Incarceration has a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities. Therefore, it is important to ask the question "who bears the biggest burden?" Since 2012 Ride and Rebuild, LLC has transported over 900 individuals to visit an incarcerated loved-one in Pennsylvania prisons. Of the 900 travelers, 98% were women. With over 30,000 miles and 1200 hours traveled annually, women share their truths about the impact supporting an incarcerated loved one has on their emotional, mental, physical and financial health and their resilience to persevere. In 2017 Real Resilience was created to honor women on this journey. This 4-week program aims to develop and foster a social support network among women supporters in Philadelphia, PA. The program engages participants by conducting an ACE assessment, providing free transportation to PA prisons for family visits, offering trauma-informed workshops as well as financial incentives to access mental health/self-care services to aide in improving their emotional wellness during this transitional time. Real Resilience's unique peer-to-peer model utilizes women with a shared experience to serve as program facilitators. To raise awareness of this vulnerable population, at program completion, participants are given the opportunity to share their "incarceration" and program experience via the Real Resilience Podcast.
As of December 2017, there were over 47,000 inmates housed in Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutions and 28% are from Philadelphia. Unfortunately, there are no programs in the Philadelphia region targeted to provide family transportation as well as support for the mental, emotional, physical, and financial health of women who support an incarcerated loved one. By providing free transportation to PA prisons, while offering workshops on trauma, health and wellness, money management and relationships, as well as free childcare for program participants, Real Resilience has accepted the challenge of creating an environment of sisterhood and bringing awareness to the resiliency of this vulnerable group of trauma survivors. With the understanding that women are the forgotten soldiers in the war on mass incarceration, Real Resilience offers a safe space for women to share their experiences, actively participate in their healing by engaging in workshop activities and share their journey through the podcast.
Mass incarceration, the impact of trauma and recognizing resilience is gaining momentum locally and nationally. Often, women are removed from the narrative, thus creating an imbalance in the opportunity to create a culture of care for families impacted by incarceration. By listening to the needs of women who utilize the transportation service, Ride and Rebuild, LLC, coupled with understanding the impact of trauma on vulnerable populations, program components were designed with a trauma-informed approach and implemented as a research study to be evaluated and replicated. Real Resilience has a small team of experts who have been trained in delivering health and wellness initiatives, and the research is advised and guide by a professor at from Rowan University. The program director is Sanctuary® certified, an active member of the Philadelphia ACE Task Force, co-produced Moving Toward a Trauma-Informed Philadelphia PSA and utilizes all media and meeting outlets to promote Real Resilience.
Real Resilience is currently supported by the Hope and Grace Fund, a 1-year mental health grant. However, Ride and Rebuild, LLC (founding owner of Real Resilience) is committed to providing financial support to serve participants at a reduced scale after the grant ends. We also have the support of our fiscal sponsor (theVillage) to utilize space to conduct continued workshops. In addition, the Lifer's Initiative located in State Correctional Institution Graterford (PA) is an advocate and supporter of the program and is interested in forming a collaborative partnership to expand the scope of Real Resilience to include fathers and children. Through this partnership, there is a unique opportunity to build capacity by incorporating volunteers to support the efforts of the collaborative. However, additional sources of funding would optimize the potential for Real Resilience to continue to serve women and families full-scale beyond its current grant end date of May 2018.
Real Resilience has the potential to be duplicated, transferred or adapted by other communities impacted by incarceration. With 2.3 million people confined in U.S. jails/prisons, one in four women are supporting an incarcerated loved one. With over forty-seven thousand inmates in PA State Prisons, 28% are from Philadelphia County. Ride and Rebuild has served over 900 riders (98% women). However, Real Resilience is the only program in the Philadelphia County providing transportation for family visits and honoring the resilience of women supporters. There is not only an opportunity to expand the program to serve other areas in Philadelphia (largest inmate population in PA) and Delaware County (3rd), women in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh-2nd) and Dauphin County (Harrisburg-4th) can benefit from having a Real Resilience program in their community. Organizers must be able to implement the curriculum, provide transportation to prisons, and offer incentives to improve the emotional health of women.
Real Resilience has served over half its targeted number of women supporters in its one-year grant period. With an average score of 4.5 on the Adverse Childhood Experiences survey, our compassionate trauma-informed program model, allows us to honor program participants by providing the highest quality of workshop tools to sustain them during and after their incarceration experience. With the financial incentive we provide to seek mental health/self-care services, 1/3 of the women have sought therapy and the remaining 2/3 have sought some form of self-care service (massage or exercise class). Additionally, 2/3 have utilized the free transportation service to visit an incarcerated loved one to maintain family contact. The podcast is currently being developed and women are excited for the opportunity to share their experience. In the interim, program participants have reciprocated the value of the program by attending active groups and posting on social media to share their experiences.
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