Ellie is not one to dwell on life’s hardships. While finding themselves behind bars would understandably be demoralising for many, Ellie found positives early on in her time in prison. While it was an admittedly awful experience, what Ellie went through changed her profoundly. Having been used to leading a very busy life – managing a home and career and raising two children – Ellie suddenly had a lot of time on her hands. Faced with a minimum of two-and-a-half years behind bars, but with none of life’s usual demands on her, she recognised the gift in the time it afforded her to really think about her life and decide what she wanted to do with her future. She applied herself to growing her own mind and knowledge, successfully completing a diploma in Human Resources while in prison – no mean feat when considering all study and assignments had to be carried out in hard copy due to the restrictions on devices in prison.
With the unfailing support of her husband, mum, dad, brothers and in-laws, Ellie’s family unit remained strong while she was away. For the first six months after release, she concentrated on her marriage, her children and reintegrating into her own family. When she turned her focus to seeking employment, she struggled to find work, despite being industrious, educated and confident. All would be going well until she disclosed that she had a conviction, but she was determined to be honest with potential employers about her past. Being introduced to PARS eight months after leaving prison proved a huge turning point in Ellie’s life. They helped her with her CV and then to secure her first job post-prison as an HR manager with a labour hire company. Despite being head-hunted by other companies in the following year, she remained in the job for 14 months out of respect for PARS and their role in finding her the opportunity.
Ellie is a firm believer that helping others improves our own lives, and she has experienced first-hand how the sense of self worth that can come with an enjoyable job with fair pay is a critical component to self esteem, motivation and moving forward post-prison. After her own challenges with finding employment, she was driven to help other people released from prison to find work, and discussed her ideas with her probation officer and employer. They were interested in pursuing the potential and, being with a labour hire company, in the following year Ellie was able to give “a second chance” to more than 90 people who had served time, including PARS clients – the same second chance that her PARS support worker had arranged for her.
When considering her next move, Ellie focused on roles that would enable her to continue helping people who had been in prison with meaningful employment. Her current employer, a technology company, was keen to hear her ideas, and together they developed an opportunity for people to be trained and carry out a paid manufacturing role while still in prison. Their earnings are held in a trust account until their release, which supports their reintegration into the community, and as they are already experienced in the role, there is the option of working with the company upon release if they wish.
Ellie is deeply grateful to PARS. With their one-size-fits-one approach to providing services, they supported her in achieving what she wanted to do with her life, in ways that worked best for her. Being resourceful, smart and motivated, Ellie needed help, not management, and that’s what PARS provided. When talking about her support worker, Ellie is effusive, “She was amazing! Always supportive, always encouraging, no matter what was going on.” Ellie is grateful to have been able to use her own bad experience for some good, and she gives credit to PARS for where she is at in her life now – she has found her purpose and is contributing positively to the community.
“PARS changed my life, and now I can do the same for others.”
In turn, Ellie’s support worker sees her success as a team effort: “When I first met Ellie, she was discouraged and disheartened about not being able to find a job. Our service helped her to realise her potential and planted the seed of hope for the future. With the wraparound support provided to Ellie, she became confident in her abilities, and not long after she landed her first job! Ellie was always on point – her time management was top notch and her level of engagement impeccable. Watch is space – this wahine is going on to do incredible things in the future!”