How You Can Make A Difference

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I’ve volunteered to be a social advocate for Community Justice Initiatives as they are currently facing a funding crisis for their Stride program.  They are facing a $25,000 funding gap and are currently trying to raise $15,000 in 15 days…as of today they have 9 days remaining! So take a read, have a listen, and share to your communities and hop on over to 15 Days of Transformation to give them some financial love! 

I know a woman who refuses to BE the worst thing she has ever done…she’s getting out of prison.

glass-floor-down453_Picture this: You’re sitting in a jail cell in Grand Valley Institute for Women in Kitchener and you’ve already been there for a year.  You’re getting released in a couple of months and trying to figure out how you are going to get a place to live, how you are going to pay the bills, how you are going to reassemble your family and start a new life; new friends, new support system, new job, and maybe even a new location due to the lack of half-houses in the Waterloo Region.

Jail might have been the best and worst thing that has ever happened to you.  On the downside, you’ve been separated from your children and are missing out on being present of the highlights of their lives.  However, you’ve also gotten yourself clean, you’ve picked up some helpful new habits to replace the old ones and you have learned some new information that you can’t wait to put into practice.  Now that you are getting ready to be released, you’re frightened.  Frightened of the difficult possibilities that you face when you get released; old friends, old habits, getting your kids back, getting a job, getting a house, getting a new routine put in place.  It would be so much easier just to stay here in prison.  You have the counselling, medical and social supports when you need them.  You have a roof over your head, food in your stomach.  You know though, that when you get outside of these walls, there’s nothing.  No supports.  No guarantees. You know there is a good chance that you may fall between the cracks.  You are all alone.

Think About It

What if this was you? If it was, there would be an 80% chance that you would be a single-mother, 80% likelihood that you struggle with substance abuse issues, and a 14% chance that you have current suicide or self-harm ideation.  It would also cost $214, 614.00 per year for YOU (yes, just one person) to be incarcerated for ONE year.

Community Justice Initiatives

554831_439063666122004_1979910963_nLet’s take the same scenario as above but inject some Community Justice Initiatives (CJI) awesomeness (I’ll explain them in a second…relax…) in there as well.  If you were a woman in Grand Valley Institute here in Kitchener you’d have the opportunity to go hang out with some of CJI’s awesome volunteers on Stride night; make some crafts, do some art, participate in other recreational activities, and build some fantastic relationships with some folks.  Then, when you were a few months from being released, you’d have the opportunity to take some of those relationships that you made through Stride night and form your own personal circle.  What’s that? Well, I’m glad you asked! A women’s circle is formed by CJI’s volunteers and exist to help the woman with reintegration counselling and mentorship as they prepare for their release.  That would be pretty helpful right? Well it gets better…after you were released, that circle walks with you and supports you while you try and get your life back on the right track.  While you try and get housing, attend appointments, need a friend to talk to, need a ride to pick up the kids, whatever it is that your group has set up.  They are there to support you.

Sounds like it would cost a mint to have something like that doesn’t it? Sounds like it would make that $214,614.00 per year jump to an even crazier high number don’t you think? Well, you’d be right…if it wasn’t volunteers that did a lot of the work.  Stride has had close to 350 volunteers since the program has started and those volunteers have contributed close to 190,000 hours of their time.  That works out to over 3 MILLION dollars according to the Canada Revenues valuation (Based on $16.50 per hour).

Since the Stride program has begun, they’ve supported 71 circles and in the past 3 years, only one of those women have ended up back in federal custody.  The majority of women that have been through the Stride program have went on to have productive and successful lives.

Why Do I Care?

I’m a little pot-invested in this organization (as you can see if you listen to the above podcast!).  I started out as a volunteer with CJI, mediating Victim/Offender reconciliation cases, family cases, neighbourhood disputes, and community cases.  I also helped develop the Back Home Project that takes some of the Stride framework and applies it to young offenders.  I have seen the impact that this organization has had on its participants.  I have seen the change that it can make to families.  I have seen the impact that it has on our community.

What Can You Do?

Remember how I said that it costs $214,614.00 per year to incarnate one woman? Well, it only costs CJI staff and volunteers $5,000.00 per year to support a woman as she reintegrates back to the community through a Stride Circle.  CJI not only supports women and helps them achieve their goals of rebuilding their lives, but also helps reduce the likelihood that they will re-offend.

Right now, CJI is facing a $25,000.00 funding gap that is putting the Stride Program at risk.  They are currently trying to raise $15,000 and there is 9 days left to make this happen.  So here’s how you can help this worthwhile and wonderful cause:

  1. Spread the word.  Tell your friends, family members, your social networks.  Share the love.
  2. Donate to help women permanently reintegrate from prison!  If 500 people give $30 each, we’ll reach this goal…what are you waiting for? 

So, hop on over to 15 Days of Transformation For Women and Prison to donate!

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