A New Chapter for the Ladies of WAITT

A familiar expression of unity became a golden opportunity for women at Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail (VPRJ) to move forward in life and recovery. The expression “We Are In This Together,” or WAITT, transformed into a program that encouraged women recovering from substance use disorders.

In a joint effort, VPRJ Superintendent Tony Pham, VPRJ Programs Coordinator Sara Mahayni, and REAL LIFE, kicked off the WAITT program in March 2019. The first cycle graduated on May 28th, and each participant spoke on behalf of their experience during the ceremony.

The WAITT program was led by Cara, who previously was an inmate in the HARP program in Chesterfield County; Chesterfield Sheriff, Karl Leonard, allowed her to come to VPRJ to help provide peer-support. She was eager to “play a part in molding the structure and sisterhood of this community.” This “path in [her] journey” brought up past regrets and heavy feelings. But in the midst of it all, Cara shares “We the ladies of WAITT… met each other with love, compassion, and empathy. We became a part of something, and that’s a feeling a lot of us have strived for our whole lives.”

Reflection was key for the women to strengthen the bond between each other, and also discover the roots of their own struggle.

“I didn’t know who I was; the drugs determined that,” Angela realized. Through this program she learned to “forgive [herself], all the while still accepting responsibility for the things [she’s] done.”

Many participants spoke of their personal transformation.

“Although I was broken, close-minded, and reluctant, I found the strength to push through. WAITT has restored compassion, hope, faith, and the importance of sisterhood,” graduate Allison explained.

Every participant expressed the utmost appreciation for the program and all the support.

Kayla was especially thankful to her family who gave their “unconditional love” and even traveled from New Jersey for the WAITT graduation.

The program promoted self-reflection and accountability, acceptance and forgiveness, which prepared each woman in their lifelong recovery process as a “grateful recovering addict.”

It was apparent that this was an eye-opening experience for all of these ladies.

“This program has helped me realize my life is important, I’m worthy of beautiful things, I’m deserving of healthy relationships, and last but not least my children have a wonderful mom that remains teachable. Today, I move forward. I welcome success in my life of recovery,” Melinda expressed in her graduation speech.

From REAL LIFE to Cara, Allison, Melinda, Angela, Jodi, and Kayla: Congratulations to you all! This was no easy feat, so reflect on this experience when times get tough and remember WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER!

REAL LIFE is honored to partner with VPRJ to provide behavior modification-based programming. REAL Program graduate from the Richmond Jail, and now alumni, Peggy Crawford, delivers 10-15 hours of service to the WAITT ladies each week, utilizing REAL LIFE’s curriculum, Real Life with REAL LIFE.

Having the enthusiasm of the Superintendent, as well as his full support of programming within his jail, was critical to the program’s implementation and success! Many of the ladies at the graduation remarked on how unique this program is for VPRJ, as nothing like this has been available previously. One lady remarked, “Mr. Pham saved my life and gave me a chance to live.”

And a special thanks to Superintendent Pham, Sara Mahayni, Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail, the volunteers who delivered other services to the WAITT ladies each week, and everyone who supported this program! Thank you!