Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for prisoners and their families. Over the past few years, the pain of separation felt by both parents in prison and their children has been worsened by restrictions on visits due to the pandemic. Pact's Operation Elf aims to offer a light in these dark times.
Pact - the Prison Advice and Care Trust - is the national Catholic charity providing support to prisoners' and their families. We work in prisons, prison visitors' centres, courts, and communities across England and Wales to minimise the harm caused by imprisonment. This includes support for many of the 300,000 children who have a parent in prison.
Perhaps you heard on Prisoners' Sunday last week that while memories of Covid restrictions may be fading for those of us 'on the outside', prison regimes 'inside' remain locked down. This means that mums and dads in prison are in many cases more isolated from their children and family members than before. Christmas can be a special time for families but consider what it is like for those who are separated by imprisonment.
Nurturing family relationships is a big part of what we do at Pact. At this time of year, we are thrilled to offer parish communities an opportunity to support mums and dads in prison at Christmas through Operation Elf. Operation Elf enables mums and dads in prison to give their children a Christmas gift. One mum supported by the initiative last year explained that she had been unable to give her son anything since entering prison three years ago. She was very emotional as she said, 'It makes me feel like a mum again'. With your support, we can help more parents to feel like this.
How can you help?
When you are shopping for Christmas, buy an extra £15 gift card. Send it to us at Pact before November 30th. We collect all the donated gift cards and distribute them to our Family Services teams in prisons across England and Wales. The gift cards will be shared at special Christmas visit days organised by our staff and volunteers. On these days, mum or dad can give their child the gift card and enjoy talking about what they might spend it on.
In an exciting development, this year we have partnered some parishes and groups with Pact staff in their local prison. So by working together, you can see the impact Operation Elf has on families in your local area. We are looking forward to hearing from those involved to find out how it goes!
Contact Theresa and Marie for an Operation Elf parish pack firstname.lastname@example.org
You can send giftcards to the value of £15 each to: Pact, 29 Peckham Rd, London SE5 8UA to arrive by 30th November.