How Clean Start changed our lives after prison
So far, Clean Start has helped 15 women re-integrate back to the society. The 15 are now doing something sustainable.
Cyprene Omollo, a 38-year-old an ex-convict is one of the beneficiaries of Clean Start programmes. “I was in Langata Women’s Prison between December 2014 and May 2015 charged with obtaining money on false pretence. “I met Teresa during one of the visits that Clean Start had made to the prison while I was still an inmate. And after I left prison, I started looking for organizations that did something with people who have left prison. I searched for Teresa on social media and finally got to meet her,” says Omollo.
Omollo, who met Teresa during an activity at prison, says joining Clean Start has helped her re-discover herself. “Through Clean Start, I now have self-confidence and feel like I am fulfilling my purpose in life. I feel that life has more meaning than before.”
At Clean Start, Omollo is in charge of the agricultural programmes and the Precious Diva Programme, an initiative within Cleanstart where those women who have been incarcerated meet quarterly to encourage one another and do follow-up on how each other is doing.
*Wangari, a former inmate at the Langata Women’s Prison remembers the first time she met Teresa at the prison’s discharge board. This is a session where meetings where the prison’s administration introduces inmates to potential employers and partners.
According to Olivia Obell, The Officer in Charge of the Langata Women’s Prison, the discharge board is a very key board in the prison. “After going through the various programmes while in prison, we put the inmates in the discharge board, a very crucial bard in our facility here,” says Olivia.
She explains that it is through the discharge board that the prison brings on board the various partners such as Clean Start. “We hold the discharge board meeting three months to the release of the inmates. We encourage the community to appreciate the journey of the inmates and accept them into the society,” says Olivia.
She commends Cleanstart for their work at the prison and for choosing to walk with the inmate since they are out of prison. “Because of Clean Start and other partner organizations, we have not seen repeat offenders come back in prison in the last two years. This is an indication that they are getting something out there to do with their lives,” said Olivia.
Wangari says she noticed Teresa at the discharge board and wanted to work with Clean Start once she left prison. “Among the many people who had come to visit the prison, I felt that she was the only one who could identify with me. The journey after prison was the toughest due to reception and the bad perception by the society. And that is why I went looking for Teresa,” says Wangari. She left the Langata Women’s Prison on March 28, 2014.
Wangari says Teresa cushioned her from the harsh judgement of the society when she left prison. “Coming out of prison, I was very bitter and rude. I though people could identify me as a former prisoner by just my clothes. I was so used to the uniform in prison that when I came out after one year, I was confused to see people dressed in different colours. But I would say that Teresa’s love cushioned me from all this trauma,” says Wangari.
Although she kept avoiding people, Teresa persistently looked for Wangari until the two held their first meeting. “She just wanted to get me started and I would say that life has been easier. I meet her often and we talk on phone almost daily. This is what strengthens me,” Wangari says.
Through Clean Start, Wangari has gotten a sponsor who is now paying her school fees through higher education.