Thai boxer Trevor Soko is now getting his kicks from helping offenders after ditching cocaine and party drugs thanks to the support he received from probation.
The 40-year-old, from Lymington, Southampton, was sentenced to a 12-month Community Order following being arrested for driving under the influence. He was supervised by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company’s (CRC) probation case manager Joanna Jones and successfully completed his order before then volunteering for the CRC.
The father-of-three committed the offence when he was struggling to cope following the death of a family member and of a close friend.
He said: “If I’m honest, I had a problem. I was going to parties, taking what was on offer and using party drugs and going out a lot.
“The drugs started affecting my judgement. I wasn’t training properly; I was turning up for fights in the wrong frame of mind. You cannot do that and succeed.
“I was an accident waiting to happen and I was getting nasty. But getting arrested was the turning point for me.”
Trevor was ordered to complete the Thinking Skills Programme, an accredited course that supports people on probation to develop ways to stop getting into trouble.
He said: “Probation and the Thinking Skills Programme helped me realise I had a problem. It made me re-evaluate my life and to think clearly about what I wanted for my children, what example I wanted to set them.
“Joanna was excellent. She gave me a lot of really good advice and I really appreciate the time and effort she spent with me. It also meant a lot to me that she saw something in me and suggested I volunteer helping others on probation.”
HIOW CRC runs a highly successfully peer mentoring scheme whereby people who have successfully completed probation orders and prison licences are trained and paired up with offenders who want extra support.
Trevor met with Ernie Grendall, the CRC’s peer mentor coordinator, and became a volunteer two-years-ago. The support volunteers provide involves everything from helping to run a drop-in centre for service users through to providing advice, signposting to relevant services and helping people get to health and Jobcentre appointments.
Ernie Grendall, HIOW CRC’s Veteran & Volunteer Peer mentor Coordinator, said: “He wants his children to look at him as a role model and I think his drive to help others who are in a vulnerable position stems from this.
“Trevor is a gentle giant. He is polite and sincere, and his confidence has grown massively following the training he has undertaken. He is volunteering supporting people from all walks of life and has done a tremendous amount to help others make positive changes to their lives.
“During COVID-19 he has spoken with service users on a one-to-one basis, met with others in parks to support physical exercise and encourages others to make their drug and alcohol service appointments. He is a real asset to the team.”
Trevor said: “It’s easy for me to speak with people on probation because I’ve been there. I know what happens on the streets. I know how hard it is to turn drugs down when you aren’t feeling good, and that it takes a real man to be able to say ‘no’.
“I also know that if you start running with the wrong crowd, living life constantly looking over your own shoulder is no way to live. It gets you down.
“I guess also I’m a big lad. I’m a Thai boxer. If the fact some people look up to me because of that and listen to what I say, then that’s great. I want people to choose to live the right way and if I can help people make that choice then that’s fantastic.”
Melanie Pearce, Director of Operations at HIOW CRC, said: “I’ve worked in probation in Hampshire for 25 years this month, stories like Trevor’s are the reason I still believe so passionately in what we do: that with the right help and assistance everyone has the capacity for change.
“I am humbled by the progress that Trevor has made and that he not only used the help we provided and successfully quit drugs, but that he has now go on to volunteer with our service users to support them to make positive changes to their lives.
“People like Trevor provide such a positive example of what can be achieved, and the impact that can have on our service users cannot be underestimated.”