Description: The Group of Hope was originally established in June 2002 in Brandvlei Maxiumum Security Prison in Worcester. It was begun by inmates and the social worker within the prison. Originally, the members of the group taught other inmates and the local community about HIV/AIDS and crime prevention. The aim was to give information and skills to inmates so that they could start a new life outside prison. However, the group has now expanded to include a number of other projects. The inmates are taught different skills, in order to be able to find jobs when they are released. The skills taught include sewing, vegetable gardening, beadworks, financial management, arts and crafts, and managerial skills. The inmates also "adopt" HIV+ children in the area, and send clothes, duvets and blankets made to the foster families of these children. Some blankets and duvets are also sent to local hospitals. Vegetables grown are sent to the foster families, as well as to orphanages, old age homes, and other needy people in the community. The Group of Hope inmates also give talks to other inmates, schools, and farm workers about HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, and crime prevention. Hospitalised inmates are visited and encouraged by group members. All the group members are also registered on the international bone-marrow register. The main aim of this project is to challenge the perception that prisoners cannot play a positive role in the community, and to give them skills to be able to obtain employment when released. The project is in the process of registering a Non-Profit Organisation called "Group of Hope Developments". This company will hopefully provide employment for inmates released.
Innovation: The project is managed entirely by inmates, which is unique as usually projects of this kind are started by outside agencies.. The aim is to challenge the inmates' self-centredness, and allow them to become caretakers of the vulnerable and poor.
Effectiveness: This project has already been expanded to 9 other locations. Positive acknowledgement has been received by the media, and interest has been received by various countries, including Indonesia, Namibia, Swaziland and the Netherlands. The South African Police also started a project called "Adopt a family" after seeing what Group of Hope does.
Poverty Impact: Because the project is running within a prison, the poverty impact is hard to measure. However, to date 145 inmates are directly involved in training; 1396 are indirectly involved (through info sessions and skills development); and 597 members of the community have benefited from the project.
Sustainability: There are two main obstacles to the sustainability of this project: finding committed inmates, and funding. Thus far, there have been more requests to join than Group of Hope has been able to accommodate. However, funding does remain an issue.
Replication: This project has already been replicated in 9 other locations. The success of replication will depend on receiving permission from Correctional Services, on the training of inmates, and on close monitoring of the projects.