A Quaker with a Mission – Improving Life for Returning Citizens

PYM

Jondhi Harrell (member of Germantown Monthly Meeting, the Friends of African Descent, and the Ujima Friends Peace Center) is a Rastafarian Quaker with a mission – to make a better experience for returning citizens.

We know that incarcerated individuals experience trauma, and that the children and families of the individuals who are incarcerated are also traumatized. Much of this trauma is not addressed though existing services and for this reason Jondhi has been working to open a Community Healing and Transformation program at The Center for Returning Citizens in Philadelphia (TCRC).

Jondhi believes that “as Quakers, we are all called to walk in the light and seek to create positive change in our communities. One of the keys to this is creating mechanisms that can truly impact the world around us and open us to the healing power of actual work that transforms. A major facet of the work we must be a part of today is committing ourselves to acknowledging and undoing the systemic racism that is embedded in the fabric of American society. Racism continues to be a major impediment to peace in our society, and central to this obstacle is the struggle against mass incarceration.”

In 2016 about 2.2 million Americans were in prison; upon their release how will they return to productive lives, build successful relationships, and address the collateral damage surrounding their histories of incarceration? In his work as Executive Director of TCRC, Jondhi envisions the Healing and Transformation Center as a safe space where individuals and their children can begin to recover. It will address prior trauma, mitigate challenges during the post-incarceration transition period, and support successful re-integrations into career and personal communities.

The Community Healing and Transformation Center hopes to facilitate healing through individual and group counseling, mentoring, mediation, case management, and referrals for mental health, medical services, and substance abuse treatment programs. It will expand on the community-centered work being done by the Ujima Friends Peace Center through replication of their Food Giveaway program, and the addition of a clothing closet. It will add programs that serve at-risk youth and meet the unique needs of children of incarcerated parents.

Jondhi at Annual Sessions with Youth Program participants

Jondhi notes that such work will be done “in collaboration with The Wedge Recovery Center, as well as other organizations within the Community Leadership Coalition (a group of organizations headed by Returning Citizens, women, and black professionals). Above all, the Community Healing and Transformation Center will be an opportunity to build community through a safe space where men, women, and children can heal.”

He adds; “if we … seek to create change, we must look outside of ourselves. We must look outside of the insular world of our Monthly Meetings and Quarters, and seek to undo the racism around us at a community level. Our strength as Friends lies in our capacity to examine our faith and ministry and move ourselves forward.

“When we ask as Friends, ‘what can we do to expand our ministry?’ an answer will always be ‘serve others’. That is the work that the Community Healing & Transformation Center will do in North Philadelphia, and eventually across the city. When we … walk into the world of progressive activism, we enter a space where we can have a real impact on the lives of others.”

The grand opening celebration for the TCRC’s new Community Healing and Transformation is Friday, June 28 from 6:00-9:00 PM.  For more information see the PYM calendar.