New Case Manger Francie Ekwerekwu Talks TEEM, Incarceration and the Importance of Community Involvement

 

 

Francie is dedicated to a life of service. Her commitment to her faith extends to her commitment to TEEM’s participants. The Arlington, Texas, transplant is a recent graduate of DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, Illinois, but her true pride is painted in red and white. “Please let TEEM supporters know that I am a Sooner,” she said. Francie was a star volleyball athlete at the University of Oklahoma, winning four awards at OU’s 2010 Max Weitzenhoffer Scholar Athlete Breakfast for demonstrating dignity, integrity, and strength of character on and off the court. Francie recently talked to TEEM’s Development Department about her accomplishments and her desire to help rebuild lives at TEEM.

What brought you to TEEM?

My passion for serving persons affected by incarceration and their children brought me to TEEM.

What do you hope to gain from your experience here?

Above all, I hope to grow in my faith as I serve God by serving our participants at TEEM.  I also hope to gain new and long-lasting professional relationships with my co-workers at TEEM as well as healthy and on-going mentoring relationships with our participants.  Professionally, my goals for working with TEEM is to develop the necessary knowledge, skills, and passion I need to start my own non-profit organization one day-- in which I hope to serve incarcerated parents and their children.   

What have you learned from working with our participants?

 In the short few days that I have been working with TEEM, I have already learned so much from our participants.  They are all very respectful and appreciative of TEEM for the services we provide them.  One participant recently shared a list of quotes and Bible verses that he reads frequently to encourage himself.  He loves the story of Daniel and the lions’ den and told me he knows God has never forgotten about him or left him, just as God protected Daniel in the lions’ den.  His words and demeanor as he shared with me were very inspiring.  I realized why he likes the story of Daniel so much when I read one of the quotes on his cherished list, “Every miracle in the Bible first started as a problem.” 

Of all the quotes on this cherished list, one of them especially jumped out at me.  “Life becomes easier when you learn to accept the apology you never got.”  Many of us have experienced hurts in life that we do not successfully recover from because we have not accepted non-existent apologies.  Immediately after reading the quote, I imagined there were likely many people there in our TEEM cafeteria as well as in this world that could benefit from this quote.  Thus, I challenged myself to ponder this thought as it relates to my own life.  Since then, the thought has stuck with me.  I appreciate little moments like that in life that make me more aware of “the bigger picture” and my purpose in life.  I am so grateful to the TEEM participants and Staff for welcoming me so graciously and sharing their stories with me.   

Has your view of incarceration changed since your time here at TEEM? If so, how?

So far, my view of incarceration has not changed but I am grateful for the chance to be here and learn more each day.  

Why do you think TEEM is important to the community?

TEEM is important to the community because we are helping to prepare and equip our participants to go out into the community and be healthy, successful, educated, employable, and contributing citizens.  Many of our participants appreciatively express how much they love being involved with TEEM and how great of a job TEEM does to help them in their individual situations.  TEEM participants are happy to be here because they feel welcome, respected, and valued.  One participant even told me, “ it feels like family here.”  Because TEEM builds this confidence within our participants, they are motivated to go out into the community and make new, prosperous lives for themselves.  Thus, as participants work to complete our programs, our community benefits from having TEEM participants as developing contributors.