Eleena George, 25, never thought she would be in prison.
After completing her masters in Sociology, she joined a fellowship at social enterprise Turn Your Concern into Action (TYCIA) Foundation. It made her see the gap in the rehabilitation field in Tihar Prison, New Delhi, India.
“I never imagined myself working in this setting,” admits Eleena. However, the moment she started interacting with the inmates, she realised that “there’s a different side to them and a lot of them actually want to study”.
Hence, she started Second Chance, a social enterprise that aims to rehabilitate inmates of Tihar Prison.
Majority of inmates didn’t know how to write their names when Eleena started giving English lessons. Hence, they weren’t able to write letters to their families or send applications for various queries. However, once they were able to write in both English and Hindi, the inmates bared grateful smiles on their faces.
We know A is for Apple and B is for Boy, but to make things easier and more relatable to inmates, Eleena substituted the cliché ‘Apple’ and ‘Boy’ with things in a prison setting that they were familiar with to grasp their attention.
She also noticed that inmates liked playing cards, so she created a deck of cards with famous people who’ve gone to prison; Mahatma Gandhi, Justin Bieber, Bill Gates, etc. This engaging method paints possibilities of what inmates’ futures can be and that having gone to prison doesn’t mean absolute failure.
Lastly, Eleena uses comics to talk about crimes. All content is inspired by inmates’ experiences and topics include domestic violence, consent, gender, etc. The comics relate to inmates and aid their understanding with where they went wrong.
Eleena hopes to create another curriculum to help inmates prepare for class six and eight exams so they can acquire qualifications and get better jobs.
She recounts a time when one inmate who was released saw her and went up to talk to her. “If they [thought] of talking to me when they’ve seen me in the crowd, they probably had one good memory in prison that provoked them to [do so]. The fact that they’re working now is a big deal, I guess,” Eleena says with a smile.
Despite difficulties, especially financially, Eleena “hopes to do this forever,” providing a guiding light for the inmates of India, a ray of hope for their futures.