By Sherry Cothran, Co-Founder, DreamWeave
What can you create out of recycled paper products, dental floss and a scrapbook cutter? How about a new life?
If you have patience, time and a little creativity, you can not only create a fashionable purse from recycled materials, you can build a future, ex-nihilo, out of complete and utter nothingness. That is, if you happen to find yourself in that seemingly dead-end situation known as prison and you happen to be a woman.
DreamWeave is a social enterprise aspiring to help women help themselves while still incarcerated; creating beautiful, fashionable purses out of recycled products. Through on site job skills training, creative writing and resources for career opportunities we seek to help women locate the dream in their own hearts and let it shine. Not an easy thing to do in this world, shine as a woman, that is, particularly when you are locked up. It is hard enough to thrive in this world as a human being, let alone a woman. You can judge the health of any society by the way its women are treated, and looking at the evidence from the perspective of a woman, it would seem that our society’s health is at great risk, if not already quite ill.
Statistics say that 1 out of every 5 American women has experienced sexual violence in the form of rape and 1 out of every 4 women has been physically assaulted. Many of the women who end up in prison are themselves previous victims of violence, and it is often this victimization that drives a woman into that land of no return called the criminal justice system. A land where she will be permanently stamped untrustworthy by civilized society and often ostracized from any opportunity towards a meaningful life, one that she is fully capable of living and one that is, in fact, her God given right.
Over the past 20 years, the rate of incarceration for women has skyrocketed, largely due to non-violent, drug related crimes often involving a male partner. Without access to support systems, women who are victims of violence often seek stability in environments and people that are incapable of creating it, often male partners involved in crime who have also been the victims of some kind of systemic or domestic abuse. The cycle perpetuates and prison often becomes a warehouse for broken souls, having little effect at reversing the cycle. But there is always hope, your past can be your greatest asset if you are willing to ask the questions and do the work. However, no one can do this work alone, we all need a community.
The women at DreamWeave believe a woman can create a hand made life of her own, even and especially if her life seems to be in shambles. Often hitting rock bottom is the best place to begin, there are no delusions there, for good or for worse. It is there where you discover that every life has the same value and dignity as the other, particularly your very own.
When you touch one of these hand made bags, you instantly recognize that it is wonderfully made, just like the woman who crafted it, each one beautifully and intricately woven together with its own unique story. You can feel the soul in each one, sense a dream coming to life. Each purse is made out of some recycled object, potato chip bags, Bibles, candy wrappers, magazines, calendars, anything that has the power to tell a story. Each woman spends 20-36 hours on each bag, putting her personal creativity into the product, making a new, hand made life, one bag at a time.
Learn more about our story here, come dream with us about weaving together a healthier world.