The Work to Give Project, a partnership between the Punky Lake Wilderness Camp Society and Corrections Services Canada, is an initiative designed to provide incarcerated offenders with employment skills while contributing to low income communities and families.
There are many communities within British Columbia that are impoverished, where unemployment rates are high and graduation rates are low. Statistics show there is a high likelihood that youth will turn to drugs, alcohol and crime in communities that are faced with these challenges. The Cariboo-Chilcotin region within British Columbia has the highest degree of statistical challenges as noted above and as such, is the reason for choosing this area as the primary focus for this project.
Incarcerated offenders have some amount of time on their hands whereby they are “idle” and may not have enough activity, employment or programming to fill their long days. It is believed that this inactivity is a factor which can lead to an increased demand for drugs, contributing to an institutional subculture that is not conducive to rehabilitation. Many offenders have the skills to produce products but do not have the resources or capacity to build on their knowledge. Furthermore, other offenders would benefit from the opportunity to learn these skills from each other. Furthermore, the opportunity for offenders to give back to communities in need engenders a restoration for previous harmful actions.
The Work to Give Project provides offenders with raw materials to produce products that are donated to the Punky Lake Wilderness Camp Society, who then distributes the goods throughout the Cariboo- Chilcotin region to charitable organizations and low income families and communities. Given that CSC has a clear over representation of Aboriginal offenders, this project has specifically been designed to provide products to these communities in an effort to address this over representation from a “preventative” lens. CSC has engaged the Punky Lake Wilderness Camp Society, First Nations leaders and organizations in the region to develop lists of needs which has resulted in offenders producing furniture for homes, schools and Band Offices, as well as children’s clothing, toys, educational materials and other items.
Through regular visits to the institutions by the PLWCS, providing pictures and stories of the impact their donated goods are making in homes and communities, the offenders have become very enthusiastic about Work to Give. They are realizing that their work is being delivered right to the people that have a need for it, and feel engaged and appreciated. In turn, the benefits to the communities receiving the goods has been countless. Hundreds of children, families, schools, and communities are feeling the impact of this project every day.
The goals of the project are three-fold;
1) Provide offenders with opportunities to learn employment skills and make intrinsic changes which ultimately can assist them to adopt pro-social values and attitudes
2) Contribute to safer institutional environments by engaging offenders in meaningful work
3) Improve the lives of Aboriginal children and youth through the contribution of products which can improve their quality of life
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It is our ultimate goal to assist the communities, families, and children of the Nation to be successful, healthy, and whole in all aspects of their lives.