Since 2015, when the Mindfulness project was first introduced, Naivasha Maximum Security Prison Officer in Charge Patrick Mwenda embraced the programme and enabled huge opportunities for the inmates, the prison has been thriving ever since. Mindful Leaders – have delivered the project with great strength and commitment, striving to change the lives of people on the inside, as well as their families, villages and communities beyond. They are supported by passionate, driven Mindful Welfare Officers who see the huge difference the project makes… New Officer in Charge Mathew who supports the Mindful Movement says:
When you are in prison you have been given an opportunity, you know, to think about your life, you know, to focus about your life. How did I end up here? And then you are able now to reform. In fact, most of our prisoners, if not all, they say this is not a prison – this is a school. That is what they call it. Yes, they call it a school! Whereby you come here, you learn things and you move out, to a point whereby when we are, you know, like when they are due for release or when they have been released here, you see them saying: ‘Bye, bye. See you outside there. Try not to come back again.’ And that is why you can hear them. You can hear them praising, you can hear them happy and you also see their faces.
To date, the Mindful Leaders have taken the initiative to reach people of any tribe, religion, background and language. They have translated the workbook into Kiswahili, and are aiming to translate it into other languages and into sign language.
They have a passion for deepening their understanding to further create different resources and enable their reach to extend to young people and people in the community. The Mindful Leaders in Naivasha have created sub-groups, focussing on different aspects of Mindful techniques, to further develop their learning and understanding and to create a structure that promotes standards and transparency.
The 10 groups:
- Mindful Ambassadors
- Impact of Body
- Dealing with Emotions
- Self-reflection and Personal Development
- Impact of Mindfulness
- Mindfulness Techniques ‘on the go’
- Understanding Self
- How to Evaluate Training
- How to explain the programme and motivate others
The project is held, organised and structured by the Mindful Leaders themselves and the programme is sought after by the inmates who arrive in prison. The programme is forever evolving, with new innovative ideas about extending its reach.
The ‘Entertainment’ group creates productions to share the message in innovative, capturing ways. To date, Naivasha Mindful Leaders have created and recorded two songs with a professional recording company – ‘Mindful Leaders‘ and the ‘Mindful Generation‘ song. These learning styles are well recognised and learning has creatively taken the form of poems, motivational speaking, art, song, dance and drama – all of which are continuously being added to our new YouTube page for the world to see.
The Mindful Leaders are formally teaching inmates through two courses: one which runs Monday to Friday and one which runs every Wednesday afternoon. They have also created exams to ensure clear understanding for the Mindful trainees and to ensure that a high standard of understanding and self-awareness is evident before developing and diving in deeper.
The Mindful Leaders recognise the value in becoming self-sustainable, so have plans to create a farming model to fund the growth and direction of the movement far and wide – to aid the reintegration of inmates into the community, to support them in becoming the best version of themselves and positive role models who contribute to their communities. James Love – Secretary and Mindful Teacher explains…
We have proposed a programme of reconciliation – inmates wanting to reconcile with the wronged person and the wronged person’s family, to be accepted back into society. They have one vision – to make prison a centre of excellence of the mindfulness programme by 2020. They have 8 goals and have achieved 4 of them – empowering mindfulness; enhancing positive inmate relationships; eradicating suicidal tendencies (emotional, social and spiritual problems, not just the taking of life); a global prison partnership through mindful leadership – through documentaries etc, taking it out to other prisons in Kenya
The Mindful Leaders’ talents in Mindfulness have also been utilised to teach fellow Mindful Welfare Officers from other Kenyan prisons, as well as students from surrounding universities.
Their aspirations are to continue to spread the Mindfulness movement within the prison, extend it to further Kenyan prisons, and out into the neighbourhood – an aspiration that is growing into a hopeful reality. Alex Dimba Mindful Leader Chairman says
“we want to spread our wings to the extent that mindfulness has to grow. It must not stop where it is. We want the impact to spread to other African prisons to allow positive thinking now and in the future.”
With the supportive driven team of welfare officers, Education officers and Officer in Charge, it is an exciting space to watch!