From Behind the Bars to Behind a Business

From enduring the suffocating darkness of jail, to leaving behind their past with the setting sun of 2023, the Juvenile Offenders Rehabilitation program was a chance at a new life, a beacon of hope towards a new beginning. This is the story of young individuals falling trap to a social evil. A story of finding all ways to redemption blocked. A story of hopelessness. Yet, this is the story of fighting one’s past. A story of regaining hope. A story of transformation.

“If I have to move forward, I’ll have to think about the coming day. I realized that if I want, I can learn and do anything”, says Younus, a participant of the Juvenile Rehab program. But was he always this positive? Absolutely not. From committing a crime to getting caught. From spending several months in jail to getting released. From facing humiliation and embarrassment to coming across this program. From here onwards, begins a journey of change. A journey of psycho-socio-economic rehabilitation – The Juvenile Offenders Rehabilitation Program.

This project took flight in late 2022, commencing with Soul Freedom, an introductory workshop which provided the participants and their guardians with a detailed insight into the happenings of the entire program. The participants indulged in several activities which challenged them, enhancing their problem solving skills and confidence. Following this, Its OK Camp (Outdoors Karachi) took place in late December 2022 at Mubarak Beach, near Karachi where the participants spent 3 nights and 4 days. The key motive of this camp was to give them a new purpose to live and plan a new beginning for themselves, away from their negative past. The camp served as an excellent opportunity for the participants to engage in different activities, forge healthy friendships and rediscover themselves. A key element of the camp was digital detox i.e. the participants’ phones were taken, giving them a chance to stay focused and live in the present, experiencing the essence of the entire camp.

Post OK Camp, the participants were invited to Smart Tajir, a day-long program which involved different activities, stimulating them to think practically and learn about earning. Following this, was a Vocational Skills Orientation Session, held at Al Khidmat Skills Development Centre where they were introduced to different trades, and were informed about their scope, their specific importance in today’s world and how would they help them earn a living. The participants then chose a trade according to their interest and started their 6-months long training at the Skills Development Centre.

Throughout this period, the participants had been regularly attending psycho-therapy sessions, enabling them to effectively cope up with their emotions as well as motivating them and enhancing their confidence in themselves.

Once the training tenure was over and the participants were declared experts in their fields, they started to practise their skill professionally, taking dress orders as tailors, fixing ACs or repairing mobile phones. As one shares his experience: “I just started my 4th month here and I’ve learned a lot. I have also done a work of approx. Rs. 50,000 during the season. I have been getting a lot to learn here. After getting free from here, I work at other shops and practice my skill”. As their expertise grew, the participants were helped to set up their own businesses as now, they were all set to manage things independently.

From being behind the bars, to setting up their own business, the story you just read is of individuals who weren’t left behind in the depths of hopelessness. This project came to an end in late 2023, but the impact it has created in the lives of not just those participants, those bailouts, but their parents and their families who had been left scarred for life is huge. It’s lifelong.

As Yasir, a criminal of past, a man who earns for himself and his family of present says, “I want to move forward and tackle every obstacle that comes my way because I know that I have the potential to do it”.

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