02 May Annah Stretton raising money for women’s rehabilitation program
A Kiwi fashion designer behind a prisoner rehabilitation programme is raising money to document and share the stories of the women she’s helped.
Most people will recognise Annah Stretton from her self-titled fashion label, but when she’s not designing she’s visiting women’s prisons across the country.
“I go in there every six weeks and endeavour to get in front of what we call a small sort of ‘muster’ and try and get the women engaged.”
Ms Stretton says her charity ‘Reclaim Another Woman’ – also known as ‘RAW’ – offers inmates a “full wrap-around service” including accommodation, support, education and employment.
But she says the offering is sometimes a hard sell.
“These woman don’t trust… they’ve been let down by the system over and over again.”
Ms Stretton says RAW differs from other rehabilitation programmes.
She says instead of telling the women to just get another job, she focusses on their passions.
“We have a genuine interest in helping them build lives they love.”
So far RAW has helped 40 women, with a 100 percent success rate.
One of them is Norefjell Davis, who spent six years behind bars.
“It’s the choices of relationships that I chose to be involved with that were violent and caused me to take the rap for something that my partner did,” she says.
She says the first time she was paroled she lasted just 12 days before being recalled to prison. It was then that she met the team at RAW.
“It was a chance… a second chance that I was looking for.”
Davis has now been with the programme since her release in 2015, and lives in one of RAW’s “transition homes” with six other former female inmates.
She’s in her third year of study, and also speaks publicly about her success story.
“I’m grateful that I’m able to change and to show that change is possible.”
Ms Stretton says Davis’ inspiring journey is one of 10 she now hopes to share in a coffee-table book.
But she still needs to raise $30,000 through Crowdfunding website Pledgeme.
“For me it’s not only giving insight to mainstream New Zealand,” she says.
“But it’s also sharing stories that will enable other women like Norefjell to see that there is a different journey that can be travelled.”
A pathway RAW hopes more inmates will be inspired to follow.