“When I was asked to participate in the Sycamore Tree Project: Justice and Peace (STP) to share my experience of being the victim of a crime, I felt that sharing my experience would be beneficial for the course participants. Soon after accepting the invitation to participate, I began to internalize what happened so that I could contribute to the program and I started to get cold feet as I became more aware of what I would be doing in the prison.
One thing that gave me security was that the facilitators assured me while I was participating inside the prison, I would be part of the Prison Fellowship Uruguay team and would be cared for by them. Something that also caught my attention was the fact that I was told that in STP, the victim is also a part of the recovery process towards freedom from the crime. I honestly did not understand what that meant until I was in the prison and speaking with the STP participants.
Before entering the prison, there were many emotions stirring within me. All of my uneasy feelings went away when I got into the prison.
The facilitators instructed me on what to do, and it really helped me feel like I was one of them. Although I did not express it, I felt a great sadness as I entered the prison because of the large youth population. Once the class started, I felt the sadness in my heart disappear. The facilitators created a calm and pleasant atmosphere, and I could see that the participants were paying attention to what was being shared. I did not feel uncomfortable despite never having entered the prison to talk about my life before. As the course proceeded, I became more aware that I was sharing my experience with those who have caused others a similar or greater evil than my own.
As I was sharing what was happening within me during and after such an experience, I felt a sense of freedom from what I experienced. This produced a sense of healing that went beyond the material! It allowed me to put into words how I felt, for the first time in my life.
On an emotional level, I felt that I had connected with many of the prisoners in the course. I know that they are in prison to pay for their crime, but if at least one can take the opportunity to reintegrate into society using the lessons from STP, then being a victim participant is worth it.”
Daiana, Victim [Montevideo, Uruguay]
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
The quality of life for hundreds of children in Malawi is about to improve thanks to a new partnership agreement between Prison Fellowship International and Prison Fellowship Malawi. After a year of preparation, Prison Fellowship International’s child sponsorship program launched in Malawi on November 1. The program commenced with the enrollment of the first 140 children, who will receive food, clothing, access to education, regular medical check-ups, and spiritual and emotional care.
There are millions of children around the world who have lost one or both parents to imprisonment. Many live in dire circumstances, struggling to live a normal, safe, healthy life while their parent–often the family’s breadwinner–is behind bars. Some are forced to beg for food or must drop out of school to work in dangerous conditions. And many are stigmatized and discriminated against for being associated with a criminal.
Prison Fellowship International’s child sponsorship program works in partnership with Prison Fellowship affiliates around the world to rescue, restore, and rebuild the lives of poor and vulnerable children of prisoners. The program ensures children have safe housing and protection from exploitation, and abuse, as well as proper nutrition, medical care, access to education, and the opportunity to develop emotional and spiritual strength. In addition, the program helps children maintain a relationship with their incarcerated parent, which is vital to their wellbeing.
“Prison Fellowship Malawi has been part of the Prison Fellowship International family for nearly 20 years, and their heart and passion for prisoners and their families is at the core of their organization,” said Michele Leith, associate program manager at Prison Fellowship International. “Over the last five years, the child sponsorship program has grown to reaching nearly 6,000 children around the world. With Malawi as our newest program partner, we know that thousands of children who are currently hidden and wondering where their next meal will come from or afraid of what their future holds will be seen, known, and loved, and have a chance for a brighter future.”
The child sponsorship program currently serves 5,716 children throughout Cambodia, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Malawi, Nepal, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Togo, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Over the next year, Prison Fellowship Malawi plans to expand care to 300 children of prisoners. And by 2024, Prison Fellowship International aims to expand the program to serve 800 children in Malawi. Visit pfintldev.wpengine.com/malawi for more information or to sponsor a child from Malawi.
Prison Fellowship Malawi was founded in 2001 and is active in 30 of the country’s prisons. This story was originally posted on Christian News Wire.
Aubrey was one of the first children registered into the child sponsorship program in Malawi. He is a shy, curious, and charming six-year-old boy who lives in a rural village with his baby brother, mother, and grandmother. The Prison Fellowship Malawi team and Prison Fellowship International staff met with the family on the front porch of their home to complete registration. The registration process collects information about children and their families to enroll children into the program. It also allows the program team to identify a child’s imminent needs and how program support can help.
During registration, Aubrey’s mother shared that she could not afford to send Aubrey to first grade, because the country’s school fees—which equates to $1 USD— were too high. She said Aubrey loved school and it saddened her that he was not able to go. That was the first time Aubrey spoke up, saying he wanted to go to school, but couldn’t. A few moments later a large group of students walked down the street past Aubrey’s home. He immediately ran to the street to watch the children walk by. It was clear Aubrey longed to be a part of that group.
Through program support, Aubrey has returned to school. His mother is relieved of the overwhelming burden of school fees. Aubrey now has the same opportunities as his peers. Through the child sponsorship program and the generosity of people like you the barriers that prevented Aubrey from attending school are removed, helping to pave the way toward a brighter future for him and his family!
Give Now to Support a Child in Need
It is with great sadness that the Prison Fellowship International (PFI) board of directors announces the death of Board Chair Ian Elliott, who suffered a brief illness.
“Ian was a man whose life exuded love, care, encouragement, and generosity—especially for the people of Prison Fellowship International and the prisoners of the world,” said PFI President and CEO Andrew Corley. “He lived out his belief that the world is full of great people—and he was one of them. His counsel, courage, and care will live on in our lives in a way that defines what a true legacy is.”
Ian Elliott served on PFI’s board of directors for 25 years, bringing his passion for people and the love and kindness of God to thousands of prisoners, ex-prisoners, their families, and victims of crime. He will be greatly missed.
Prison Fellowship International (PFI) announced that its Board of Directors has appointed Andy Corley as President and CEO, effective immediately. To ensure a seamless transition, outgoing CEO Frank J. Lofaro will remain on PFI’s executive leadership team, providing strategic counsel as Senior Vice President.
“Andy Corley has been a vital part of Prison Fellowship International for the past seven years and emerged at just the right time as this organization’s next leader,” says Lofaro. “He brings a lot of unique business experience and has a gifting and passion for shaping corporate culture with a Bible-based worldview. I believe this is the kind of energy our organization needs to succeed at the next level.”
Corley is an innovative leader with more than 30 years of leadership experience from global companies to entrepreneurial start-ups. He developed his strategic thinking and leadership skills in various management and director roles in global construction materials companies, including Lafarge and Hanson Brick Europe. Throughout his career, Corley transformed a number of underperforming companies and divisions into award-winning enterprises. Having a passion for Christian ministry, Corley served as an advisor and board member to a number of internationally focused faith-based organisations, most notably as chair of the people committee for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries EMEA Region. Corley has been an integral part of PFI, serving as board treasurer since 2012. His love of people and travel has taken him to 46 countries over the past 30 years.
“I am honored to lead Prison Fellowship International during this important time in the ministry’s growth,” says Corley. “During my time on the Board, I have personally witnessed the impact this organization has made on the lives of tens of thousands of people marginalized by crime and incarceration. My vision is for us to be so Jesus focused and excellent in our work that the church family is mobilized, energized, and encouraged and others would be inspired to act on behalf of the marginalized because of the difference we’re already making.”
Assuming the role of Senior Vice President, Lofaro will help ensure the successful transition of Corley to President and CEO through the provision of strategic counsel. Lofaro served as CEO since 2014, having joined the organization in 1993 as executive director and serving as COO from 2012 to 2014. Under his leadership, PFI launched and grew the following three core programs worldwide:
– The Prisoner’s Journey® (prison evangelism and discipleship) has reached nearly 400,000 prisoners in 30 countries with the message of the Gospel. Sixty-seven percent of graduates continue onto discipleship courses.
– The redesigned Sycamore Tree Project: Justice and Peace®: Justice and Peace (restorative justice) has graduated nearly 1,500 prisoners in 2 countries.
– The children of prisoners sponsorship program cares for the safety, health, education, and emotional and spiritual wellbeing of nearly 4,500 children of prisoners in eight countries.
“Prison Fellowship International has thrived under Frank Lofaro’s leadership” says Corley. “He has positioned the organization for tremendous growth through prison ministry programs that are already transforming the lives of tens of thousands of prisoners, ex-prisoners, children of prisoners, and victims of crime. My goal is to continue to build momentum on the foundation he has laid.”
Over the next several months, Corley will lead PFI’s efforts to transform the lives of prisoners and their families through strong partnerships with the organization’s nearly 120 worldwide affiliates.
Read Andy’s full bio
Photo: Norman Nyakapadza could not hold back his expression of love for his family, after he enveloped his wife and children in an embrace.
Children of prisoners in Zimbabwe are celebrating after Prison Fellowship Zimbabwe (PFZ), an affiliate of Prison Fellowship International (PFI), successfully lobbied to overturn a prison visitation ban. This is a breakthrough for Zimbabwean children of prisoners under 18 years old, who were not permitted to visit anyone in prison—even their incarcerated parent.
“There is a growing awareness and evidence, globally, of the significant impact on children and inmates when children can visit their parent in prison,” says PFI’s International Director of Child Sponsorship Adam Hutchinson. “Studies show children who maintain a connection with their incarcerated parent report higher feelings of safety, stability, and overall emotional wellbeing. There is always a reduced likelihood of a parent re-offending after release, meaning families are stronger and children are better care for.”
After a series of meetings with the Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Service to present prison visitation as a rehabilitative tool for prisoner behavior, children from five families in PFZ’s children of prisoners program were granted visitation. Some, like 10-year-old Precious, had not seen their fathers in nearly a decade.
“Feedback from these families is that the children’s behavior changed positively and they couldn’t stop talking about such a memorable event,” says Wilson Femayi, PFZ children of prisoners program manager. “The prison social workers also reported a remarkable behavioral change in inmates who met with their families for the first time.”
After the successful trial visitations, government officials agreed to institute an annual visitation week open to all children of prisoners throughout the country. The impact of this decision has encouraged Prison Fellowship International affiliates in Rwanda and Zambia to make similar appeals to their own prison visitation laws, which are already yielding similar results.
About Children of Prisoners Sponsorship:
Prison Fellowship International’s child sponsorship program helps rescue, restore, and rebuild the lives of innocent children of prisoners throughout eight countries. Through one-to-one sponsorship relationships, children receive access to food, medical care, education, safety, and spiritual and emotional support. Prison Fellowship International affiliates deliver these services through partnerships with local government, NGOs, and churches.