Walking The Journey Of Reintegration With Women After Incarceration

One month to her release, Laila was advised by a colleague inside the prison that she could find shelter at the Wells of Hope Women Safe Home, this was because she had shared her fears during their prayer meeting that she was more worried about the day she was set to be released because she was not ready to reunite with her family whom she separated from a couple of years ago when she moved to the city in pursuit of work. It was at her new job where she had spent two months that she ended up spending 16 months in jail after she lost some money belonging to her employer.

Laila was able to confide in an officer in prison that she wanted to send a message to Wells of Hope showing intentions of being housed at the safe home upon release. The officer who promised to send the message did not and on the day of release Laila just stayed at the prison gate waiting to be picked by the social worker from Wells of Hope; this was until one of the coordinators in the prison approached her to find out why she hadn’t left and Laila informed her that she was waiting to be picked.

Shiphrah Nantongo, Wells of Hope Women Safe Home Administrator sharing a photo with Laila

This was three days after the country had been put under a 42-day lockdown to curb the spread of COVID 19 and all forms of transport had been stopped.

The coordinator was able to contact the safe home to confirm what Laila had said and unfortunately they had not been informed by the officer that had promised Laila that she would communicate a month ago!!

Measures were put in place and Laila was safely driven to the safe home. In her own words, Laila shared that she had a sister who lived in Jinja 90kms East of the country and a father who stays in Mbarara over 200kms West part of the country. She could not access both relatives given the ban on transportation and did not know what else she could have done if she was not taken into the Wells of Hope Women Safe home.

‘Right now all I need is a place that can make me forget the prison life and someone that can understand what I am going through. I will then join my family when I can,’ asserted the 21-year-old Laila.!

Laila is currently residing at the safe home and awaits for the ban on transportation to be lifted so that she can be able to reunite with her family whom she has only been able to talk to on phone.

Interactive Learning; Helping Children Cope With Their Emotions

Gloria Nakangu, the Assistant Programs Coordinator engaged in an interactive session with the younger girls at Wells of Hope Junior School

Most of the issues children with imprisoned parents face are psychological. Through interactive learning sessions, they are able to deal with their emotions and feelings. Last month, the children (in groups according to their age bracket) were engaged in 6 sessions and the topics included: Self-control; Team work, Dressing Code, Hygiene and Time Management; Staying Safe at Home, School and in the Community; Respect and Discipline; Reconciling conflicts; Discipline, Time Management, Academics, Using resources and Dressing code.

Many issues were raised during the sessions which included: speaking out clear expectations about their moods and feelings; they expressed their worry about the current situation of COVID-19 and wanted to know how to manage the pandemic.

They were encouraged to think before they act; to develop good positive discipline and remain positive to avoid temptations; to be optimistic despite the current situation. They were educated about how to stay safe at school, home and in their communities and the measures included: respecting the rules and regulations both at home and school, always ensure that they are escorted by a friend anywhere they go (to avoid issues like child kidnap), pay more attention to their feelings (like fear, emotional concerns regarding bullying or any related child abuse cases) and call or make an alarm for help in case of danger. They also shared safety measures while playing games; “If we first set safety rules for a game before playing this will help us,” one of the children shared.

During the session about discipline, Gloria, the Assistant Programs Coordinator facilitated about the types of discipline; preventive, supportive and corrective discipline. The children got know the measures to take actions to misbehaviors by keeping themselves engaged; to know self- control skills to help them to control their feelings and emotions in order for them to make good decisions and to get back on track after realizing their weaknesses; and the importance of following the rules and regulations at school and they said this will help them to improve on their academic performance and class attendances.

The children were also encouraged to focus on their studies so that they can achieve their dreams; and not to misuse the resources that are entrusted to them.

A fantastic day at the junior school

I and my groupmates jubilating after winning the musical chairs game

It was a Sunday morning on 6/June/2021, we set off from Wells of Hope Head office heading to Wells of Hope Junior School. Despite the fact that it was raining heavily, we reached safely and found the children in their school chapel. The children’s moods were low due to the cold weather, but as soon as we entered the school chapel, they were very excited to see us attend Sunday service with them.

It was such a great Sunday service that I was left in awe! I was extremely happy to attend Sunday school with the young children. The service was led by Martha 15 years, one of the children; she conducted very interactive sessions with the theme God Is Great; and she referenced it fromExodus14:21-31. The children were very active and had love for the word of God which encouraged me to keep yearn for the word of God. We were encouraged to trust God and to stand firm because God will always fight for us.

Seeing the children happy is one of my interests! The young children were very happy during the session of coloring pictures of Moses and the Israelites crossing the red sea. one of the children was heard saying, “my favorite time during the service has come! I cannot wait to see what we are going to color today!”

The coloring session

Our service was concluded with worship and a prayer led by Martha.

The time for games was another exciting moment that took my minds back to when I was young. The children were divided into three groups each group having a leader from head office or school staff and we all participated in a singing battle and musical chairs. I was extremely happy because my group beat the rest of the groups in the second game (musical chairs); and we were given gifts!

Here is another wonderful and touching moment for me; during the group session, the children shared more about heroes day and they were very active about this. They shared with me the names of their heroes; some said their heroes are their parents, God, mothers, among other heroes.

One of the children said that their hero is president Museveni because he inspires them to become leaders; this was an encouragement to most of the children and I. We also had a wonderful moment talking about wishes. The children shared their wishes which included: suitcases, books, school bags, dresses, shoes, balls, bicycles, toy cars, teddy bears, clothes.

However, there are some wishes that really touched my heart; one of the children wished that his father gets released from prison so that he can also become normal like other children. To me this felt like he thinks he is abnormal but it reminded me not to take life for granted but instead surrender our worries to God who is in charge of everything. Another child shared that they wish to complete their studies and do a nursing course such that they fulfill their dream of becoming a doctor.

After all this, I gave these children encouraging words and told them not to stop praying for their wishes because God is the author of everything and he knows us all. We concluded the session in prayer. Later, we shared a very sumptuous meal together.. To me this was a very nice bonding moment with the children; I learnt more names of the children and really had a very fantastic day with them.

Compiled by: Zulaiha Arinaitwe, Frontdesk Officer

A fun day with the children!

I and Lydia sharing some quality time

6th June 2021 was a Sunday like no other; rainy, cold and the atmosphere was abuzz with the excitement of spending yet another Sunday bonding with the children. We set off from Kampala excited and anxious about the games we would play with the children, the activities we had planned to carry out with the children. Millions of questions kept popping in my mind, would the children love the games? will we find them happy in this cold weather? will the word of God I have prepared to share minister to each of the children on a personal level?  Philippians 4:6 says “Be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” So I decided to rest and lean on God’s ability to minister to the children through me other than trusting my own ability and I thanked God for the wonderful time we were about to spend with the children and indeed a great and joyous day it was!

Half way through the Sunday School songs riff-off everyone had chucked their sweater as we jumped, danced and sang along with the children who had been divided into three groups to compete against each other. The children’s joy and laughter brought a lot of memories and seeing them this happy, carefree and basking in the love of God made me pause in my tracks as I realised that this is where I was supposed to be that day nothing would warm my heart as the children’s laughter did that day and I remember sighing in my heart that this is worth it and that this is love.

The riff-off (song battle game) with the children

We went on to have a game called musical chairs which is a game of elimination involving players, chairs and music. As the players danced around the chairs their team mates kept screaming cheering them on with their pitchy voices. This game ended with the winner and participants each getting a sweet which brought a lot of excitement among the children. After this the children shared with us their heroes and for most of them it was their parents and Jesus this session helped me engage the children on the role of mentorship and some shared with me about what they want to be in future which helped me know the children on a personal level.

The children also shared their wishes with us through a game called the wish box, some wished for new shoes, clothes, gumboots, school bags, balls, bread and doughnuts. This made me realize how at times we take God’s provision for granted for example what one takes to be automatic is a longing and a wish for another which helped me reflect and pray more for funding and more partnerships so that all the children’s need would be mate. I shared a prayer with the children where we each prayed in turns for God’s continued provision for the children, release of their parents from prison and more joy and love in their lives.

We continue to thank God for more opportunities to bond with the children and the joy and love the children have for one another.

Compiled by: Elizabeth Butuyuyu, Finance/ M & E Officer

Resting in Christ

I (c) and Gloria, the Assistant Programs Coordinator (extreme right) participating in the “mingle mingle” game with the students at Hope High School

We were welcomed by voices of the students’ praise and worship that was on-going and this made us feel the presence of the Holy Spirit the moment we stepped out of the car with the drizzle of a heavy down pour coming to an end!

The matron/custodian warmly received us, leading us to the class/hall which is also improvised as the church, where shouts of praise with clapping and drums could be heard from afar.

The moment I stepped into that church I felt the connection of the students praising just like their parents in prison when we attend the Sunday service with the inmates, and for me this was quite phenomenal how the LORD makes His divine connections!  It’s so amazing, the children have never attended these services or heard their parents in prison praising and worshipping the LORD, but they praise and worship the LORD the same way and almost the same voices just like their parents, the hard clapping, the sounding of the drums, the shouts of praise and singing some of the songs that their parents always sing like “Niwe we, niwe wewe Baba….!” To this I felt at home with the Holy Spirit and the peace of God flow in my heart and His comfort after coming with a heavy heart of loosing a close family friend to COVID – 19, I just knew the LORD wanted me to be here with the students.

Indeed, the preacher of the day Rachel – Senior 3 was called up, and she introduced the title of her sermon, “Resting in Christ,” Matthew 11:28 – 30 & Galatians 5:1. Her message was very timely for me and hearing it from the child that we have groomed at Wells of Hope with a parent in prison made me praise the LORD even more as I listened to her. Their matron/custodian wrapped up the sermon by her testimony how she knew she had come to an end and would not continue with her education yet both her parents were present but she had to lose one year and that is when she gave her life to Christ and cried out to the LORD and he heard her cry and indeed she completed her studies!

Together with Gloria, the Assistant Programs Coordinator, we had a one-on-one session, talked and shared with some of the students, played volley ball with the students and later played another game called “mingle mingle”; which was lovely as we indeed mingled with the children, laughed and had all the fun! When I asked the students how they felt, they all applauded, “LOVED”!

Compiled by; Ellen Eva Ssuubi, Executive Director