What a journey it’s been this past year since we started out on this path to create DreamWeave as the first non-profit social enterprise business model in a prison or jail in Tennessee and one of the first in America’s correctional systems.
We began operating in the Davidson County jail in November 2015. Our trainers and I have been inside the jail 13 hours weekly in a classroom setting with the incarcerated DreamWeavers, teaching them the craft of cutting, weaving and sewing purses out of paper products. We’ve worked with more than 75 incarcerated women and have produced about 130 purses. Amanda, Christina, Malinda, Rebekah and I have sat in the jail with the women as they wrote and shared their life stories and shared their personal dreams. Sherry and Rebekah have learned the craft of hand-cutting leather and chains in our shop at St. John’s United Methodist Church (where Family Reconciliation is housed) as they put the finishing touches on these beautiful purses made of magazines, music lyrics, Bibles, maps, comics and wrapping paper.
I’ve stretched my own artistic skills by actually learning myself how to create a DreamWeave purse (having assumed at the outset of this journey that I wouldn’t learn how to make one!). Just like the incarcerated DreamWeavers, I’ve been so very proud of myself for actually learning this skill. I’ve created 4 magazine purses, and everywhere I go when I carry one of them, I receive enthusiastic comments.
The positive comments reinforce to me that this journey is a worthwhile one for so many reasons. First, we’re bringing encouragement to these women who often feel broken. It’s especially meaningful to me when these women see that Amanda herself has renewed her life after incarceration. They think to themselves, “If Amanda can do it, maybe I can, too.” I love that these women feel such pride in their work and they are proud to earn a small income to help them pay their court costs, or child support, or save money for their release to a halfway house, or have the ability to order personal hygiene on the jail’s commissary. I’ve been so pleased to see released DreamWeavers continue to work with us and earn income that helps them in their recovery and in their successful return to society. And, outside of the jail, it’s been a blessing to see how the DreamWeave story is unfolding for the general public, helping to change some misperceptions about incarcerated women.
We’ve been sharing the individual stories of each Dreamweaver who creates a hand-crafted purse, and you may read those under the Stories section titled “Dreamweavers’ Stories”. We also want to communicate with you about the journey that I, our other co-founders (Malinda and Sherry) and our staff (Amanda and Rebekah) are experiencing day-to-day as we operate DreamWeave inside the jail and with our post-production. We also will share on this blog some of the heart-warming stories of our DreamWeavers, as well as some of the challenges they face and that we face as we operate this very unique organization.
Please visit often to stay in touch with the story of DreamWeave. We’re so grateful for your support.