Heart to Heart with Art’s mission is to find the unrecognized needs in our community and to use creativity to problem solve. Through hiring emancipated women from Coffee Creek Correctional Facility on one of our projects, we had a chance to better understand the difficulties they face upon leaving prison. In order to reduce the high rates of recidivism, our society needs to make improvements to our current prison system; because currently, these women leave with nothing but the items they were booked in with, a change of clothes and a bus pass. Those that have burnt bridges with family or had to distance themselves from past friends, leave with no-one to pick them up, no phone, no money, and no-one to call. This is how they start the first day of their freedom.
Due to lack of funding and support, we were surprised that State and Federal prisons depend greatly on local nonprofits to help fill in programs and needs for their inmates. We were deeply impacted by the stories from: the emancipated women, friends who work at Coffee Creek, as well as, parents whose children have been incarcerated and children whose parents are in prison. After hearing the stories, we felt compelled to take action and thought our Heart to Hope bags might be of service for the emancipated women having no-one to pick them up, to receive the bags on day of their release.
First we met with Captain Amanda Rasmussen and the Chaplin Claudia Al-Amin to ask if our Heart to Hope bags, filled with a weeks worth of hygiene items, socks, gloves (depending on the season) and notes of encouragement would be helpful to the emancipated women leaving alone on busses heading to halfway houses or shelters. They thought our bags were a great idea and that the women would greatly benefit. Together, the Caption Rasmussen and Chaplin Al-Amin gave us suggestions to the specific items the women needed. For example, in addition to the hygiene care kits and feminine hygiene products, a paper planner was needed for them to write down meetings with their parole officers, because they don’t have phones and have no calendars to keep track of the date or their appointments. After that conversation, we included paper planners and pens to a messenger bag, built for travel, to create the “Fresh Start” kit for this demographic. Then Chaplin Al-Amin and Captain Rasmussen knew which women needed the bags and gave them accordingly.
When we were packing the “Fresh Start” kits for Coffee Creek, one of the hygiene items we needed was soap. While we were researching places to buy soap bars in bulk, we came across the company, Clean 360, whose soap is made by emancipated men in a vocational training program with Roots Community Health Center in Oakland, California. Heart to Heart with Art met with the CEO Aquil Naji who is the co-founder of this operation. We met the men making, soon to be our favorite soap, and listened to them discuss their struggles as emancipated individuals. These men opened our eyes to why vocational training programs like Clean 360 are vital to improving recidivism. The men talked about how they learned a trade other than selling drugs or theft. The new job gave them purpose and helped with their self-esteem which helped them to stay off drugs and have better relationships with their families. Mr. Naji’s Emancipation program is one of the best we have seen and the proof of the program working shows in the pride the men have in themselves and their jobs and in the low rate his employees returning to prison, or their old life of addiction, abuse, or living on the streets. We all thought that it was pretty cool to have emancipated men in California, providing soap and filling a need for newly emancipated women in Oregon. Then these men were surprised that their soap was going to Nepal.
In 2017 when we first visited Pushpa Basnet at her Butterfly House orphanage, we brought them Heart to Hope bags filled with Clean 360 soap and hygiene items, little toys and art supplies. The soap from Oakland, California went across the world to Kathmanu, Nepal to an orphanage that fosters the children of incarcerated parents. Their soap is really going 360 degrees; and is helping society heal in their own little way. Heart to Heart with Art is all about making heart connection with people, programs and produces. Now we’re heading back to Nepal with Heart to Hope bags for the mothers and children still incarcerated in local jails and remote prisons in Nepal. We also have special Heart to Hope bags and art therapy projects for the 40 children living with Pushpa and the Butterfly House. We are just starting this adventure and will have more to report in two weeks. Please stay tuned and follow our social media for play by play accounts of our trip in Nepal.
Add text about Nepal here! 🙂