Without intervention, children of prisoners are susceptible to exploitation, poverty, dropping out of school and criminal activity. Together we can stand in the gap to keep them from falling through the cracks of society and giving them a chance for a brighter future beyond the cycle of crime.
Keep reading to see how we are helping children of prisoners live safer, healthier lives!
A moment of reunion during a prison visit facilitated by Prison Fellowship Cambodia
With COVID restrictions easing within prisons in Cambodia, the Prison Fellowship Cambodia team is once again facilitating visits for children in the program to visit their incarcerated parent(s). They recently took a group of TCJ children to a women’s correctional facility in Phnom Penh where they visited their incarcerated mothers — it was a time of overwhelming joy! For many of the children, this is their first time being able to communicate with their mothers in three years. Families are reunited and encouraged through efforts like these, making it more likely that parents will have a supportive community to return to upon their release. This is a key factor in helping prisoners rebuild their lives after incarceration and break the cycle of crime.
Click the image above to see children in Colombia with their new Scripture resources!
While safety, access to education, nutritious food and health care are all critical to ensuring that a child can reach their potential, spiritual engagement is the key area where the program makes an eternal impact. Through our partnership with Biblica, each child and caregiver in The Child’s Journey receives Bibles and age-appropriate Scripture resources in their heart language. The team in Colombia distributed more than 400 children’s Bibles last quarter, empowering those we serve to grow in the grace and knowledge of God’s word. Check out this precious video of TCJ children in Colombia expressing their gratitude for their new Bibles.
A caseworker from Prison Fellowship Malawi conducting a child home visit
Child home and community visits are key for program implementation and success for children in the program. These quarterly visits are an opportunity for the staff to meet with children and their caregivers, come to a full understanding of their specific needs and interact with other members of the child’s community. During these visits, program staff share their vision and work with the members of the community and promote healthy approaches to released prisoner re-integration. It is common for released inmates and their families to be rejected, stigmatized or even held in contempt within their communities. Interviews and meetings with community members help promote a change in perception about these families. Each quarter, the team in Malawi completes more than 700 child home visits.
Clenia’s world fell apart when her father went to prison. The oldest of five siblings, she did everything she could to help her mother, who was working tirelessly as the sole provider of the family. The Child’s Journey stepped in to ensure that Clenia and her siblings would receive essential care like education support, health checks, supplemental food and Scripture resources. But they didn’t stop there…
One evening, there was a raging storm. Clenia’s mother, Seraphine, rushed home as the rains pounded down harder. She began making dinner when she noticed rain dripping down the wall in front of her. As everyone sat down to eat, rainwater began to puddle on the floor and she rushed her children out of the house and into the violent rain. Just as they stepped outside, the walls of their house collapsed and their beloved home was gone. Clenia and her family had nowhere to go. The only posessions they had were the wet clothes on their backs.
The first person that Seraphine called was Clenia’s caseworker to let him know the situation. The caseworker escalated the matter so the family would be able to receive a quick intervention. Not only did Prison Fellowship Rwanda provide the family with a safe place to stay, but they assisted with repairing the family’s home, by fortifying the walls with brick and replacing their roof. Standing outside of their new home, Seraphine beamed, “My children are now safe and singing with joy. We can’t thank The Child’s Journey program enough. May all you have done be forever acknowledged by the Lord!”
Alphonse was enrolled in The Child’s Journey shortly after his father was sentenced to prison in 2016. He has always been active and friendly, frequently participating in community activities hosted by The Child’s Journey. However, his caseworker noticed that he was struggling academically. Program caseworkers are dedicated to assessing the unique needs of each child and creating a plan to ensure that they are receiving tailored support in their areas of greatest need.
She decided that Alphonse needed to receive one-on-one tutoring to assist with his studies to equip him to succeed in school. Since his mother could not afford to pay for any outside help, the caseworker scheduled a weekly appointment with the family to conduct the tutoring herself and worked to train his mother so that she could help him as well. After just a few sessions together, the difference was staggering. Once Alphonse began receiving tutoring at home, he began to excel in school. Because of this marked improvement, Prison Fellowship Togo added as a best practice for all of their caregivers to be trained to become involved in their child’s academic progress. Pictured: Alphonse and his caseworker working on his homework together
TCJ children attend an event where they are provided with de-worming medicine
Due to a variety of factors, including poverty and social stigma, children of prisoners often have difficulty accessing basic and necessary healthcare. This is why regular health checks are an essential service provided to children enrolled in The Child’s Journey. These health checks are comprised of giving an age-appropriate physical that includes recording the child’s height/weight, checking their eyesight, blood pressure and hearing, and making medical referrals for other observed medical needs. During these health checks, children may also receive targeted health interventions for medical issues that are common in their area. In Zambia, many children suffer the effects of having parasitic worms in their gastrointestinal system. This can lead to malnutrition while causing discomfort and illness. Because of the prevalence of this issue, children enrolled in The Child’s Journey in Zambia receive deworming treatments as part of their targeted health intervention.
Interested in learning more or helping even more children? CLICK HERE.
When a parent goes to prison, they leave their child at a higher risk for abuse, neglect, and crime. This is why it’s so critical that we work together to protect this vulnerable population. More than 10,000 children of prisoners have received life-giving services through The Child’s Journey®, our child sponsorship program. These services include a dedicated Christian caseworker to ensure their safety, education support and school fees, access to healthcare and supplemental food supplies, Scripture resources, and community mentoring.
Your partnership in this ministry means the world to thousands of families, and children of prisoners all over the world. As a way to say thank you, we have created this downloadable Family Activity Guide. In the United States, many families are preparing for summer break. This time can be an important one for rest and to recharge, but also for reflection and having healthy conversations with each other.
Whether you have children of your own, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, or even neighbors with children, we hope our Family Activity Guide will be a meaningful (and fun!) way to remember those in prison this summer. Inside the guide you’ll find games, stories, and interactive questions. We hope it can be a fruitful way to encourage understanding and mindfulness of the children of prisoners and their families that are served through The Child’s Journey®.
Inside you will find:
• Daily Bible verses
• Themed activities and crafts
• Inspiring stories of the impact that you are making
• Follow up questions and prayers
We pray that the activities and stories fill your days with fun, laughter, and togetherness while giving you a glimpse into the lives of children of prisoners around the world.
CLICK HERE to download your free guide today.
Given the current events in Ukraine, many people have reached out to us with concern for our brothers and sisters working with Prison Fellowship Ukraine and the surrounding ministries, and how to help.
First and foremost, we ask you to pray.
Second, you can give a gift to support our work across Europe and Central Asia. This is not emergency relief for the Ukraine – it is for what comes next.
Early estimates from the philanthropy research organization Candid has catalogued $440 million in grants and $333 million more in pledges for the victims. Those totals do not include individual donations, or donations from nonprofits and corporations that haven’t publicly reported their gifts – meaning the actual amount in aid is much higher. Our partners with the Hopebearer Foundation and many of the Prison Fellowship family have stood up around the world to provide much-needed assistance during this time of crisis.
What is not in place are support efforts for what’s to come. These long-term efforts are where Prison Fellowship International will be, as the ongoing needs will be significant. With your help, we will be there to continue sharing the Gospel with prisoners and their families.
In the meantime, please read on to hear of the herculean effort being made by the Prison Fellowship Ukraine, Romania and the Czech Republic teams to serve those most in need during this time.
Prison Fellowship Ukraine
The team in Ukraine is assisting with evacuation efforts and supplies for women and children. To date, they have helped evacuate more than 300 families and provided food packages which include flour, sugar, salt, porridge, canned food, and cookies.
An evacuation van being used by PF Ukraine to transport women and children to safety
Prisons and prisoners are are especially vulnerable at this time. Five prisons have been hit by shelling or gunfire throughout the course of the conflict. Fortunately, the prisoners and staff had been evacuated to bomb shelters, so no casualties have been reported from these incidents. Many prisons in Ukraine are a long way from urban centers leaving them unable to source food and other necessary goods while the supply chain is disrupted. Prison Fellowship Ukraine is purchasing goods including flour, tomato paste, tea, stew, and margarine, and delivering them to prisons to help sustain the prisons during this difficult time.
Groceries that were purchased by PF Ukraine for delivery
They have also purchased goods such as toilet paper, milk, rice, flour, and meat to help stock a center that is hosting Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs). The center is run by Sergei, a friend of Prison Fellowship Ukraine. He opened the center initially to host children facing difficult family situations, but recently opened the doors to others that are displaced and in need at this time.
Check out this video that PF Ukraine shared of a group of Ukrainian children of prisoners expressing their gratitude for the assistance that they have received.
Prison Fellowship Romania
Prison Fellowship Romania has stepped in to provide much needed support for refugees crossing their border. PF Romania staff and volunteers have been collecting and creating care packages that are being distributed to refugees at Sighet Border as they enter. Some volunteers from PF Romania have even opened their own homes to host refugee families.
Prison Fellowship Romania delivering goods to the warehouse at Sighet Border
Prison Fellowship Romania has welcomed 46 children with disabilities, along with their caregivers, into their social center in Cluj. They are currently providing housing and meals for these families.
Families arriving at the PF Romania’s social center in Cluj
The PF Romania team is also bravely delivering aid within Ukrainian borders. They are driving trucks full of food and other disaster relief items to the front lines where they are needed most, including a refugee shelter in Ternopil.
PF Romania volunteers delivering goods to a shelter within Ukraine
Prison Fellowship Czech Republic
Prison Fellowship Czech Republic is hard at work building support and gathering relief items for those in Ukraine. They have held collection drives in Prague and Brno to gather backpacks, sleeping bags, lamps, batteries, hygiene items, winter clothing and food to be delivered directly in Ukraine to prisoners, their families, and prisoners who have been recently been released to defend Ukraine. In addition, they have collected more than $6,000 in funds to be disbursed to refugees.
The Prison Fellowship global family has come together in a big way to support our Ukrainian brothers and sisters and we will continue to do so while praying for peace and safety within the region. Pastor Viacheslav, Executive Director of Prison Fellowship Ukraine, has remained in the country to direct the aid being disbursed by the National Ministry and pray with those who are seeking comfort.
See below for additional photos of the efforts.
Most of us have heard the saying, “It can be hard to understand someone’s struggle until you walk a mile in their shoes.” I had the privilege of visiting the Prison Fellowship team in Malawi and they invited me to walk with them both physically and spiritually as the led me through how they serve the children in The Child’s Journey®.
Our day began at 6:45 am, as we would be heading out to visit some of the children and see what a typical home visit looks like for the Malawi team. Home visits are conducted at least once per quarter for each child in the program in order to allow staff to inspect the home and ask the family about any targeted support that they may need. After driving for more than 3 hours, we came to a side road riddled with pot holes. We slowly followed it for a few miles, grateful that we hadn’t lost a tire along the way. Finally, we stopped in front of a brick hut and saw Chimwemwe (Program Coordinator), Kelvin (Sponsorship Coordinator) and James (Caseworker), getting out of their car. Chimwemwe held colorful chitenges, multi-purpose fabric that women in Malawi tie around their waist, for us to wear. “You are now Malawi women!”, she beamed as we finished tying them.
I was relieved to have arrived before I noticed that they were beginning to walk down a dirt path adjacent to where we parked. Kelvin yelled back, “We will park here and it is a short walk to the children.” The short walk to the house turned out to be 2.5 miles of washed out mountain roads – over streams, gullies and loose rocks. After more than an hour of walking – exhausted, sweaty, and bug-bitten – we finally turned into… a corn field. How they knew which row of corn to turn inside, I will never understand. Kelvin said it’s because they have “God’s GPS” in their brains. In a way, I guess that is true. If we listen to Him, He will lead us to those we can show His grace to.
The corn field opened to reveal a small brick structure with a thatched roof. Children were playing in the dirt in front of the house while a couple of neighbors were nursing their babies. Their mother had gone to harvest some food from the surrounding fields. While waiting for her, Chimwemwe introduced the children, who stared at us shyly. “What is your favorite part of the program?” she asked the oldest son. “Juice” was his succinct reply. Slowly they came over to shake our hands or sit.
When the mother returned with her harvest, Chimwemwe and James went through the questions on their home visit form: Had the children been sick? Do they need additional food supplies? How long do they anticipate their harvest will last? Are the children attending school? The responses were noted with care. After the initial questions were asked, Chimwemwe asked the mother how many people lived in the single-room home – seven. She then spoke with the family about how they could help them create an addition to the structure to give the children more space to sleep and fix leaks in the roof. The mother’s face lit up with joy as they began preparing the plan to bring those improvements to fruition. Next, Chimwemwe and James measured each child so that they could get them new school uniforms, as uniforms are required for all schooling in Malawi. As we were leaving, the mother grabbed our hands, squeezed them and quietly said, “Zikomo, zikomo.” – “Thank you, thank you.”
The trek back to our car was somehow more difficult going the other direction. We stopped multiple times to catch our breath and have relief from the blazing sun. During one of these rest stops, I realized this was the path that the children walk every day, twice, to go to school. When they say that they walk miles uphill both ways to go to school, they mean it. No buses or cars could possibly reach anywhere near their home. How do they do it? I asked Kelvin if this was an example of one of their most remote families – surely they didn’t have to walk hours for each one when they serve more than 500 children through their program. He responded, “This is a typical journey to see our families. After their family member commits a crime, they want to hide in a remote location, away from judgment. They don’t want people to find them.” The work didn’t stop once we finally got back to the car. The Malawi team began unloading backpacks, food supplies, and a Bible in the mother’s heart language. These were given to the grandfather of the children we had just visited for him to give to them the next day.
That visit showed me the true amount of work that each member of field staff puts into serving the children – and it is incredible to see. Chimwemwe described it best when she said, “Being a part of The Child’s Journey is not a job, it’s a calling. If I saw it as a job, I would always be tired. But it is my calling, so it brings me life.” We hope that you will keep our field staff in your prayers. They are so grateful for the support given by child sponsors in order to enable them to live their calling and provide care to the children of prisoners.