Fear Free Life
As a teenager in the mid 90s, Collin Khumalo, founder of Fear Free Life, was a member of one of South Africa’s most notorious gangs and his main focus in life was to climb the ranks of the gang’s hierarchy. Collin was arrested in 1995 for robbery and attempted murder and received a long sentence. For him, the most challenging aspects of dealing with life in prison were adjusting to being away from his family, being restricted in his movements and knowing that for the rest of his life, he would be confined to a small cell and prison yard.
In 2002, Collin found himself at a crossroads. After attending a church service, he felt compelled to change his ways. With his new found faith, he faced the challenge of explaining to his gang that he no longer wanted to be a member, but the first step he had to take was to reconcile and apologise to everyone he had offended.
Collin set up Fear Free Life in 2003 to inspire and encourage other men to lead better lives and become better fathers and husbands. He was concerned about the high prison population in South Africa and, having studied coaching, ministry and human resources in prison, he began developing an educational programme focusing on what it means to be a gangster and why people decide to join gangs. His classes were attended by over 300 prisoners. In 2008, Collin was transferred to Johannesburg prison, known as Sun City, one of the most dangerous prisons in South Africa. Many of the prisoners in Sun City knew Collin as a gangster and were not aware of the changes he had made in his life, but he continued to promote Fear Free Life. In 2011, Fear Free Life received a Quality Assurance certificate from the Department of Correctional Services and on July 4th 2013, Collin became a day parolee after 18 years of his sentence.
The focus on establishing Fear Free Life outside of prison was on the integration and rehabilitation of prisoners. One of the challenges Collin faced was how to share the message of integration with the rest of society and remove the stigma associated with imprisonment. He also had to ensure that prisoners did not lose focus on their rehabilitation once they left prison, particularly if they struggled to secure employment or become accepted into their community. Fear Free Life also focused on giving victims closure.
Through his work at Fear Free Life, Collin has found that most young people who gravitate towards gangs grow up without “involved parents” and a lack of guidance. They feel safer in a gang and have a feeling of belonging. Gangs are particularly glorified in townships and, in most cases, parents are not aware their child has joined a gang until it is too late.
Fear Free Life has grown to focus on crime prevention through visits to high schools in communities where gangs operate. A 10-week programme addresses issues surrounding pupils’ emotional wellbeing and upbringing and explains why young people should avoid becoming gang members. Former offenders join the programme as teachers.
In the future, Fear Free Life aims to have a certified programme running in all schools. The aim is that this will empower and integrate former offenders, engage communities and influence government policy by showing the benefits of supporting former prisoners while they find their place in society. Fear Free Life also aims to roll out its programme in all South African prisons and aims to highlight the importance of teaching prisoners to be responsible, have a good work ethic and have the ability to earn a living. Currently, the staff at Fear Free Life, a team of former offenders and victims, are focused on preventing crime, educating communities and empowering boys and girls to lead positive lives and make a successful contribution to society.