The name Jackie Hewitt-Main may not be that familiar but with her sterling work and determination she has captured the hearts and minds of some people by turning a life around that so often in the past was doomed to failure.
Research carried out a number of years ago by Dr Gavin Reid and Jane Kirk, University of Edinburgh, identified that inmates with dyslexia in the Scottish Prison population were double the national average. There are by now a number of recognized reasons why this happens. There are also a number of well-known individuals with dyslexia like Sir Jacki Stewart and Duncan Bannatyne who donate their own time to give folks in the prison system.
The Cascade Foundation was set up by Jackie Hewitt-Main to re-educate prisoners where they have been referred from conventional education inside the prison system because they “do not know how to reach them”. Jackie’s novel approach to education is unconventional, starting from entry 1 to 3. “We teach them more than just academic skills. This includes learning about their learning disability and how to learn in their own way and to help them to understood why they have got to where they are now.” Life skills are also a component part of the education that is provided by the Cascade Foundation.
A 16-week community project was inspected by Ofsted and the Cascade Foundation was graded 2 which was a real achievement. For those involved in the project, there were 67 learning outcomes for just 28 learners. Some of these learners were aged 40+ and wrote their first sentence whilst on the course. There were men and woman who participated, with no confidence or self-esteem, who were completely changed after 16 weeks.
Other projects the Cascade Foundation is involved with include a transition house in Barnsley. Jackie gave an example of a 30-year-old man who, at age 13, started off with anti-social behaviour and was a constant re-offender. He now shows no sign of re-offending, all thanks to the help and support being provided by the Cascade Foundation.
The remarkable story about Jackie Hewitt-Main is her inexhaustible drive. Although she fully admits that her success can have a negative effect too, she says that she can see an increased demand for the Foundation’s services. This is because so many people have hidden disabilities. The frustration and shame that these people carry around manifests in all manner of behaviour.
The tireless work of the Cascade Foundation and its volunteers has been acknowledged. Their great efforts have not been in vain and it has managed to reduce the re-offending rate. For this Jackie Hewitt-Main was awarded the MBE. But the story doesn’t end there. The most remarkable part about Jackie is that she too is dyslexic and only learnt about this late in life after being a failure of school, her natural empathy skills she now puts to good use to successfully help others.