During the first year of my social work program, I interned with an amazing agency called the Georgia Justice Project. GJP works with a population that many people might write off, or find undeserving – those who have been convicted of crimes.

Georgia Justice Project is an unlikely mix of lawyers, social workers and a landscape company. We defend people accused of crimes and, win or lose, we stand with our clients while they rebuild their lives. We believe this is the only way to break the cycle of crime and poverty.

GJP doesn’t just help clients through their trial, or probation, or prison sentence. They are there for the long haul, helping clients build job skills, find employment and housing, reach educational goals. They stay in touch with their clients for years, offering support as needed, and building a true sense of connection and community. I had a wonderful internship experience at GJP, so when they asked us to photograph their Back 2 School event this past Saturday, I eagerly agreed. The Back 2 School event is a day for the clients and their families to receive school supplies – backpacks filled with notebook paper, calculators, pens, pencils, etc.

There are specific backpacks for all ages, from infants through college students. But it’s not just a backpack giveaway – it’s a fun festival in the park, with bounce houses, face painting, games, sno cones, and more! There is also health, dental, and housing information for the families. Oh, and the local fire station came out and let the kids play all over the fire truck, honking the horn, talking on the loudspeaker, etc.

This event wasn’t about giving items to the “needy”. It was a day for fun and celebration, a day for families to come together and, for at least a few hours, let go of the stress and the stigma they face in their day-to-day lives.