Prisoners refurbish home for refuge

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Te Whakaruruhau Waikato Women's Refuge staff and volunteers with the carving completed and donated by Te Ao Marama participants.
Te Whakaruruhau Waikato Women's Refuge staff and volunteers with the carving completed and donated by Te Ao Marama participants.

Prisoners from Waikeria Prison's Te Whare o Te Ao Marama have been providing their time and labour to support Waikato Women's Refuge Te Whakaruruhau by renovating a donated house into a home that will shield women and children from violence.

Up to six men at a time, who have been approved to work off prison grounds, have been working on the project for about six weeks.

Te Rau Aroha (a challenge of love) is the name local kaumatua have given to the house, one of six run by Te Whakaruruhau.

The work party has been erecting fences, preparing footpath areas, and laying concrete to prepare the place for the whanau who will use it.

The prisoners involved are passionate about this work, said prison director Kevin Smith.

"A lot of the feedback we hear is that there is a real sense of satisfaction when the men see what has been accomplished for others," said Mr Smith.

"They see that they have done something that will help keep someone else safe. It can be really motivating for them, giving them the drive to learn more about what they can do to break the cycle of violence."

Te Whakaruruhau CEO Roni Albert has been working with men from Te Ao Marama for a number of years and sees the connection to supporting their local community and addressing their offending as vital to helping them turn their lives around.

"Lots of the guys we see have come from violence themselves," said Ms Albert. "They grew up in it and sometimes it's the reason they are where they are. Part of them making those positive changes is to give back. By supporting women and children who have suffered at the hands of violent men, they can see the impact of their choices and the value of making better decisions in the future."

Roni has found working with Corrections to be a significant benefit to her organisation, with a number of projects taking place previously.

"The men have helped us hugely over the past nine years and were instrumental in helping us build the two purpose-built properties that opened in 2011 by doing the carpentry, construction, plumbing, painting, etc.

"The staff trust them wholeheartedly as each of our services work together for the betterment of families in need," she said.

"We hope this unit in particular will be able to continue their good work in this community, as they have been our balance the yin and yang."

- Hamilton News

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