An Image taken at the workshop
Image by Restore

Empowering writing skills: Formerly incarcerated individuals find liberation through words

Read more on Restore’s workshop which aimed to enhance the writing skills of ex-prisoners and providing support for expressing unique experiences


An Image taken at the workshop
Image by Restore

In a profound and transformative endeavor, a writing workshop has proven to be a beacon of hope for formerly incarcerated individuals, fostering personal growth and self-expression. Conducted by the NGO Restore, as a part of an emergent and participatory reintegration programme, the workshop was organized with the aim of enhancing writing skills and providing support for expressing unique experiences. Arcing towards one Restore’s aims to promote hope and restoration, the workshop unveiled the power of words as a tool for healing and empowerment.

Thematic Approach and Workshop Design: Power and Multi-faceted Manifestations

With some of the participants already having had work published, the workshop was designed to enhance their skills using a thematic approach, which in this session centered on power and its multi-faceted manifestations within the lives of the participants. This approach not only allowed for a deeper understanding of power dynamics within their communities but also encouraged personal reflections on struggles and moments of triumph.

Divided into three sessions, the workshop navigated through the participants’ narratives with a careful focus on introspection and growth.

In the first session, participants were introduced to the thematic approach and the concept of power. They were encouraged to explore various dimensions of power within their stories, ranging from power dynamics within their communities to their personal battles for power.

The second session delved even deeper into their narratives, focusing on their relationship with power and how it had shaped their lives. This phase allowed for deep introspection, providing them with unique insights into their personal journeys.

The final session was a continuation of the preceding ones, allowing participants to add further layers to their stories and reflections on power.

Writers at the workshop Image by Restore

Participants’ Feedback: Transcending Boundaries and Transforming Lives

Feedback from the participants attested to the transformative power of the workshop, as it provided a safe space for profound self-expression and healing.

One participant described the workshop as a liberating experience and a form of introspection. He gained a deeper understanding of his personality, identifying patterns influenced by various power dynamics in his life.

Another participant felt that the workshop was liberating and therapeutic, emphasizing the significance of introspection. Through writing, he discovered a new perspective on his life, gaining insights into his personal journey.

A third participant found that it provided him with a much-needed space for reflection, allowing him to adopt an eagle-eye view of his life. Immersed in writing, he found solace and healing.

A further participant marveled at how the workshop allowed him to portray and highlight aspects of his life that he wished to change. Through writing, he reflected on his past and gained newfound insights, empowering him to envision a brighter future.

The final participant described the writing process as a time of quiet introspection, enabling him to tell his story and gain a deeper understanding of his experiences.

The writing workshop has demonstrated the remarkable potential of the written word, transcending the boundaries of the page to empower and heal formerly incarcerated individuals on their journey to redemption and growth.

As the participants continue to embrace the power of words, their narratives are being rewritten, transforming not only their lives but also, potentially, the communities they belong to. The workshop’s impact is a testament to the importance of providing support and opportunities for growth to those seeking redress and a fresh start in life. Through writing, these individuals have found liberation, and their stories serve as a reminder of the transformative power of self-expression and the human spirit’s resilience.

This article was written by Victor Busco and Grant Stewart

RESTORE is an NGO based in Cape Town, South Africa, providing inmates at Pollsmoor Prison with restorative justice opportunities.

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