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Prisoners make homework bags for children

Prisoners make homework bags for children

Prisoners have been giving back to the community and learning new skills by making homework bags for vulnerable children.

More than 1000 homework bags, which are often a required item in back-to-school stationery lists, have been sewn by men at Northland Region Corrections Facility (NRCF).

They were handed over to Prison Fellowship New Zealand (PFNZ) yesterday by Corrections director employment and reintegration Stephen Cunningham.

They will be distributed by PFNZ, which supports a number of children and families of prisoners through its whanau-focused reintegration work with offenders.

PFNZ helps put together back-to-school packs for these children as a way of helping already vulnerable families. Corrections, which contracts PFNZ to provide reintegration services for offenders, was looking for practical ways to support PFNZ in this and hit on the idea of utilising the sewing skills of the men at NRCF.

“Children with a parent in prison are statistically more likely to end up in prison themselves. The homework bags are one small way we can help these kids do better at school and reduce the financial burden on families who may already be struggling. It may not be much but it’s a symbol of how seriously we take our commitment to reducing the prison population and keeping our communities safe,” says Cunningham.

“Many of these children, and their families, do not have much and are grateful for all they receive. The homework bags remind the children that they are valued and they are loved and reinforces that education is worthwhile,” says PFNZ national director Marama Parore.

“For some of these children, outlets such as education or a special interest - which we often support through our closer work with families - can provide a positive and constructive outlet which helps to ensure that they do not fall into the prison cycle,” she says.

“The homework bags are an important way that we can continue to work with these children and their families. We would like to see as many of these children as possible receive the homework bags.”

The bags were designed and made by men engaged in prison industry, from donated materials.

NRCF’s sewing activities Corrections Officer Joanne Hammerton says sewing gives the men the chance to learn skills such as patience and problem-solving and can help with numeracy and literacy skills through measuring, calculating and reading patterns.

“Making homework bags for the children of prisoners also gives the men the opportunity to give back to their communities and learn about compassion,” she says.

“The prisoners learn both hand and machine sewing, skills that can be used on the outside. I have bumped into a couple of released prisoners in the community who have been through the workshop. One was making clothes for his children and the other was making quilts.”

PFNZ receives support from Corrections for its BreakFree reintegration service. It prioritises whanau/family support preparing whanau for a prisoner’s return home and seeks to engage the offender in holistic whanau-focused support through Angel Tree.

Its long-standing Angel Tree programme distributed close to 5000 Christmas gifts to children on behalf of prisoners last year.

“We want to support the children of prisoners, and their families, to break the cycle, live their dreams and be the best versions of themselves they can be. The children that PFNZ supports are at risk of falling into many destructive paths, including crime, drugs, gangs and so many others. We want to help them to break the cycle,” Parore says.


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