Jason Isaacs And A New Way Of Life Reentry (ANWOL) Seeks to Help Previously Incarcerated Women
In fact, philanthropic is a more fitting description of Isaacs.
Isaacs seeks to bring attention to an impactful non-profit organization that changes lives without federal funding. The Liverpool native spent the day at one of five houses of the A New Way of Life Reentry Project (ANWOL), a non-profit organization in South Central L.A. whose core mission is to help women and girls break the cycle of entrapment of the criminal justice system and lead healthy lives.
Now on its 14th successful year, ANWOL provides housing and reentry support for previously incarcerated women and their children. As the founding member and chief operator, Susan Burton, who was formerly incarcerated, was honored the CNN Top Hero award in 2010.
“There’s a national need for places that can welcome people, especially women, coming back into the community," Burton said about the need to start the project. "Women are very vulnerable when they leave incarceration.”
She believes that given a little support, released women can make a successful re-entry back into the community. The organization offers aid exclusively to women, catering to a demographic that largely receives little special services or support.
“When you’re poor, you’re pushed out of everything, and when you’re a woman you’re pushed a little further,” Burton said.
The women living in the ANWOL homes are responsible for the upkeep and expected to live by certain rules to co-habitate successfully. Signing in and out and adhering to a curfew are a few of the procedures the women must follow. The rules, however, are hardly restricting on the newfound freedom and empowerment the women feel.
“When you get out of prison you don’t have anything," Angela Austin, a current ANWOL resident said. "But this place is one where you can take your time and get to do the things you need to do.”
The community of women bonds closely, as they grow and walk together into the surrounding community to restart their new lives. The women of the house gathered together to honor a birthday like they were family, celebrating one of their own.
Paris, the son of Gene Waldrop, another resident and mother of two children, turned four years old recently. Isaacs performed magic tricks, very different from his Harry Potter magic, involving vanishing quarters instead of death eaters. The ANWOL family showered him with gifts, affection, and to his delight, a Spongebob Squarepants cake.
Waldrop attributes ANWOL for her second chance at motherhood.
“When I got out of prison, I was homeless with two kids,” Waldrop said. “They’re [ANWOL] helping me get my own housing. It’ll be the first time we’ve had a place of our own.”
She has been in the home for more than five weeks, and is working to rebuild her life, maintaining sobriety all the while, all in part due to ANWOL.
“I’m clean today," Waldrop said. "I can see all the things my children do that I didn’t see them do before. There’s a great support system here. I wouldn’t trade it [sobriety] for the world. If it wasn’t for Susan I don’t know what I’d be doing today.”
Although ANWOL has changed many women in its 14 years of operation, the organization still needs help. The lack of funding hinders its ability to reach its full potential.
When Isaacs first met Burton in a gifting suite that asked celebrities to sign a t-shirt in support of ANWOL, he asked her more about the organization and decided to get further involved. From there, their friendship blossomed.
A father of two, Isaacs considers Burton a better role model to his girls than the people in the entertainment industry. Isaacs is also committed to exposing his daughters to the positive influences in the city.
“I want my kids to meet people like Susan, and be inspired by women who are impressive by what they have to offer and how generous they are with their skills, and not just people with the whitest teeth and curviest bodies.”
Not only is Isaacs blown away by how remarkable he finds Burton to be, he is also grateful to her for the opportunity to be a part of ANWOL and witness all that she is orchestrating.
Conversely, Burton feels valued by the fact that a celebrity would take time from their busy lifestyle to come and visit, speak to the children, find out what ANWOL is all about.
“He’s [Isaacs] given something that can’t be bought, his time and himself,” said Burton. “He has been encouraging to me personally. He said he liked what I was doing, understood, and I could call on him. And when I did, he came. And that’s reinforcing and encouraging to me. And even as the director, I need a little of that.”
Ultimately, she hopes that ANWOL will be able to build permanent supportive housing or provide counseling services for the residents.
Reach Reporter Zoe here.