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
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.
L–R: Precious, Tsitsi, and Ronald at their old home outside Harare, Zimbabwe.
Ten-year-old Precious reunited with her father earlier this year after an eight-year separation. Until now, Zimbabwean law did not permit children under 18 to visit anyone in prison—even their incarcerated parent.
But through the tireless work of Prison Fellowship Zimbabwe, the law was reversed for Precious and four other families of prisoners in our child sponsorship program.
This a breakthrough for children of prisoners in Zimbabwe. Maintaining a connection with their incarcerated parent creates emotional stability, by helping them know their parent is safe, present, and still cares about them.
Precious and her four siblings were abandoned when their father was sent away. Their mother Jacquelyn suffered a debilitating stroke under the stress of working and caring for five children alone.
Mother Jacqueline immobilized after a stroke, forcing her 5 children to fend for themselves.
Jacqueline eventually moved to town where her sister could care for her, leaving her children to squat illegally in a rundown, two-room hut in a maize field.
The children's home in the middle of a maize field.
“My children were so young,” says Jacquelyn. “It worried me. What would they do for food, for laundry? Could they go to school?”
Twenty-two-year-old Morgan, Precious’s oldest brother, became the man of the house when he was just 14 years old. He’s been supporting his family ever since. Worries about his future and about his siblings weigh heavily on his mind.
Lord Remember Me cares for his siblings, while brother Morgan works. L–R: Precious, Lord Remember Me, Tsitsi, Ronald.
While Morgan works, 17-year-old Lord Remember Me cooks and cleans. For a long time, the children lived on a maize flour dish called nshima. Occasionally, they also had a few vegetables and were lucky to eat twice a day.
The children's makeshift kitchen at their old home.
“Some of the time we are afraid,” says 13-year-old Ronald. “The most frightening thing was mum was not around.”
Now enrolled in the child sponsorship program, the children’s situation is dramatically improved.
We helped them qualify for government-funded housing and build a new, safer home closer to town. The children re-enrolled in school, and the family receives regular food supplements. And now, with the visitation ban reversed, they can nurture their relationship with their father and begin a journey toward emotional healing.
Tsitsi and Ronald at their old home outside Harare, Zimbabwe.
Help children like Precious and her siblings experience hope for the future.
Donate Now or Sponsor a Child
Learn more about our child sponsorship program
Finding Acceptance in School
In the rural outskirts of Harare, lives young Onias and his elderly grandparents. Onias doesn’t remember his parents. When he was only one year old, his father was sentenced to 37-years in prison for three counts of armed robbery, and his mother abandoned him for a new life in South Africa.
Though he was young when they left him, he is still profoundly impacted by his parents’ desertion. And his curiosity about them only grows with each passing year. Emotion pools in his grandparents eyes, spilling over, as they recall how painful it was to tell Onias the truth:
Before his grandparents took him in, Onias was an unwanted child of a prisoner.
His self-esteem plummeted and school performance deteriorated. His classmates scorned and teased him. He began to skip school and keep to himself.
“When the child sponsorship program was introduced to us at our school through Prison Fellowship Zimbabwe . . . we considered it an answered prayer for Onias,” says Mr. Thembo, his teacher.
Something as simple as a new school uniform helped restore Onias’s self-esteem. With tears running down his face, Onias explains, “[In my old uniform] I felt like I was being rejected by other students in my class, and there was nothing I could do to be like them.”
“Because of his new uniform and new pair of shoes, Onias is confident, and on par with the rest of the pupils in his class,” says Mr. Thembo.
And for the first time in Onias’s life, he has friends in school.
Help a child like Onias build their confidence and self-esteem.
Give a Child of a Prisoner the Gift of Hope
Learn more about our child sponsorship program
A Safe Place to Live
The prisons in Zimbabwe are overrun with nearly 19,000 prisoners—a number that has steadily increased over the last few years. Sadly, it’s their families left behind who suffer most.
Mothers must feed little mouths on scarce incomes and few resources. Children face the cruel reality of judgment and discrimination from their peers and communities for being related to a prisoner. Some experience the violent reality of the streets.
And many are swept, all-too-quickly, from childhood to adulthood, as they drop out of school and work to help their families get by.
When Juliet’s husband was incarcerated, she was left alone in a dangerously rundown house with her six children.
“It seemed everything turned against us,” says Juilet. “I used to ask God, ‘Why me?’”
In her despair, she considered abandoning her children.
“I did not know how I was going to look after six children.”
Juliet found piecemeal work, but it was not enough. During a visit to Chikurubi Maximum Prison, Juliet’s husband begged Prison Fellowship Zimbabwe staff to care for his family.
In September 2015, after a year of preparation, Prison Fellowship Zimbabwe became the eighth country to partner with our child sponsorship program, allowing more families of prisoners to receive assistance in the areas of safety, health, education, and spiritual care.
The program assisted the Zindoga family to move into safe and stable home, and help the children go to school.
Give families like Juliet’s help and hope.
Sponsor a Child
Learn about our child sponsorship program