Pasifika Mentoring Programme's first graduation
PARS’ Pasifika Mentoring Programme for released prisoners celebrates first graduation
The first five participants of PARS’ (People At Risk Solutions) Toe Feso’ota’I Mentoring Programme graduated on Wednesday the 17th of December, marking the beginning of an innovative and culturally responsive mentoring programme that’s already helped one of the participants secure employment as well as reconnect released prisoners with their culture and families, .
Over the past three months, five released prisoners have taken part in 2 hour long mentoring sessions once a week at Mt Roskill Baptist Church. The programme, provided by a network of people from diverse Pasifika backgrounds and coordinated by Amen International Networx, is offered to PARS clients from their supported accommodation and mainstream services.
“Toe Feso’ota’I means to reconnect in Samoan,” says Lepua Amelia Nuualiitia, CEO of Amen International Networx. “It gives them a chance to speak and share intimate, personal things about their lives – it’s a safe place for them. We value and respect everyone here, and are a family – that’s the difference.”
Of the five clients who started the programme, three of whom are Auckland Central residents, all five have completed it, and one has already found full time employment as a result. Given that finding employment is one of the biggest challenges that prisoners face when they’re released from prison, this is a significant achievement.
Says Ron, one of the participants of this inaugural programme, “With this programme, I can see changes in everyone. I did courses inside to help me deal with my anger, but if you don’t follow through once you’re released, you just end up back inside.”
Based in Auckland, PARS supports released prisoners to reintegrate into society and live independently. They have already developed a very successful community-mentoring programme after realising that prisoners who had ongoing support were less likely to reoffend, and are now very pleased to also offer culturally responsive mentoring for those from Pasifika backgrounds.
Tui Ah Loo, Executive Director of PARS, explains, “All people benefit if we mentor people coming out of prison and help them stay out of prison. The person re-connecting to their family and community, the mentor, and society – all are better off because of this programme.”
This voluntary programme is fully funded by SkyCity Community Trust, with volunteer mentors who are ‘in and of the community’ and bring strong community networks. The targeted service is helping Pasifika offenders reconnect with their culture and their families, which is vitally important in the reintegration journey and contributes to reducing re-offending. It’s all about providing an environment that affirms Pasifika cultural identity as the ‘norm’.
All five released prisoners shared their stories at the graduation, with several describing how the “family” environment” has helped them keep an open mind and stay positive, which in turn is helping them make a real difference in their lives.
“PARS are my family,” shares Ron. “I now have the motivation to continue changing my ways.”
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Started over 115 years ago, PARS (People At Risk Solutions) provided reintegration services to 2638 prisoners in the last financial year. The services that PARS provide include support in finding accommodation, improving connections to support networks, liaising with government departments and community care agencies and providing practical help to get prisoners back on their feet including assistance with obtaining ID, opening bank accounts, and sorting their finances.
PARS are instrumental in supporting prisoners to become independent, responsible and contributing members of society, who are capable of healthy decision-making and achieving their unique dreams and aspirations.
In the last financial year:
- PARS assisted 187 children to visit an incarcerated family/whanau member
- PARS assisted 148 clients in ‘Supported Accommodation’