The Pathway to Hope
My name is Nathaniel*, and last year I had the privilege of participating in the Sycamore Tree project. When I began this course, it felt like I was destined to live a life of shame and guilt because of my crimes. I carried an oversized and overfilled backpack of deep regret, sadness, and despair. Profound remorse was like a dark cloud that hung over my head full of built up healing potential, with nowhere to direct the energy.
The community that I knew, my family and friends, all turned their backs on me for the crimes I committed. I realised the system was keen to anchor me as an outcast of society, not deserving of basic decency. There just wasn’t a vehicle to heal all the wounds that were created by the devastating ripple effect of my crimes.
Everyone affected by my crimes was sitting in a cesspool of pain, and I was all too aware that my futile incarceration came at a great cost to the taxpayer.
There seemed to be no healing or justice for anyone involved.
But during the Sycamore Tree Project I finally had somewhere to channel my energy and I was able to learn what it truly means to take responsibility for my crimes. I learnt the difference between punitive justice and restorative justice, and I developed a sense of empowerment as I understood the importance of confession and being repentant. I also learnt about the power and the importance of forgiving myself and others, as well as being forgiven and committing to meaningful change.
“During the Sycamore Tree Project I finally had somewhere to channel my energy and I was able to learn what it truly means to take responsibility for my crimes.”
I realised that I had done untold damage to my friends and family, but the Sycamore Tree Project made me realise that I had incredible power to also do good! I have always underestimated my ability to affect change. Now I am committed to doing good! I found a pathway that has given me hope and confidence to be the best man I can be.
For weeks I sat in awe of the facilitators of the Sycamore Tree Project. All of the volunteers were simply beautiful human beings with only one goal – to repair the damage that crime creates. I used to call them the Healing Crusaders. It was truly a privilege to be in the same space with these Good Samaritans as they led us wounded men on an honest journey. They showed us the pathway to our recovery, and that of our victims.
I will be eternally grateful for the role each facilitator played in my own personal healing. They truly changed my life.
Participating in the Sycamore Tree Project has been a life-changing experience. I want to show my gratitude to the facilitators and my fellow journeymen who have been so inspiring on this enlightening rollercoaster ride!
“Participating in the Sycamore Tree Project has been a life-changing experience.”
To Christine*, the chaplain, for making this program happen, I commend her passion and commitment to the cause of helping us be the best versions of ourselves. It was an honour to be guided by such an angel. Thank you!
To the men who embarked on this journey with me, I recognise you all as fellow inmates over my 3 years. But what I learned about you through the program gave me tremendous insight into humanity. I learnt we were all experiencing pain in our own way. We all aspired to that Holy Grail of forgiveness for our crimes. We all want the opportunity to make amends for our sins, and we all hope that one day there will be reconciliation for the pain we have caused. As a group we became connected through our journey of discovery together. And in the end, I felt a real bond of comradery I never thought possible in prison.
To everyone involved, thank you for the experience, and thank you for who you are. The true crime is that so many prisoners miss the opportunity to participate in this program. For humanity’s sake, I hope that changes.
Sycamore Tree Project participant
*Names have been changed
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