“Being an accused is not the end of the road but an opportunity to be set free from the inside out.”
This statement shared by a visiting pastor to the Suva Women’s Corrections Center 2-years ago helped shape the mindset of 32-year old inmate Jessica Hill, who just recently became one of the latest finds for fashion mogul Ellen Whippy-Knight of Fiji Fashion Week.
Four –years ago, Hill had the whole world in front of her- a good job, a car and the impending wedding to the love of her life. All that changed on one fateful evening when on a drinking binge she got behind the wheel of a car and drove off.
Jessica lost control of her vehicle and smashed onto an oncoming vehicle killing a 37-year old Australian resident who was a mother of two.
“My life took a downward spiral after that, I was in a very dark place. The thought that I had caused the death of a mother haunted me every day, I was so distraught and I couldn’t believe that I was going to jail.”
The lively, and bubbly person Jessica’s family knew was reduced to an emotional and quiet young girl and it took a while for her to come around and accept her circumstances.
“I think by accepting my own actions I then began to make progress, it took me a while to come to terms with myself, and accept the reality of all the things I had to lose because of being incarcerated. Being confined makes one to look at themselves.
“Today when I look back I can honestly say I have become a very different person, I am some one who knows myself better and know my true potential also. I discovered so many things about myself while being here and the talents that I have and am forever thankful to the female officers here at Suva for rebuilding me.
Jessica was discovered after Fiji Fashion Week Director Ellen Whippy-Knight came across her designs at the Suva Women’s Corrections Center in November this year.
She was the center of the fashion show at the Christmas Vakaviti Art Exhibition held on 05 December, 2019 where she launched eight of her designs. She has now been engaged by Fiji Fashion Week for their 2020 main event to feature in the emerging designers of the year category.
“I never knew anything about sewing, designing and never have I even touched a sewing machine in my life until came into prison.
“I am indeed indebted to the officers of the FCS, to Mrs Linda Walker who made me realize my potential, to Mrs Amanda Harman for being with us throughout and to Mrs Ellen Knight for this opportunity.
Hill with four other woman in Rusila Vuki, Nioni Tagici, Tracey Shaw and Elenoa Votabua had their designs featured at the exhibition.
“At the most I thank the Commissioner for this wonderful opportunity and giving us access to mentors who have really shaped our thoughts and dreams.”
“I think if I ever make a name for myself in this industry I will always think of the female officers at the Suva Womens Corrections Center, they have been so encouraging especially our Officer in Charge Maam Nai.
Jessica said it wasn’t until this year through trauma and healing program she was able to reconnect with the family she had wronged years ago through letters. “I think I found closure after that because I sought their forgiveness and they in turn informed me they had forgiven me and to try and move on – that for me was very important.”
Fiji Fashion Week director Ellen Whippy-Knight said their involvement in the project turned out to be a unique and worthwhile experience.
“It has truly been one of the most satisfying projects I have personally been involved with and I know my team were also proud of the achievements of Jessica Hill, Rusila, Neoni, Tracey and Elenoa,’’ she said.
“The feedback from the general public was one of amazement and gratitude and our team received many kind words but most of it is thanks to the vision of the Commissioner and good work of his team.”