A few members of the South West Region of the Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (SSSIO) - USA have been lovingly serving those who were previously incarcerated.  These SSSIO volunteers offered various programs using the Sri Sathya Sai Education in Human Values (SSSEHV) framework and which were geared to empower these individuals in their transition from prison back into society. For instance, three Sai volunteers being trained at the Institute of Sathya Sai Education (ISSE) implemented weekly SSSEHV lessons, as part of their fieldwork, to fifty residents of a half-way house, the Step House Center for Healing, Phoenix, AZ. The weekly lessons, taught over a 12-week period, comprised of interactive activities, stories, music and life application exercises. Participants expressed they felt increased positive energy, became open to new possibilities in their lives and felt a renewed sense of optimism about entering society again. They also imbibed values such as self-confidence, self-control and courage. Presenters shared their own personal anecdotes to help strengthen the bond and trust within the group, and encouraged heart-to-heart sharing amongst the participants. One of the participants revealed how the lessons and the personal sharing helped his own personal growth and provided him with practical tips and insights into wise ways of living. He also felt a sense of pride in sharing the wisdom he derived from the classes with his children. The trainees were gratified to see the impact of human values on the participants and the feeling of empowerment they took away from the 3-month program.

Secondly, two Sai members volunteered with the Arouet Foundation in Phoenix, AZ to empower and boost the self-confidence of eight incarcerated women who were soon to be released from Perryville Prison in six months. The Arouet Foundation is a second-chance movement for women transitioning out of the correctional system and prepares them for re-entry into society, employment and life success. The volunteers conducted mock interviews for the incarcerated women to prepare them for job interviews and provide valuable feedback that would help with their professional success and successful integration into society. One recipient shared how the volunteer had helped increase her ability to self-reflect and her sense of self-worth. The women were also grateful for the opportunity to strengthen their innate values of discrimination, determination and discipline to reach their life goals. It was certainly a transformative experience for the ten women, as well as the volunteers.

Finally, one of the Sai volunteers from the Tadini House in Mesa, AZ, a non-profit organization serving formerly incarcerated persons in the metro Phoenix area, led an online SSSEHV group with its members.  The group met over zoom to explore how to spread love in society through the practice of human values.  Specifically focused on respect, courage, caring, and harmlessness, the group reflected on the importance of love beyond their immediate families, and how it took courage, self-awareness, and discipline to show respect and love for all people. One participant stated, “I am inspired to take steps every day to first, reflect on how I am using human values to focus on justice in my daily thoughts and then, take action in whatever way I can to be a better person for everyone around me.” In the end, there was a collective understanding of how the expansion of love starts from within oneself and that everyone has the capacity and means to realize it, and bring about justice and harmony in society.

*For more information about SSSEHV programs and how to enhance an existing program with Human Values, visit  www.isseusa.org or contact director@isseusa.org.