Helping Prisoners and their Families

 

Life in a Zambian prison can be a dismal experience.

S3767 Zambia project profile-4When prisoners are released in Zambia, all too often they enter a new state of imprisonment, locked into poverty, as they find nobody will employ them, and they can be shunned by family and community. This leaves thousands of former prisoners without any way to rebuild their lives, even when they are ready to work hard and make a fresh start. “Most of them are destitute,” write our partners.

The NGO we are shipping to has worked closely with more than 20,000 prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families in Zambia since they were founded in the 1980’s. To prisoners, they give counsel and support, as well as meeting material needs of those who have nobody to bring clothing, blankets or medicines not provided by the institution. For those who are released, they help with advice, counsel and small business loans to help people start afresh. Children and families of prisoners are often left deeply impoverished, and sometimes shunned themselves. Our partners care for their needs with clothes, blankets and other necessities, as well as financial help for schooling. Crossroads’ shipment will help boost their supplies of goods for distribution, and will support the administration of their programmes.

Shipment includes:

  • Clothing, shoes and blankets for former prisoners and their families
  • Computers for administration and training

 

S3767 Zambia project profile-11Life in a Zambian prison can be a dismal experience. Our partners offer counselling, advice, medical care and support to the prisoners themselves and to prisoners’ families. “They are discriminated against because of their association with prisoners,” write our partners. Often families lose their primary breadwinner when a father and husband is imprisoned.

 

 

This shipment will include goods to aid many more former prisoners and their families, like the children below.

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Zambia Snapshot

Population: 14.83 million
Capital: Lusaka
Zambia is a beautiful, landlocked country in Southern Africa, with a tropical climate.

74.5% of people in Zambia live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 per day.
40% of children are involved in some kind of child labour
1.1 million people are living with HIV.

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When Typhoon Sendong hit the Philippines in December 2011, Merlinda and her husband knew they were looking death in the face. If they stayed in their village, Dumaguete, they and their two daughters would have little chance.

“The water was this high,” recalls Merlinda, holding her hand above her neckline. “We had to carry the kids till we got on a boat.”

They were more fortunate than many. The catastrophic flooding caused by Typhoon Sendong killed at least 1,268 people in the Philippines.

After the water receded, Merlinda and her family were doubly fortunate in finding their hut still standing. They did, however, lose all their clothes, bedding and household utensils – items our warehouse holds in abundance.

 Community Business Day of Action 2011

What this family, along with many of their devastated compatriots, most needed were emergency supplies for basic living. Within weeks, our volunteers sent a 40’ shipping container on its way to the Philippines, loaded with 1,430 blankets, more than 800 hygiene kits, and hundreds of toothbrushes, carry bags, water bottles, kitchen utensil kits and drinking cups.

Rebuilding the village could take months. Rebuilding lives will take even longer. We were delighted, though, to take the beginning of this journey with them and we now regularly ship to the Philippines to partner with its courageous people.

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Philippines Snapshot

Population: 98,39 million
Capital: Manila

Population living below international poverty line of US$1.25 per day: 26.5%

Government statistics indicate that 1.57% of people in the Philippines are living with a disability.  97% of people living with disabilities are not being reached by the public school system.A51

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As the days wear on in the tragic aftermath of the Sichuan quake, the suffering deepens. 5 million survivors, now homeless, endure the daily battle with rain, exposure to the hostile elements and the threat of disease.

“In the days immediately following the quake,” said our Crossroads worker in the field, “people settled in the open spaces. The problem has now become that there is little option for shelter in these areas. Groups of 20 people have been huddling in shelters made for 7.”

Through the generosity of DHL, Crossroads was able to send 15 tonnes of plastic sheeting, blankets and medical supplies into the quake zone. Red Cross and Crossroads volunteers met the emergency flight in Chengdu and escorted the relief items on a 12 hour journey along partially collapsed roads. The final destination was a village in Qingchuan County, in an area that had been cordoned off due to the spread of disease.

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“Into this situation, the gift of shelter is unimaginable,” the Crossroads worker commented. “As we delivered the aid, words of thanks kept coming from everyone, from the gas station attendants who were filling the tanks, to the ladies serving the food, the officials, and finally the people most deeply affected. On every side they were saying, ‘Thank you for what you are doing to help our people and China.’

We are deeply grateful to DHL for the strategic provision of its core competencies in this catastrophic situation.

This was the second round of aid that we have prepared for the earthquake zone. Working from pre-positioned materials and in cooperation with KPMG we have also sent two containers of relief supplies.

Within China, Crossroads is partnering with the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation: a registered China charitable organisation with distribution facilities in Sichuan, and head office in Beijing.

Help continues to be needed as we are committed to assisting not only in this current emergency situation but for the lengthy process of rebuilding.

“The people are relieved for a moment when you bring them the goods,” said the Crossroads worker, “but when we ask them about the future, their eyes well in despair. Whole towns have gone. Fields for crops and livelihoods wiped out. We must be committed to helping these people in the long term.”

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DONATE GOODS, Crossroads has been advised that, at this time, the urgent needs are for the following items. Important: It is China’s policy that all donated items must be new. They are currently requesting:

• Blankets
• Bulk clothing, babies’and toddlers’ in particular
• Tents
• Sleeping bags

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DONATE CASH, click here for our form and mark your donation, “China Earthquake”. We will use your donation to cover the costs of sending this relief to those affected.

You are welcome to contact us for further enquiries.

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Maama Emanuel is a walking example of the hope that a gift of simple items can bring to people in poverty.

Maama Emanuel lives in a north Ugandan village, in a community where most people are too poor to afford even enough clothing, food or basic household goods. She had never owned plates, but instead ate directly from the saucepan at mealtimes.

She had no blankets for cover at night, using thick plastic bags for warmth.

When an NGO, staffed by local Ugandans, in Maama Emanuel’s district received a container of goods from Crossroads, they used the items for both big projects – like equipping community primary schools with 20,000 books and equipping vital cattle herder training programs – and small, like visiting the area’s poorest people and giving them urgently needed clothing, blankets and other gifts. Maama Emanuel was one of them.

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Thanks to the shipment, Maama Emmanuel now owns a good blanket, and a set of nice plates on which to serve herself and visitors.

“She is all the time thanking Crossroads!” a staff member from the NGO told us.

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In an area where cattle herding provides the main source of livelihood, the shipment included goods to support programs for training cattle herders in sustainable agricultural practices.

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“Thousands of people were provided with clothes,” wrote our partners. “People got plates and cups to use – something that they had never seen in their communities. It brought joy, happiness and excitement to people who had been used to a hostile and miserable lifestyle.”

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“A new nursery school in the area received toddler items like toys and books. Babies received clothes, and mothers were so happy that this saved them even the small cost of buying clothes for their children. Pregnant mothers were given blankets and this helped to cover their newborns when they were delivered.”

“Planning has been so smooth in our NGO since we had some support from Crossroads. The funds we could have used to purchase office desks have now been designated for other activities like HIV/Aids programs.”

The shipment was such a strategic investment into the community that our partners have requested another shipment to help continue and expand their programs.

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Uganda Snapshot

Population: 37.58 million
Capital: Kampala

Uganda is a fertile, land-locked country in East Africa, in the Africa Great Lakes region, with a tropical climate.

Great progress has been made in fighting HIV in Uganda, but 1.5 million people still live with the disease, and there are 1 million children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

39% of girls are married by the age of 18. 37.7% of people in Uganda live below the international poverty line of US$1.25/day.

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Maria placed a frightened hand on her pregnant stomach as she stared at the home for single mothers. Could she succeed in hiding the shameful secret if she entered here? Her little sister stood quivering beside her, equally afraid.

Indian_ChildrenWould the people in charge ask questions about her baby? Would she succeed in the deception she and her family had planned? In their native Nagaland, Northern India, it was already shame enough for the community to think she was carrying the child of her boyfriend. That alone would see her shunned.

A much deeper darkness, though, haunted Maria. This child was not her boyfriend’s. In the months since her mother’s death, her father had sought ‘comfort’ from his defenceless teenage girl, raping her repeatedly. Her relatives feared they would be chased out of the village if the people learned of her father’s incestuous abuse. So, together with Maria, they had constructed the ‘boyfriend’ scenario to hide the unspeakable.

To Maria’s amazement, however, the home welcomed her with open arms and also accepted her younger sister who, too, was at risk from their father. In this nurturing environment, she found the care she needed for her pregnancy, together with the encouragement she needed personally, being traumatised by the loss of her mother and the ‘love’ of her father. Several months later, Maria gave birth to a healthy baby girl who was adopted by a couple that were unable to conceive.

CIndian_Womanoming to this home was a turning point for Maria.  She had been so supported by the staff at the home that she chose to stay on as a full time volunteer, supporting other children and teenagers who were pregnant and in need of help.

Her little child is now five, attending school and thriving in her new family. The care home where Maria works has, since 2001, offered safety, security and love to over 200 young unmarried girls facing crisis pregnancies. It has also seen 180 babies adopted locally.

How, though, is this home, itself, to survive? It is not possible to draw income from its needy inmates who surely cannot afford to pay. Yet the home itself needs the basics in order to continue caring for them.

Indian_BoyWithout this home in operation, the options for single mothers are few. The region offers 114 registered medical clinics in the region which provide abortions: the most lucrative source of income for doctors In the area. But “nobody wants pregnant unwed girls except us”, the staff  explained to us.

This, of course, is where Crossroads comes in. We sent a container with furniture, cradles, household items, blankets, baby clothes and toys to help equip the home for present and future needs. The home has since expanded, opening a new three storey facility which our goods furnished.  ”Thousands of babies will benefit,” the staff told us.

It has been said: “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go…”  We applaud the commitment of those in India who pour heart and soul into making this happen. The very least we can do is to come alongside and help equip it.

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