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.”
As soon as Prison Fellowship Zambia learned of the COVID-19 pandemic, they realized the probable impact in Zambia and sprang into action.
Sensing an imminent lockdown, the staff wasted no time in organizing a food distribution for caregivers of children in the program. At the distribution, they enforced social distancing and kept the groups to ten people. They also provided information about COVID-19. Each caregiver received instruction on handwashing, hygiene, and social distancing practices.
Since the lockdown in Zambia, the staff has used innovative ways to serve children, like connecting through phone calls and WhatsApp.
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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.
Pictured: Three-year-old Kunda, Ndola, Zambia.
At just 3, Kunda is already an outcast in his community. His neighbors laugh at him, and call him names. They throw garbage in his yard, and won’t let him go near their homes. It’s too much for someone who is so young—whose life has barely begun.
Kunda and his siblings, Lucy and Jackson, were all under the age of five when their father was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Shortly after his sentence, their mother abandoned them, too.
Help Children Like Kunda
Their grandmother, Payder, is now their primary caretaker.
Kunda, Lucy, and Jackson live in Nkwazi, one of the poorest, most densely populated communities in Ndola, Zambia. During the day, they scavenge for food as they wait for Payder to come home from the market where she sells vegetables. In the evening, Payder brings a pack of maize to cook a meal.
Pictured: Nkwazi, a rural community in the north of Ndola, has some of the poorest living standards in Zambia. Here, neighborhood children eat their evening meal.
Payder puts on a brave face to encourage her grandchildren, but she knows they need more than what she is able to provide. She simply cannot earn enough for food, let alone clothing and school supplies. Payder says in private moments she cries out to God for help.
“[I tell God] not to let me down. I ask Him for wisdom on how I will [take care of] the children.”
Perhaps most heartbreaking is the stigma attached to the Kunda and his siblings. When a parent goes to prison, their children suffer most. They not only endure the loss of a provider, but the rejection of family, friends, and community. Because their father is a prisoner, they have been deemed unworthy. Neighbors mock them, and they are the victims of vicious rumors, rejection, and even hate crimes.
“Once, we found a dead dog dumped inside [our house],” says Payder. “Sometimes we would find garbage strewn about. Neighbors called our home a garbage dump. Others called it a toilet. But I still call it a home.”
When the rainy season comes, every December through March, the little family’s home—a dilapidated mud hut—cannot protect them from the downpours.
Pictured: A mud-brick house with a makeshift roof in Ndola, Zambia.
“When the rains come at night, our roof leaks so badly I have to grab the children and rush outside,” says Payder.
They would huddle under a tree until the rains let up.
Once Kunda was enrolled in our child sponsorship program, the family’s situation improved. Our sponsorship team visits Kunda regularly to ensure he and his siblings are well-fed, able to go to school, and they help provide any safety repairs to the family’s home.
Help the Children of Prisoners
Sadly, their neighbors continued to taunt.
“People in the community laughed at us, saying, ‘[These people] will not repair your home. That’s a lie!'” says Payder.
But the family persisted in their faith.
“I said since God is there, and He watches over these children He will never fail us,” says Payder. “And that’s when our house was rebuilt. I pray my new home is not only a safe and dry place for my family,” says Payder, “but a place of light and community for others.”
Pictured: Kunda and his sister Lucy play outside their new home, built through the assistance of Prison Fellowship Zambia and the child sponsorship program.
Life continues to improve the Kunda and his family. They enjoy regular walks to the Prison Fellowship Zambia office, where they pick up their monthly food and school supplies, and clothing. They family is also connected with a local church and attends a weekly, community Bible study for families of prisoners, where they can learn about God, make new friends, and find acceptance.
Pictured (L–R): Lucy, Kunda, and Payder pose outside their new home—a welcoming "place of light" for the community.
Help a child like Kunda experience hope for the future.
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Learn more about our child sponsorship program
I Want to Be a Part of This
Mr. Saihemba is an officer in a Chondwe prison in Zambia. As he observed the inmates participating in The Prisoner’s Journey® evangelism and discipleship program, and the heart changes that occurred within them.
“This is the ministry of the century, and I want to be a part of it,” he says.
Help us continue to reach out to prisoners, their families, and even prison officials with the love of Christ.
Learn more about The Prisoner’s Journey®
Five years ago, Beauty’s father was imprisoned and her mother passed away. She and her siblings live in Zambia with an aunt, who is also raising her own child, plus three children of another deceased relative in their crowded, little home.
Beauty’s aunt was abandoned by her husband, and she struggled to pay for the children’s schooling and provide enough food. One child was already sent home from school because of unpaid fees.
Today, support from our child sponsorship program helps Beauty and the other children get enough food to meet their nutritional needs, and helps cover the cost of school and uniform fees, so the children are now back in school.
Beauty is thrilled to have shoes and new school uniform. She likes learning English, loves to read.
“I want to be a teacher when I am older.”
Give a child like Beauty a chance to dream.
Learn more about our child sponsorship program