Isle mum in a million helps hundreds of inmates

Jackie Hewitt-Main pictured working with prison staff and inmates.
Jackie Hewitt-Main pictured working with prison staff and inmates.

It was in 1998 when Jackie Hewitt-Main opened the door to two policemen who gave her the devastating news her 15-year-old son Stuart had been in a car accident.

When she discovered he had received a serious head injury she didn’t know where to turn, and spent years leading him along the difficult and testing road to recovery.

And now she is using her experience in a challenge that few other women would want, providing a mother’s love to hundreds of inmates at Doncaster Prison in an innovative project for those with learning difficulties.

Jackie, 55, who moved from Essex to Wroot two years ago, explained: “Sixteen years ago my two boys went out, Richard, 17, took his little brother Stuart to McDonalds, as he had just passed his driving test. It was a ten minute drive, he was going at the speed of the road but it was too fast for a new driver and we think a fox hit the car, it span, turned over and my young son was found on the middle of the central reservation.

“Two uniformed police came, I opened the door asking what’s wrong and they said there had been an accident, and one child was very bad.

“I got to the hospital and they took me into a room and my son was on the table. He had a head injury and had crushed his arm. He had to have nine operations to save it, He had broken his leg and crushed his coccyx.

“He had to be put into an induced coma, and four days later they decided to take bring him out of it and he was swearing and shouting. I never knew anything about head injuries and at this point I’m trying to take everything in and work out how I was going to look after my son.

“He had all these different problems when they gave him back to me, I didn’t know what to do, He wasn’t the son I had before. Everything he’d learnt had to be re-learnt. It took many years for him to calm down.

“It’s so hard, I just wanted to make him better.”

It was while Jackie was teaching Stuart new ways of learning that she was diagnosed at 40 with severe dyslexia amongst other problems including ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome and autism.

“It all suddenly made sense because while I was a great entrepreneur I could never get things down on paper,” she explained.

So she began to look herself at dfferent ways of absoring information, a different way of learning for those with the same sorts of problems as her and Stuart.

It was while at university where she was studying for a diploma in computing that she took the lessons home with her and redesigned them her way. These lessons were then piloted on a group of young men who had failed their exams, and second time round they all passed.

Over the next few years Jackie took on a number of roles, including going into prisons and carrying out mentoring with inmates, teaching prisoners to read and write and eventually launching The Cascade Foundation which developed her innovative new ways to teach and support offenders, ex-offenders and young people with dyslexia or other learning difficulties.

She was invited to work at Doncaster Prison in 2013 and has remained there ever since.

“It’s been amazing,” she said, “It’s a fantastic story.

“I have been teaching these men and at the same time stopped them re-offending.”

And now it is hoped that Jackie can take her work out of the prison and into the community in another pilot scheme.

“If I can show the people of Doncaster what I can do up here that would be great. Young people with learning difficulties they have no confidence and with the help of my staff we could help them.

“Every single person you put in front of me I’m interested in that person, I want to help them. My idea is we set the model up here that we can put all round the country.”

She added: “I’ve had many ups and many downs, It’s been sad, I’ve left my home to come here, but the prisoners and the people seem to like what I do.

“You definitely have to be mad to do this.”

And as for Jackie’s family the trauma all those years ago has not hampered their progress, Richard, who was also statemented in 2004, is now a barrister, and Stuart, 32, is now the proud dad of a seven-month-old son.

So proud of his mum, Stuart nominated Jackie in a national newspaper’s competition to find the country’s Wondermum, which she won.

“Stuart said, ‘you have helped hundreds and hundreds of prisoners’. They all see me as their mum.”

She certainly is a mum in a million.