with words and now I have the chance to run a poetry workshop for my former colleagues as part of a community project. I would absolutely love to do it though it’s early stages.”
Donna has already published a collection of her works, in memory of her girlfriend, under the pen-name Little Miss Peppermint after her poems were spotted on the internet. “It’s easier for me to write than talk. I have volumes and volumes of poems.”
“We’ve given Donna emotional support and practical advice, appropriately sign posting to agencies that help with areas of need that are identified in our assessments. We have also helped with paperwork,” said E-FAN Key Worker Sarah O’Connell.
Donna wrote and presented a thank you poem, ‘E-FAN Sisters’, to both Lanie Irvine (pictured left) and Sarah (right with Donna, centre) for the help they have given to her.
She wrote to Warrington South MP David Mowatt say-ing: “As part of my probation order I have been very fortunate to have been placed in the hands of very sup-portive staff and engaging programmes leading me to become more involved positively. One of the pro-grammes is E-FAN. It specifically targets members of the armed forces that have transgressed and require help to rehabilitate themselves.”
Referring to the poetry workshops that she is due to deliver, Donna continues: “These sessions aim to put something back into the system and hopefully make a positive contribution to society as a whole, leading to less chance of reoffending.“
The MP has replied, wishing Donna the best of luck with her poetry project and has forwarded her letter to Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary.
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