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.
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.
Sandrine’s father passed away and her mother is incarcerated. She is trying to find her way in life but without the support, love, and guidance of her parents. Her future looked hopeless. And with no hope for a future, there seemed little reason to continue school.
Three years ago, Sandrine was enrolled in The Child’s Journey. She was given emotional and spiritual support, as well as tuition and nutrition assistance. “The services I received through the program have improved my life in many ways,” she says. “The support enabled me to continue my studies and prepare to have a brilliant future.”
What helped Sandrine regain hope and joy the most was receiving regular calls and visits from the program team. Team members and volunteers regularly contact Sandrine to check in with how she is doing emotionally, in her school work, health-wise, and if she has a safe living environment. “Knowing someone cares about my life makes my burdens less heavy to carry,” she says.
The Child’s Journey program stands in the gap for the children of prisoners, like Sandrine, who are otherwise overlooked and ostracized. Because Sandrine was sponsored and enrolled in the program, hope for a brighter future and trust in other people has been restored. Sandrine says, “May God bless the program and all individuals who, near or far, contribute to this support.”
As COVID-19 begins to level out in Cambodia, some parts of life are returning to normal. Children are going back to school equipped with masks, school supplies, bookbags, bikes, and the love of learning. But for children of prisoners, their daily challenges continue and “back-to-school” is never a guarantee.
Many children of prisoners in Cambodia live in rural areas where it may be difficult to access education. Others simply cannot afford the small fees for school materials and uniforms and often will drop out of school and work to help provide for their families.
Our partner organizations—such as Prison Fellowship Cambodia—along with caring child sponsors are helping us protect children of prisoners in Cambodia by providing food, clothes, safety, spiritual and emotional care, and assistance to stay in school. Items as small as school supplies and money for uniforms can help children of prisoners—who are often stigmatized for having a parent in prison—feel welcomed among their peers and allow them to focus on their studies rather than their appearance. And a simple bicycle provides a small safety net to travel to and from school.
Ranata, a child of a prisoner, is grateful to return to school and for the help from her faithful sponsor. “I am so happy to get a school bag and money to pay for my school fees! I would like to thank Prison Fellowship Cambodia and my sponsor for helping.”
Prison Fellowship Cambodia continues to rise to these challenges, providing at-risk children and families essentials to meet the needs of their daily lives. And they’re making sure sponsors can see the difference they’re making in the lives of these precious children. Recently, Cambodia completed their Annual Progress Report campaign called “I Am Wonderfully Made!” where children shared with their sponsors—through notes, drawings, and health reports—how they’re progressing with their support.
When you sponsor a child of a prisoner you help provide essential items that make all the difference to their self-esteem and their safety.
Breaking the cycle of crime is difficult. But through a holistic approach that cares for prisoners’ spiritual lives, physical needs, and family relationships, it’s not just possible—it’s happening. Florence, a prisoner and a mother of two from Zambia, will tell you.
“I was sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor,” says Florence. “I felt sorry for myself, but there was nothing I could do at the time.”
When Florence went to prison, she left her young daughters, Ketty and Chisenga, in her father’s care, but he struggled to provide for their needs. Ketty and Chisenga stopped going to school because they couldn’t afford to buy shoes, clothes, and school supplies.
“I was so annoyed with myself because I was the one who had been providing for them, but now I couldn’t,” says Florence.
When it seemed hope was lost, a team from Prison Fellowship Zambia visited Florence’s prison to tell the inmates about a program that cared specifically for children of prisoners by providing them with food, clothing, spiritual care, home visits, and helping them pay for school fees.
Florence immediately registered her girls and, through Prison Fellowship Zambia, saw something greater at work in her life. While the staff sought out her children in their hometown, volunteers began visiting Florence and sharing about God’s love and faithfulness.
“I have seen the hand of God in my life,” says Florence. “I saw it while in prison. . . . After hearing the Word of God, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. That very day was the beginning of my transformation.”
To learn more about what it looks like to follow Jesus, Florence joined Prison Fellowship International’s in-prison evangelization program, The Prisoner’s Journey®. Through it, she learned more about who Jesus is and what he calls her to do with her life. After graduating from the eight-week program, Florence decided to take her faith one step further and join Prison Fellowship International’s Sycamore Tree Project, where she learned what it looks like to take responsibility for her action and make amends to the people she hurt.
Florence now considers herself a changed woman with a new focus in life.
“The greatest desire of my heart now is the Bible. I am very grateful to God and to Prison Fellowship Zambia. [They are] Indeed doing amazing things in the lives of inmates and their children.”
Samuel in Colombia is no stranger to difficulty. At five years old, he faces physical challenges and developmental delays due to complications at birth that affected his brain. He is prone to frequent convulsions, has difficulty walking, and must still wear a diaper.
But that’s not all.
Samuel is also growing up without a father because his father is in prison. When the breadwinner of the family goes to prison, families are often left in dire situations and the mother or grandparents are left to work and care for her children alone. Children are often scarred emotionally from their parental separation and from the stigma and isolation they experience among their peers and communities because it is shameful to be associated with a prisoner. Despite their innumerable challenges, Samuel’s mother lovingly cares for him. Still, she struggles to give him everything he needs.
Samuel recently joined Prison Fellowship Colombia’s children of prisoner sponsorship program, which has provided additional support to help lift their burdens. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Colombia, health was an important part of PF Colombia’s children’s program, providing food, training caregivers on health and safety issues, and monitoring the mental and emotional health of children and caregivers. And PF Colombia provides specific training and support for children with special health needs, like Samuel.
Samuel’s mother says she is comforted by the spiritual and emotional support and strengthened by the material assistance. With it, she is able to provide Samuel the dignified life he deserves, and Samuel will grow up knowing he is loved by many.
Give Now to Provide Special Support for Children Like Samuel
Twelve-year-old Seethal remembers the day the floodwaters seeped into her home and rose. In October 2019, India receive the heaviest monsoon rainfall in 25 years, leaving homes, shops, and hospitals waterlogged and many families in danger and displaced. Seethal’s family was one of the lucky ones, as a rescue team brought her, her mother, and brother to safety. Their home, however, suffered a great deal of damage and many of Seethal and her family’s precious few belongings had washed away.
As a child of a prisoner, Seethal and her family have already lost so much. Prison Fellowship India (PF India) stepped in to help, enrolling Seethal in the children of prisoners sponsorship program, which provides her with regular food, clothes, educational, emotional, and spiritual support through a one-to-one connection with a child sponsor. Together, Seethal’s family and PF India prayed for God’s provision. He answered their prayers through Seethal’s sponsor, who provided a special monetary gift.
Amazed and grateful, the family used the money to make a partial repair to their home and buy Seethal a new dress to replace one she lost in the flood. Their home was in need of more repairs, but the family continued to trust God. And then, unbidden, Seethal’s sponsor sent another gift! The money was enough to finish their home repairs and replace more goods lost in the flood.
The support of a sponsor can mean so much to a child of a prisoner and have the power to restore more than material goods, including their hope and faith in a God who cares for them deeply.
Give a Child of a Prisoner the Gift of Hope
Melody did not feel good about herself. Her mom noticed when her grades started dropping and she no longer wanted to go to school. At the tender age of 10, all Melody wanted was to fit in with her peers, but she says she felt different.
Melody is different. She is the child of a prisoner, and in countries like Zimbabwe it is shameful to have a parent in prison. Families like hers are often cast aside by their communities and to make things worse, they often cannot afford life basics such as food, shelter, and clothes—let alone school uniforms.
Melody did not have a school uniform, and this made her stand out even more.
“Without a uniform, I don’t feel like I belong,” she said.
For children like Melody, a school uniform can mean the difference between loneliness and a sense of belonging—something Melody desperately needs at this critical time in her life.
The Children of Prisoners Program staff in Zimbabwe encourage the continued education of each child in the program, which includes providing support for school supplies and materials, including uniforms. They provided Melody with two dresses, two pairs of socks, and a pair of shoes for school.
Melody was humbled and grateful. She knelt in thanks as she received the package from Prison Fellowship Zimbabwe.
“Thank you so much,” she said. “Go and pass my gratitude to others!”
Melody now feels much better about herself and can be seen at school happily chatting and playing with her classmates. The gift of a simple uniform has helped Melody see something she couldn’t see before: a future.
“The sky is the limit!” she says.
That’s the difference a uniform makes.
Give Now to Provide Uniforms for Children Like Melody
One of the most important things we do is help children and families maintain a connection to their incarcerated parent. And nothing brings us more joy than when children, like 12-year-old Esther in Rwanda, and their parent reunite.
In Rwanda, many challenges, such as distance, financial resources, and even legal visitation restrictions, inhibit children from visiting a parent who is in prison. Many children have not seen their parents in years, if ever. Esther was one of those children.
“I often dreamed of looking in my father’s eyes,” says Esther. “I am thankful my dreams became real . . . I hope to see him again.”
Esther is grateful to Prison Fellowship in Rwanda, who made this reunion possible. She knows from experience that maintaining this relationship is vital to her wellbeing.
“Studies show children who maintain a connection with their incarcerated parent report higher feelings of safety, stability, and overall emotional wellbeing,” says International Director of Child Sponsorship Adam Hutchinson. “There is always a reduced likelihood of a parent reoffending after release, meaning families are stronger and children are better cared for.
When you partner with Prison Fellowship International, you become a vital part of this important work taking place in 116 countries.
Give a Child of a Prisoner the Gift of Hope
Lina1 will never forget the day her phone rang and the voice on the other end of the line told her, “Your husband has been arrested.”
“Our life was once very stable,” says Lina. But from then on, everything changed.
Devastated by the sudden separation from their father and the shift in their lives, Lina’s children Yefry, Maria Jose, and Larry started to act out socially and emotionally. They became disengaged, disobedient, and anxious.
The impact of parental incarceration on child development can be devastating. Many, like Lina’s children, suffer from antisocial behaviors such as depression and aggression, because they don’t know how to process the trauma of losing a parent. They often struggle in school and are shunned by their peers for being associated with a prisoner. And children with a parent in prison are five to seven times more likely to repeat criminal behaviors than children whose parents are not in prison.
Prison Fellowship International’s children of prisoners sponsorship program exists to serve these unique needs of children of prisoners.
“One Sunday, a friend told me about Prison Fellowship Colombia and the children of prisoners sponsorship program,” says Lina.
Lina registered her children in the program and says she’s grateful for the newfound support.
Her children are now part of a loving and accepting community that understands their pain and their needs. The program provides them with school kits and food packs. And they enjoy recreational activities with other children of prisoners and psychological support from trusted professionals.
“We ask God to multiply blessings for all the people who are part of [this] program,” says Lina.
Give Now to Support a Family in Need
1Names changed to protect the wife of a prisoner