Fear Free Life was founded by former gang members in Kutama Sinthumule Correctional Centre in South Africa in 2004 and was first launched there in July 2005. It was initially formed to take a stand against gangsterism through programs that were initiated by former gang members, having a heavy leaning towards the word of God, and because of the programs' effectiveness it became successful in an area where formerly known conventional ways of fighting gangsterism and crime have failed.
What skills and resources were you able to draw from the community for this project?
Fear Free Life has been able to pool the knowledge and skills of former inmates to create a product and service offering they can provide to clients to support their initiative. They have also been able to find facilities from where they operate in a community they impact. Most of our members and program facilitators are inmates and former inmates that have gone through the full process of change, and are now giving back to the community. This is based on the philosophy that says, ‘ it is only the one who traveled the road before that will be able to explain it to those who are either to follow or avoid’.
Most ex-offenders find it difficult to gain employment and find their place in society once released. They also face challenges around re-entering their communities and gaining education or skills to progress. Many high schools in underprivileged communities are seeing high rates of gang activity among teenagers. This is also highly prevalent among inmates, which delays people who have not committed crimes worth a life-sentence from early parole or affects their view on the world once released.
Addressing the challenges
Fear Free Life addresses these issues by speaking to students and inmates in their respective schools, communities and correctional facilities around gangsterism, its dangers, effects and how to break the cycle. They offer educational and skills training for inmates who are due to be released and those who have been released on parole to support them in finding employment. They have created a sting of small businesses within the organisation to offer employment for those who are not able to find any. They also engage the community on how to support former offenders and create a support structure as well as facilitate peace and reconciliation discussions.
They have been able to set up offices and equip themselves to a position where they are able to pay rent. They have been able to capacitate themselves to such a point where they are able to offer some employment to former offenders that they have trained. They have since employed 40 ex-offenders as cleaners, site supervisors and office administrators. As an organisation Fear Free Life has been able to engage many correctional facilities and gain their cooperation in the fight against gangsterism in prisons. They have also been able to reach many schools and impact those communities by working with teenagers in gangs.Fear Free Life's progress has been evident due to its growth and spread from one prison to several other prisons in South Africa, and now it is reaching out to communities, taking a stand against substance abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence and crime.