The Peace Education Programme (PEP), a flagship initiative from The Prem Rawat Foundation originated as a prison development programme, designed to support prisoners to explore the values of personal peace and inner resources and promote personal development and discovery. Having acquired considerable global success, PEP piloted in the UK at Thameside Prison in 2015. It was the success of this 20-session programme that led to its spread across the country. The PEP is currently running in 8 UK prisons
Peace Partners spoke with Carolyn Kean, volunteer leader of PEP in Leeds. Carolyn leads on the delivery of PEP in HMP Leeds alongside Andrea Walker and has been involved in the initiative since it came to the city in February this year.
PEP was introduced to Leeds through a charity called Catch22, which focuses on rehabilitation for prisoners and was quickly recognised for the difference it was making to the first cohort of prisoners that took part:
“The programme started as an initial block of ten sessions, each one exploring a different theme. These include inner strength, appreciation and clarity. This has now been increased to 20 as the value of the programme has become clear.”
Each session allows for periods of reflection and discussion, whilst absorbing the theme and exploring what it means for the individual.
“Prisoners benefit so much from this programme and you can see that so clearly because quite often they begin the course with incredibly low self-esteem. Watching them develop self-confidence and worth is incredibly rewarding for me as the person running the session, but also for all the people they have contact with and share these messages with.”
After a successful pilot, the programme was signed off to be used in the prison wing for more vulnerable inmates. The pilot focused on prisoners who were training to be mentors for others, and so were more conscious of their own development. The promotion of the programme to a different part of the prison is testament to its ability to support personal development and meaningful change.
It has been an incredible experience for Carolyn, who values the learning process she herself is going through as part of supporting the development of others. PEP in Leeds is very much still new and its future is looking bright, but Carolyn hopes that if it gains strong momentum it would also be a great encouragement for staff inside prisons to develop their own programmes.
At the moment, the tangible effects of PEP in the UK are undeniable and the programme has received encouraging feedback. Last year TPRF partnered with the Tutu Foundation in hosting a screening of the film 'Inside Peace' at the British Film Institute, with a keynote address given by founder Prem Rawat
The film, which documents the impact of PEP in Texas, was incredibly well received by attendees which included the governor of Thameside prison and numerous other representatives from UK Justice services.
Carolyn and Andrea will continue to drive the initiative within HMP Leeds, and together with a small team of volunteers, they will be ambassadors for a national campaign to promote the amazing work that PEP does with those that benefit from it so much.
Peace Partners is delighted to be involved with this inspiring programme and will be sponsoring a PEP presentation at the International Correctional Conference in October. You can find more information about the event here: https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ehome/index.php?eventid=212615&tabid=613186