As we’ve mentioned before, two of the team here at Shoes For Planet Earth also run a volunteer health and fitness program for the girls at the Juniperina Juvenile Justice Centre. Nick and Viv visit Juniperina each Tuesday afternoon to provide the girls with health and fitness training they would otherwise not receive (that’s our Viv with the one and only Cathy Freeman at Juniperina in the photo above!).

One of the girls who participated in these sessions during her time at Juniperina, Kate (not her real name) has written her own personal account of what they provided for her:

My life before Juniperina wasn’t very good. Up until the age of 11, my life was relatively normal. Until then, I hadn’t been exposed to the dark realities of life that society prefers to ignore and not acknowledge as existing. I was exposed to drugs, violence and the witnessed and felt the ripple effects of incarceration. The environment I was living in was toxic, in my opinion; it seemed to suffocate everyone until they lost hope. I didn’t see life in a very positive light, although I remained hopeful that maybe one day my life would change for the better. I was unsure of where my life was headed and what I could achieve. I knew there was a different life out there for me, one that I could be much happier and content with living, but I didn’t know how to find it by myself.

When I was around 14, I was beginning to get into a lot of trouble with the law, and every encounter saw me gain more charges, more serious than the last. At the age of 17, I committed a serious crime, which saw me sentenced to 18 months in a Juvenile Detention Centre, Juniperina, which is the only centre for girls in NSW. This was the third time I had been in Juniperina, although this was the longest sentence I had received. In the beginning of my 18 months, I was devastated. I thought my life was going better than it had been in a long time, and I was now thinking about how I would rebuild everything that I had begun to establish, after my release. My hope of ever having a relatively normal life was beginning to wane.

After around the six month mark, my attitude and perspective was slowly beginning to change. Each month, my outlook on life increasingly became more optimistic. What contributed to changing my outlook was all the various programs and educational
opportunities offered in Juniperina. In particular, a program that began in Juniperina, around 6 months before I was released that assisted in changing my perspective was the running program.

The running program was voluntarily run by Nick and Viv every Tuesday afternoon. I remember thinking when they first came in, this isn’t going to last, they’ll stop coming in after a while. In my mind, it seemed too good to be true, so I was sceptical. I also wondered why they would want to invest their time in girls like us. I was very keen and interested to do the program, as I’d put on lot of weight from lack of exercise and food. In general, I am keen to try anything new, especially when it is physical. However, in the beginning, majority of the girls from the unit, who participated were not really interested or enthusiastic about it. Which is why I believed the program wouldn’t last.

I thought Nick and Viv would get sick of coming in to run a program with a bunch of girls who weren’t that interested in it, especially on their time. Over time though, the number of girls who would participate grew and so did their excitement of the program. It was then I realised why Nick and Viv started the program, it’s not because they want everyone to be interested or to participate (although they would love it if they did). I think they
thought that if they can make a difference in at least one girl’s life, then it would be worthwhile. They certainly have made a difference in my life; it gave me hope, knowing that they would keep coming back, when at first I didn’t think they would. The program encouraged me to try something I always found difficult. I am not particularly fond of running; however I am growing to like it. I have joined the Cross Country Team at school, which I never would have thought of joining had it not been for Viv and Nick’s influence. I find I get a lot out of running, it is a great escape and with Viv and Nick’s help, I would eventually like to run in a marathon. Something I never thought would be possible for me, but I feel with Nick and Viv’s encouragement anything in regards to running and achieving anything I desire is possible.