From Touchstone Issue #8 See Full Issue

Our Most Valuable Resources | by Dorestela Medina

“ How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” (Romans 10:15)

Volunteers are the most valuable human resource of PFI national ministries worldwide because they are the feet and hands of the organization to reach and support prisoners in their transformation and rehabilitation.

Volunteers — both external volunteers and internal volunteers — carry out two different but closely related types of work within prisons and in the programs they carry out, such as fieldwork, properly developing the contents of the programs; administrative work, monitoring, and controlling the information related to that fieldwork and carrying it out. It is as if they were two sides of the same coin that complement each other and are very necessary to achieve the results or fruit of their work in the prisons.

According to the contexts, situations, and degree of organization, each national ministry establishes its layout in the prisons where they are active and determines the various ways of collecting information from all the penal centers or programs that are implemented.

Why is it important for national ministries to establish a reporting system?

The main reason is that they are being good stewards of God’s grace and it gives a sense of belonging and ownership to the volunteers. Other reasons include:

  • Reflects the level of organization and growth
  • Reflects the level of leadership
  • Reflects if they are focused on vision and mission
  • Indicates if they are working with a clear, real, and measurable purpose and objectives
  • Helps prevent mistakes and correct them
  • Helps them to be projected
  • It allows obtaining information in a timely manner for decision-making
  • It makes it possible to know if the volunteers are fulfilling their commitments
  • Helps delegate responsibilities
  • Allows transparency to be open letters and read by all

In establishing the reports, it is necessary to define:

  • Levels
  • Content
  • Periodicity
  • Ways of sending reports


In the volunteer reporting system, it is very important to establish the different levels and flow of information between the prisons and the executive director of the national ministry. Normally the internal and external volunteers are concentrated in the different prisons in the territories, zones, or regions and report to the team and prison coordinator in charge, (who are also volunteers) on the development of all the programs that are being carried out to each in the prison.

The prison coordinator, in turn, receives, analyzes, and processes the information and improves it to share it with the regional director in charge (who is also a volunteer) and he, in turn, socializes it with the director or national coordinator in charge of the program or programs.


The effectiveness of the information is based on completing as best as possible these questions: what, how, when, where, who, and at what time. To standardize the reports, generally, the national ministries establish formats or templates to be sent by the volunteers and in this way consolidate the information at the national level more easily. The reports generally have two components, quantitative information and narrative information that tells the achievements, progress, challenges, opportunities, and difficulties and with short stories of transformation of the prisoners.


The national ministries follow up the information with the volunteers on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. They usually establish deadlines for monthly and/or quarterly reports to have timely information in a timely manner.

Ways of Sending Reports

Depending on the possibilities and conditions of the national ministry, information is captured by different means: through phone calls, handwritten reports from volunteers, and digital reports sent by email.
Finally, it must be considered that there are three very important aspects that aim to consolidate the work to guarantee a good information system, such as:

  • Training
  • Storage
  • Person in charge


Just as volunteers are given training on how to develop the content and standards of a program (what we call field work), it is equally necessary to carry out training in the administrative area.

The volunteers can understand the importance of documenting, recording, controlling, and monitoring the work they do because what is not recorded or documented does not exist and is part of the institutional memory of the organization.


The coordinator in charge of the program or programs oversees establishing a registration system through a master or central file where all the information collected from the volunteers from the prisons/departments/regions is stored in order to have the information duly located and on hand for any particular review or analysis.

Person in Charge

In general, the program or program coordinator is responsible for managing and handling the information for the preparation of quarterly and annual reports, and in most cases, the National Ministries designate another person (volunteer), to support them in the process of gathering and organizing information.


The reporting system established by the prison ministries is key and necessary to monitor the plans and is the guarantee that allows NM to measure their compliance, and evidence to show the results of its programs in prison work, both within the organization to share with stakeholders and allies that support the work in prisons.

“ And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. ”
(2 Corinthians 9:8)


Dorestela Medina is the Regional Director, who supports and oversees the national ministries in Latin America. She brings us 30 years´ experience working in government, embassies, the United Nations, and NGOs (Oxfam GB, Save The Children Sweden, Care International, and SICA).


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