Monday 14 January 2013

Released by Passion

While attending prison ministry with Warsaw Volunteer Mission, I met a lot of men and women who have been jailed for different reasons and were serving various sentences. Surprisingly, I've never aksed a single one of them what was the reason of their stay in prison. As I was talking to them about faith, God and Jesus, I was primarily interested in their testimonies and journeys of faith. Those things were the most important, because they were changing them to be more patient, kind and loving. You know when people are given purpose in their life, something to do and show that they are important something changes inside them. It's the same when they're being given a creative work to do. Like they do with a project such as Fine Cell Work.
Fine Cell Work "trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework undertaken in the long hours spent in their cells to foster hope, discipline and self esteem." Thanks to that project, prisoners all across the UK are embroidering cushions, bags, pictures and patchwork quilts. People from Embroiderers and Quilters Guild leading the workshops make sure that the hand-craft is of the highest quality. Works done within Fine Cell Work is being sold all around the world and is used by Victoria & Albert Museum or Tate Modern as part of their interior design.
 Examples of work done by inmates with Fine Cell Work

Apart from Fine Cell Work, there are organisations encouraging prisoners to write, do art or simple works, like putting up bikes together or painting furniture for school children. Koestler Trust promotes art done by prisoners by awarding and selling best of it. The idea of the trust came from late Arthur Koestler, who founded the Koestler Awards in 1962. "His experiences as a political prisoner gave him exceptional insight into the relationship between imprisonment and creativity, and he is famous for the classic prison novel Darkness at Noon".
The testimonies you can read on websites of aforementioned projects and organisations are heart-warming. One of them is Clive's story who attended Fine Cell Work workshops and after being transferred to an open prison, set up a tailoring shop there. Inmates tell how interesting needling can be, that they feel appreciated and needed, that they can be part of teamwork. They learn new skills and once they achieve a certain level they become "teachers" to their colleagues which is a great way to teach them responsibility. New skills improve their own employment prospects after release. The prisoners are paid for their work. It is supposed to help them in connecting to the society and have a better start once they're released.

For related articles, see: "View from Here" magazine, organisation Relate supporting different kind of relationships and an article in "Financial Times".

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