There are currently around 200,000 children in England and Wales who have a parent in prison. Special times of the year, such as Christmas and birthdays, can be especially hard, both for the parent and the child.
Here at St Luke’s, we have two prisons practically on our doorstep. So this Christmas, we took part in the Angel Tree project, run by the Prison Fellowship. The scheme arranges for the children of offenders to receive a Christmas gift from their parent (as long as the parent is allowed contact with their child). The gifts and connection bring joy to youngsters who may be missing mum or dad during the festive season, and helps to support family relationships, which often break down when someone is incarcerated. As well as benefiting the child’s wellbeing and development, family contact has been shown to significantly reduce re-offending rates.
Different members of St Luke’s each signed up to buy a gift for a particular child. These were wrapped and sent to the child with a card written by their parent (confidentiality is essential, so personal details aren’t revealed to volunteers). A Christian story book was also included, if the parent wished. A card was then forwarded to the parent, telling them what their child had received on their behalf, and sending good wishes for the festive season.
We think Angel Tree is a great initiative, and we’re delighted to have been involved. Many thanks to Ruth Skinner for organising our part in the project this year.
Angel Tree is currently running in over 80 prisons in England and Wales. You can find out more and get involved at http://www.prisonfellowship.org.uk/what-we-do/angel-tree/