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Harmony Project brings The Big Table to The Big House

By August 29, 2018 August 30th, 2018 Blog

100 outsiders. 100 insiders. One Big Table.

Today, at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, OH, relationships were formed, stereotypes shattered, and a community was created.
Harmony Project participated in the The Big Table conversation – a day of community building and conversation designed by The Columbus Foundation – bringing 100 inmates at the Ohio Reformatory for Women together with 100 community members from the outside. Discussions surrounded the topic of freedom:
  1. What does freedom mean to you?
  2. Have you or someone you loved ever experienced a loss of freedom?
  3. In what way(s) do you experience freedom today that is different from the past?
  4. What can be done to promote greater personal freedom for all of us?
While stories gave the conversation color, many of the women from the inside came to a similar conclusion: they feel more free on the inside than they have felt in their entire lives because of addiction and abuse.
Here are their stories:

T: Freedom represents what is inside me. It has little to do with being locked up. Here, I found freedom—freedom from the things that happened in my life.
Backstory: My parents were addicts. All I knew as a child was that whatever it was that happened behind those closed doors, it made them really happy. All I ever wanted was for them to be happy, and I wanted to be happy too. I didn’t realize until much later what was happening. I was locked up emotionally long before I got here. It was haunting me. I couldn’t find love. I didn’t have love. I thought what happened to my parents—they split up, my father passed away—I thought it was my fault. And when I used with others, I felt like we were family. Now that I’m here, I can focus on me. It takes patience to be here. But we lift each other up.

C: Here, you can choose to take strides, to improve your life. And there’s so much more to life than what I knew. I can live everyday as positively as possible.
Backstory: I was dealt a bad hand. My parents were both addicts, and when your first experience using is with your parents, you assume it’s ok.

K: Freedom to me is freedom of your mind, body and soul. Being in control and confident. Never stop dreaming big.
Backstory: Both of my parents used. All of my sisters used. Addiction has a hold on those on the outside. I can’t go back. I had to write goodbye letters to my mom and my sisters—one of them is near death (from her addiction) and I may never see her again. While I’m here, I’m preparing myself to be a better mom to my four boys. And right now, I’m safe. They are safe. That’s what matters most.

A: You are never alone here. I never felt that way before in life. And when I think about the day I am reunited with my kids, it gives me hope.
Backstory: I’m a caretaker by nature. I took care of my husband. And I wanted to protect him. I didn’t call the cops on him, so I’m here. At first I was angry. I was in denial. I slept a lot of my time away. But I’ve been at peace for awhile now, knowing I’m doing everything in my power to improve my life. I’ve accepted my time. I’m going back to school. I no longer carry those boulders. I’m finally doing me. I am ok, and I’m going to be ok.

C: When you are in addiction, you put yourself in situations you can’t imagine. And growing up, you only see what you see—you don’t know anything else.

How we find freedom:

K: I find freedom here looking at pictures of my children. And I run. I run every morning.

C: I listen to my music. I daydream a lot. I think about my future—I want to own my own food truck business. I live in the moment. We are here to love each other. We all have to enjoy every moment because you never know how quickly it can be taken away.

CH: I’ve been here for 38 years. I was 18 when I got here—I’ve grown up here. Freedom? I just take it. I like to laugh, and to play. I smell the roses. We have the most beautiful sunsets here. Sometimes I get on my knees and pray. They can take my body, but they can’t take my mind.

A powerful and emotional day that changed everyone who participated.
Thank you Donatos for sponsoring the lunch. Thank you The Columbus Foundation for setting the table across our city for conversation and creative connection.