Former winners reflect on Courage Award’s impact

By Blondie Ndebele | May 16, 2023 | Africa & The Middle East, The Americas | Freedom from Violence & Exploitation, Youth Empowerment

It has been two years since Youth Safety Awareness Initiative in Kenya and Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop in the United States won GFC’s Juliette Gimon Courage Award for their brave work in community development. These two organizations are committed to empowering incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youth in their communities.

Presented annually since 2019, the Juliette Gimon Courage Award recognizes GFC partners that are courageously working to advance the rights of children and young people.

Youth Safety Awareness Initiative, better known as Crime Si Poa, is dedicated to reducing incarceration and recidivism among youth in Kenya. The organization develops the leadership and livelihood skills of young people in prison and works with children and youth in its communities to promote a crime-free society.

Group of people at a workshop

GFC representatives and partners engaging students during a site visit at Olekasasi Primary School. © Crime Si Poa

Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, a multi-award-winning organization, uses books, discussions, creative writing, and community connections to build a continuum of support for incarcerated and previously incarcerated youth and adults. Books and writing serve as “bonding points” to support the organization’s members while incarcerated and after release. Free Minds also provides peace building, advocacy, restorative justice, and intensive reentry programs to its members.

Looking back on the last two years, the 2021 winners reflected on the benefits of the Courage Award.

Growth and morale boost for the organization

The honor came at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was characterized by numerous restrictions. Crime Si Poa and Free Minds continued providing support to incarcerated youth and the community at large. The two organizations expanded their programming and reached out to more marginalized communities.

“To be recognized by a global leader in youth development gave us an incredible boost as an organization,” said Tara Libert, Free Minds Co-Founder and Executive Director. “The funding we received helped us expand our community outreach program to reach more youth with the message of hope and healing.”


Free Minds Brotherhood: Free Minds members home from prison form a supportive peer network. © Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop

Echoing these sentiments, Crime Si Poa Programs Director Sylvia Morwabe explained, “At the beginning of 2020, we were working in two counties. At the end of 2021, we had increased our coverage to four counties, owed to a model borrowed from GFC. We empowered youth and created a network of community-based groups to help directly impact lives in their localities.”

Enhanced visibility

The award brought local and international attention to Crime Si Poa and Free Minds and has accelerated both organizations’ expansion to other communities. Crime Si Poa’s work on youth and crime has been featured in the mainstream media, while Free Minds continues to attract new partners to support its programs.

“Organizationally, we have attracted new supporters,” Tara said. “The partners that were already working with us learned more about our work, and we gained an amazing international reach for some of our programs.”

Growing reputation

The award also elevated Crime Si Poa’s and Free Minds’ reputations in the criminal justice sector. Winning the Courage Award increased their credibility and legitimacy, the organizations said, making them trusted partners in the field and significantly increasing awareness and support from stakeholders.

Youth from Crime Si Poa affiliate groups in Kisumu County spreading peace and anti-crime messages with Boda Boda riders. © Crime Si Poa
Collaborations and invaluable networks

The recognition brought by the Courage Award opened doors for strategic partnerships and collaborations and led to joint efforts in addressing issues affecting communities. Crime Si Poa’s work has been gaining attention from stakeholders such as government departments, the media, and like-minded organizations interested in joint interventions. Such partnerships have increased the organization’s capacity to effectively serve its constituency.

Sylvia said, “Interestingly, we had an increase in invitations for collaborations and high-level meetings where key decisions in the criminal justice space are made. We were also invited on several occasions by the media to talk about our work and encourage young people to desist from criminal activities.”

A Free Minds member home from prison speaks to the community

A Free Minds member home from prison speaks to the community © Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop
Motivation and validation

Impact in the criminal justice sector can take time to become visible, and as a result staff can get discouraged. However, the recognition of their work by GFC reinvigorated staff and provided validation for the organizations’ efforts, inspiring both organizations to continuously improve their strategies and practices in transforming communities.

“The award reminded us of the reason we began this work,” said Tara. “It brought a lot of hope to our members and reenergized us to continue fighting.”

Despite the plethora of challenges they face every day, Crime Si Poa and Free Minds continue to courageously promote social justice and advocate for a crime-free society.

Don’t miss the announcement of the 2023 Juliette Gimon Courage Award in June!

Header photo: Crime Si Poa staff engaging children in physical exercise during a kids mentorship session at Dandora Phase 2. © Crime Si Poa

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Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.

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