Goats in the Garden Arrive at the Women's Community Correctional Center
The Women’s Fund of Hawai’i (WFH) has awarded the Lani-Kailua Outdoor Circle (LKOC) a $5,000 grant for an innovative new project, “Goats in the Garden” at Women’s Community Correctional Center (WCCC).
LKOC has operated a successful horticulture project at WCCC for 20 years. Over this time, more than 350 women have been involved in the Learning to Grow (LTG) program at a small nursery on the grounds of the facility. LTG includes lessons in plant propagation, growing food for the kitchen, and the flagship hydroponic lettuce system which sells lettuce to Foodland Super Markets. Certificate classes on topics such as financial and small business management, market gardening, and leadership are provided.
LKOC members had seen opportunities for expansion of the agriculture projects but were faced with acres of invasive growth. A participant mentioned she raised goats on her family property as a child, and thus the idea was born. Goats in the garden could dine on the invasive growth!
Four goats have been hand-raised specifically for this project and recently arrived from the Big Island. Staff, inmates, and volunteers have worked together to transform an old shed into a goat home. Training on goat care has been conducted, and everyone is enthusiastic and eager to be involved.
The initial team managing the goats consists of 8-12 women, many of whom are approaching release from WCCC. The team includes several women with longer sentences who will be consistent through implementation and manage the training of new participants. Over the course of 12 months, it is expected that more than 40 women will have direct exposure to working with the animals.
There is evidence of successful prison-animal programs in facilities on the mainland. Studies show significant positive therapeutic outcomes including improved physical and mental health, communication skills, socialization opportunities, and increased confidence and sense of self. These increases in human and social capital are soft skills deemed important by employers, thus the project could also deliver vocational outcomes. Opportunities for caring and nurturing are limited in an institutionalized setting, and we have seen a positive outcome already. For the first time, women will be allowed into the garden on weekends to care for the goats. The positive impact on relationships between staff and inmates is already evident.
The grant from WFH Fund will be used to cover all implementation related expenses plus three months of supplies, a veterinary contingency fund, and the employment of a Project Manager, Kate Wiechmann, for three months. Kate will be responsible for all Goats in the Garden activities. These will include training staff, inmates, and volunteers who will go on to manage the project after the initial three months, designing and implementing project evaluations, and creating a sustainable project model. Kate will work on creative funding ideas such as "Adopt a Goat" and crowdfunding such as Go Fund Me (or "Goat Fund Me").
The Women’s Fund of Hawaii has provided the means to a wonderful venture for the women at WCCC. The opportunities are boundless and the benefits to the women, staff, and the community enormous.
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