The Greater Durban YMCA, which provides holistic support for young people, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Westville Community Corrections (ComCor) as both parties work together on projects to assist and support former-offenders and help them integrate back into society. The Y-Justice programme, a focus of the YMCA outreach, helps to transform young people from ‘subject to citizen.’

Through ongoing work with low-medium risk former-offenders, Y-Justice provides skills, education and support to those leaving Westville Prison to oversee their integration for at least three years after parole or until they become fully independent and self sufficient.

The formal MoU was signed recently during a morning long workshop and presentation at the Durban YMCA, and commits both ComCor and YMCA to assist and support each another, working together and pooling resources. The MoU puts guidelines and rules in place to maximise the joint working relationship for increased efficiency. For example the MoU helps the YMCA social workers with access and transport support. It also allows them to reference the research carried out by Safer Cities programme. Jointly they can be better placed to address social issues, deliver food parcels and monitor the progress of former-offenders. Many success stories are lauded from the joint forces of Y-Justice and ComCor in recent years. One of them is a team of a dozen former offenders with an interest in upholstery.

After serving their sentences, they all completed their SETA skills training and jointly opened a functional and operational upholstery business. They are now looking at becoming SETA accredited trainers themselves so they can train and support the next generation of those former offenders who have an entrepreneurial interest in upholstery. Lee Mbongwe, Head of Development of Medium C at Westville Correctional Centre, said, “It is a challenge for former offenders to re-integrate into society as finding gainful employment once a person has a prison record is a huge disadvantage and life-long challenge.

The choice is, does one want to light up the world or burn it down. You can make a difference with only one match. We want to uplift our youngsters. The only way is to help them to build and then encourage them to lead the way.” The MoU was signed by representatives from Westville Community Corrections, YMCA National and YMCA Durban. Present at the signing were representatives from Westville Correctional Services, ComCor, Department of Safer Cities, Perfect Shelter, Ndlela Village, Cato Manor Area Business, YMCA reps and release candidates. The MoU is effective immediately. For more information about the Durban YMCA call 031 305 4496.