Maintaining strong family ties is a proven way of reducing reoffending. Prison Fellowship created their Angel Tree project as a way to help offenders keep the communication channels open with their children at home, and of course last year this was more important than ever. It’s a simple concept: a parent who is in prison requests a gift for their child and writes a gift tag. Volunteers buy and wrap the presents, and they are delivered to the family at home.
Arthur, a Prison Fellowship volunteer, retired late 2001. In 2003, he started out volunteering as part of the Chaplaincy team at HMP Risley. At Christmas he would help wrap the presents, now he’s organising the Angel Tree project at HMP/YOI Thorn Cross. “I’ve got some of the forms in front of me now, this one is for a 3 year old girl who likes Peppa Pig. I’m sure I’ll find something for her no problem. The offenders fill in a form about their children’s ages and interests, so that we can buy them a gift they’ll really love. Then they write a gift tag to go on it, this one says ‘Happy Christmas. Love and miss you, love Daddy.’”
“When we think about people in prison, we naturally think about their crimes. Yes they’ve made mistakes, but they’re also just like anybody else; they love their children and their children love them. This project really helps the offenders with the pain of separation. It provides a positive link between the parent and the child, and this year we’ve needed that more than ever with visiting being so restricted.”
Arthur told us the story of a father who asked for a gift for his 7 year old son, a Ben 10 figure. The little boy won’t go to bed without it; these children feel the pain of separation too, and a gift from an absent parent is a symbol that they are not forgotten.
Last year your donations to CCF bought 150 Christmas presents for parents at HMP/YOI Thorn Cross, HMP Risley and HMP/YOI Styal. Theresa is a mum of three who sent her children gifts through the Angel Tree project, and it was a defining moment when receiving this kindness made her feel human for the first time. As she says in this video, a gift is a small thing, but it can plant a seed that will grow in someone’s life that will bring change and ultimately, freedom.