I followed a flurry of blue dresses and pants. We climbed a set of concrete stairs, took a left turn, and filed into a small, rectangular room. I held onto a young girl’s hand, gently pulling her along the corridor. Shelves lined the walls, labeled according to the subject each one featured – primary school, secondary school, law, accounting, sociology. The list seemed endless. We spread ourselves out on a straw mat, anxiously awaiting the women’s arrival.
Once a term, or three times during the school year, children under the care of Wells of Hope visit their incarcerated parents. These visits provide both the children and the inmates with a unique opportunity, as both parties have the ability to interact with one another without bars or gates creating a separation between them. The children receive the benefits of spending time with a loved one or parent, while the inmates feel motivated to create and sustain a positive life outside of the prison walls.
On 25 July, I had the opportunity to accompany eleven Wells of Hope students and pupils to visit their mothers at Women’s Prison Luzira. If I were to summarize the day into one word, I would, hands down, say emotional. At times, I found it difficult to match the children with their parents – the women were excited to see all of the children, not just their own. These women, and their children, had become their own version of a family – complicated, but full of undying love and support. I felt extremely humbled sitting in the presence of all these children.
Throughout our visit, I got to observe the children interacting with their parents. Some interactions involved simple conversation, while at other times, the parents had put together large packs of gifts and clothes for their children. Part-way through our time together, we all shared a meal together: rice, matooke, beans, eggplants, greens, meat, and chapatti. Multiple women approached me, thanking me for taking care of their children. I smiled and nodded in response; I felt beyond lucky to work with all of these incredible children.
During my time in Upper Prison Luzira, I came to learn of how much Wells of Hope impacted these parents’ lives. One father says, “[Wells of Hope] [has] been our ambassador. The world judged us, but Wells of Hope is there for us.”
Another commented, saying, “I didn’t know my child could learn how to write.”
In Upper Prison Luzira, one of the fathers shared, “at the time I was imprisoned (that is, 2006), Susan was 2 years old and Onan was 9 months old. It had never occurred to me that I would ever see them. The joy I feel is inexplicable! I thank Wells of Hope for reuniting me with them and for taking care of them.” This father saw his children for the first time last year.
Wells of Hope creates a reciprocal relationship with its beneficiaries, trying to facilitate positive and healthy change in all three groups: the incarcerated, the incarcerated person’s children, and the community of the incarcerated person. This would not be possible without all of Wells of Hope’s donors, volunteers, sponsors, and partners.
We’d like to thank Grace Fellowship Duarte for making this visit possible! Thank you for your generosity.
Written by Anooshka Gupta, intern from University of Michigan, USA