Women Ex-Offenders Empowered through Art

7 Jun

Originally Posted June 10th, 2009

STRONG Training – Sisters Trained to Reach Opportunities and Nurture Growth a 10-week pilot training program provided women ex-offenders with jewelry and book-making art therapy and vocational skills, leadership, advocacy and business skills under the guidance and mentoring of EWI immigrant women artists and community leaders.

On May 22, 2009, 10 ex-offender women of the Friends of the Guest House graduated from STRONG Training. The program was hosted by the Guest House and provided by EWI artists, staff and mentors. The project was funded through a grant by KI Services.

The project originated after the Executive Directors of Empowered Women International, Friends of Guest House, and KI Services met several times to discuss ways to support each other’s efforts and collaborate on a project where the immigrant women artists will teach art and mentor ex-offender women served by the Friends of the Guest House and KI Services.

Most of the ex-offender women served by these organizations are recovering from substance abuse, so the need for positive activities and like skills was determined to be the key empowerment approach. Many of the women assisted by Guest House have a difficult time securing jobs, especially in the current economy. Re-entering in the society is not an easy task. Learning that they have creativity and skills they can use to make a living, participating in the economy and th community, it’s been absolutely empowering.

Handmade Jewelry by Catherine Lewis

STRONG Training – Sisters Trained to Reach Opportunities and Nurture Growth was designed as a 10-week pilot training program to provide women ex-offenders served by the Guest House vocational, life skills, advocacy and business skills under the guidance and mentoring of our artists: Sush Mazumdar, handmade books and Evelyn Brooks, jewelry designs. Ann E W Stone, women’s advocate and entrepreneur, Debra Chandler, financial advisor and Marga Fripp, art marketing coach and President of EWI participated as guest speakers and mentors in the program.

During the program women learned to make jewelry and tell their stories in handmade storybooks and gained leadership and marketing skills which boosted their confidence and self-esteem.  During the program, STRONG women visited the Prison Foundation’s Gallery and learned about the amazing art created by incarcerated people. Dennis Sobin, the President of Prison Foundation shared his personal journey and success story as an ex-offender and inspired women to follow their dreams and seek creative solutions to their challenges.

The project culminated with a special reception hosted at the Guest House where women presented the artwork made in the training and shared their triumphs and learning experience.

Dennis Sobin, Prison Gallery, Guest House Participant and Marga Fripp, EWI

Friends of Guest House is an organization that offers assistance to women who sincerely want to improve their lives when released from confinement and seek to break the cycle of incarceration. KI Services educates and assists communities of color in response to disparities in health care delivery.

STRONG Women Project is a project collaboration of Empowered Women International, Friends of Guest House and KI Services. Thank you to The Prison Foundation for sharing their art, services and journey with the STRONG women, and to all dedicated artists, speakers, staff of the partner organizations and volunteers who made this project possible.


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