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Prisoners’ Families supported by Community

Monday, 12 December

Prisoners’ Families supported by Community Effort

“Our desperate last-minute cry for help has been answered”, says Kim Workman, National Director of Prison Fellowship. “The churches and the wider community responded in a wonderful way. – this has been our biggest year, with around 2,600 presents being delivered to the children of prisoners.”

Angel Tree is a Prison Fellowship programme that provides Christmas toys to prisoners' children who might otherwise be overlooked during the Christmas Season. Prison Fellowship coordinates the program, with the help of church volunteers, community helpers, and local businesses.

“It was a sobering experience for many of our volunteers. They were shocked at the level of poverty existing within many of the families - far worse than in previous years. On the positive side, many volunteers spontaneously organised food parcels for the families.”

Throughout the nation, new churches offered their services, and made a commitment to help in 2006. Groups such as Aglow, Christian Business Associations, the Bible Society, a variety of businesses, and school groups came on board.

“Children of inmates are the "hidden victims" of crime” said Mr Workman. “They are the most at-risk group in our nation for drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, and poor school performance. Half will commit a crime before they reach adulthood. Compared to their peers, they are six times more likely to end up in prison. Without intervention, many of these kids will be tomorrow’s criminals.

Proverbs says, "A man’s gift makes room for him …” Angel Tree volunteers, through their generous gifts, make room in a child’s heart for God to work, reconciling families to each other and to Him.

“The organisation effort is considerable. In Auckland alone, volunteers wrapped and delivered around 800 parcels to the children of prisoners. The looks on the faces of the kids made it clear that this was possibly the only present they would get”. At one Auckland prison, one unit was overlooked. When the prison made a late request to Prison Fellowship for 19 presents all the gifts had been allocated. That same afternoon, a church contacted Prison Fellowship asking if it was too late to help, and was able to fill the order.

In Rotorua, a Hindu shop keeper, recently burgled, donated food parcels to prisoners’ families, and lent his van to the local volunteers to deliver parcels.

In Tauranga, the Bethlehem Baptist Church youth group created a collection of saleable art, and raised $2,400 for Angel Tree. In Whakatane, a beneficiary donated $210, the same amount she had spent on her own grandchildren.

“This is the first year Angel Tree has been oversubscribed. Any surplus funding will be set aside for Angel Tree 2006, so we can get a head start. Given the ever-increasing prison population, we are going to need all the help we can get.“


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