A non-profit organisation helping former prisoners in the Grassy Park area is calling on residents to support it in making a difference. Ukwakha Ithemba aims to rehabilitate and reintegrate women prisoners after they are released. But with recent financial issues, the organisation’s management fears they won’t be able to provide an efficient and sustainable service to women who want to start a new life.“We started this organisation in 2012 with the aim of helping former offenders and abused women in our community. The women who work here are ordinary and concerned community volunteers, whose aim is to provide parolees with the necessary support, starting with the basics when coming out of prison,” says chairperson Roshni Buckton. “Other than the rehabilitation and reintegration process that we offer, we also aim to care for their wellbeing and their children’s by assisting them with shelter, food, clothing and employment. “Unfortunately, because we do not have the necessary funds to house these women, we refer them to organisations that do. However, we do aim to house these women if funds allow us to.”Buckton says women prisoners participate in upliftment programmes in prison to prepare them before being released, but they do not carry it with them when returning to their communities. “With this, many of these former offenders are treated badly and cast out by family and friends, bringing an extra burden on already impoverished living conditions. The majority of them also do not have a place to live or an income when coming out on parole,” she explains. “We realised that we need to take further steps and to look deeper into the situation. The memories of abuse that women have gone through sometimes come back to life and play on their minds. Many of them turn to drugs, not knowing how to deal with the situation. To sustain this they get involved with partners who are not good for them and who indulge in crime. Therefore, we try to prevent them from offending again by integrating positive and beneficial activities that can keep them busy,” she adds.Buckton says women who are serious about making a difference in their lives are given career opportunities and options to study. “We have sent some of the women on a nursing course and they are due to graduate this week. This is what we try to do for these women; we are serious about making a change in their lives and want them to avoid committing any crimes in future. We want them to move away from the abuse and see the light and future there is for them,” she adds.She urges residents to support the organisation to make a difference in the lives of both former prisoners and abused women. A workshop on gender-based violence will take place at the organisation’s premises tomorrow from 10:00 to 14:00. It is open to the public. Second-hand clothing, toiletries and non-perishable food can be dropped off at 12 Lake Road, Grassy Park. V For more information call Ukwakha Ithemba on 021 705 4631.