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  • EIN
  • 717-7723590
  • Penn State Eastgate Center 1010 North Seventh Street Harrisburg PA 17102 USA

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Nonprofit Overview

Mission: Penn State Women's Enrichment Center uses the arts to encourage inmates to reflect on their lives and through rewriting them, re-right them.

Results: Since 1994, WEC sponsors four ten-week sessions each year where inmates can focus on reflecting on their lives in order to assume responsibility for change.

Target demographics: Inmates in Dauphin County prisons

Direct beneficiaries per year: 160

Geographic areas served: Dauphin County

Community Stories

9 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

13

Client Served

Rating: 5

I've learned that I'm not alone in my struggle to reach for the top, and to be all that I can be! Also that I don't need a man to make me legitimate! I'm woman! I hold my own fate, my own destiny. I hold my own future in my own hands. (received by TFEC via mail, entered by an employee)

15

Client Served

Rating: 5

I learned about all the subjects we read about a little more in depth. I addressed the issues I had with each subject. I learned a little about myself in the process. And I learned a different persepctive on all of the issues. I listened to people's stories and experiences and took somethign from their sharing. I also learned about the author and how she perceives certain situations. (received by TFEC via mail, entered by an employee)

14

Client Served

Rating: 5

I learned that as a person I have problems just like everyone else, and that some problems are worse than mine. I also learn as human beings, we all have valid feelings and opinions. (received by TFEC via mail, entered by an employee)

16

Client Served

Rating: 5

I learned to open up. All the feelings I have inside me. To express my most inner feeling. Ms. Irene has taught me a lot. I have been working on my own story book. I let other peopel read my thoughts and feelings with the help of Ms. Irene.

9

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have actually learned a lot in this group. I have learned that as a woman, I should respect others and also be respected at the same time. I learned to speak my mind and not let others get me down. I learned that it is a wonderful thing being a woman. I learned to appreciate myself no matter what others think about me. I learned to love and respect others. (received by TFEC via mail, entered by an employee)

10

Client Served

Rating: 5

I've learned hwo to better my communication skills. I also have a different perspective on some issues or should I say emotions in life. That life is a roller coaster but it's only what you make it. By me reading and discussing what I read in this program also gave me a new and better outlook of myself and others.

11

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Dr. Irene Baird’s Women’s Enrichment Program at Dauphin County Prison changes lives for the better. It is for this reason that the Cameron Foundation has supported the program for many years and continues to do so. Dr. Baird’s present program is an outgrowth of a 1992 pilot program for homeless women at the Harrisburg YWCA. The pilot program was based on Baird’s belief that a study of the humanities can lead to a better understanding of ourselves and our communities. She aimed to provide women who had experienced personal crisis with a non-threatening way to develop self-identity and self-esteem as they solved real-life problems. Based on that mission, Dr. Baird began an expanded program for incarcerated females at Dauphin County Prison. Now, many years later, convinced more than ever in the power of the humanities to change even deep-seated attitudes and behavior, Dr. Baird teaches incarcerated males as well as females. Dr. Baird chooses short pieces of literature—poetry and prose—by authors like Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Patrice Gaines and Sandra Cisneros, whose themes such as addiction, poverty, lack of education and domestic violence, are familiar to group members. After reading the works, the students write poems, brief essays or sometimes letters, reflecting their own situations. Several students have expressed themselves powerfully in drawing as well as in writing. At first the program was only for females. However, Dr. Baird had long recognized that issues of domestic violence, abuse, and irresponsible relationships are consistent, dominant themes in the women’s writing. Consequently, she formed a partnership with the prison counselor who worked with abusers, to develop a pilot writing program for men. This pilot program was in addition to the everyday, mandatory counseling male abusers receive. With the men in the program, Dr. Baird initiated dialog between the men and women which further increased the effectiveness of the program. Anyone reading Dr. Baird’s student writings will understand how important this project is. The following is just one small example of how Dr. Baird’s program teaches students to accept responsibility for their actions; a necessary first step to improving their lives. Free Yourself I don’t wanna get out of prison as much as I want the prison outta me. I don’t wanna take off these browns. I want to take off indecency. I don’t want to stop going to yard out. I want my dirty backyard all cleaned up. I don’t wanna stay outta my cell past 9, I want selfishness to stay out of my heart. I don’t wanna stop eating this horrible food until what I used to do stops eating me. I don’t wanna stop making my bed by 8 until I can make up my mind to stay free. I’ve been imprisoned too long with the doors all locked and the keys sitting on a shelf. Do I petition the courts, my P.O. or lawyer? No, I appeal to myself. The question becomes why go on, why work to fund this program? Why dream of establishing programs like this around the country? The answer is hope. Hope that these men and women will serve their sentences, leave prison with new knowledge and a sense of self-empowerment, an understanding of what’s possible. And above all, the hope that they will never return to prison. -Gretchen VanDenbergh, Overseer, Cameron Foundation (received by TFEC via mail, entered by an employee)

16

Client Served

Rating: 5

Through the Women's Enrichment Center, I learnd about all the subjects we read abot a little more in depth. I addressed the issues I had with each subject. I learned a little about myself in the process. And I learned a different perspective on all of the issues. I listened to people's stories and experiences and took something from their sharing. I also learned about the author and how she perceives certain situations.

18

Board Member

Rating: 5

The Women's Enrichment program administered by Dr. Irene Baird is the region's best kept secret. It doesn't grab headlines with facts and figures, but it does affect fundamental issues and does change lives. Dr. Baird opens the minds or incarcerated individuals shackled by poverty, violence and ignorance and provides a creative and thoughtful environment to explore human worth and dignity through literature, discussion and writing. This is accomplished in a difficult environment amid societal stereotypes, bureaucratic challenges and economic realities. As an advisory committee member, I've listened to Dr. Baird's accounts, read the journals of her program participants and seen the research that does tell us that systemic change is possible through a program such as this.