Christmas angels provide for Norfolk children
Diocesan House was knee-deep in Christmas wrapping paper in early December as a team of Mothers’ Union volunteers feverishly parcelled up Angel Tree gifts destined to children in the UK whose parent is in prison.
Angel Tree is a Prison Fellowship programme that buys and delivers Christmas presents to children in the UK whose parent is in prison. As far as the children are concerned, the present comes to them from their parent. So it is a very special way of keeping the family bond alive in difficult circumstances.
At the moment Angel Tree doesn’t run in Norwich Diocese, so Mothers’ Union is partnering with Prison Fellowship to change this situation: two faith organisations working together to help those whose family life has met with adversity.
The scale of this issue is vast. There are over 160,000 children in England and Wales with a parent in prison. This is two and a half times the number of those in care and over six times the number of those on the Child Protection Register. Some seven percent of children will experience their father’s imprisonment before they leave school and the most recent figures in 2006 show that more children were affected by the imprisonment of a parent than by divorce.
Angel Tree provides a Christmas gift for children who have a mum or dad in prison. The prisoner has an opportunity to provide a hand written message to go with the gift. Gifts are purchased, wrapped and sent by volunteer groups around the country and they are normally accompanied by a Christian story book.
Over 69 Christmas presents were sent out by the Mothers’ Union Angel Project Team – which was over £1,000-worth of giving. All the gifts went to children who had a parent in either Blundeston or Peterborough prisons and over fifty percent of them live in our region.
“We are delighted to have worked with the Mother’s Union on this programme,” says Dave Walker of the Prison Fellowship. “The members in Norwich Diocese have clearly bought into the idea that the children suffer when a parent is in prison and we must do something to lessen the devastating effect of imprisonment on a family. Our sincere hope is that Prison Fellowship and the Mother’s Union can develop a wider partnership and help even more children who are separated from an imprisoned parent at Christmas.”
The difference this can make to a family is immeasurable. Bill Salmon, Co-ordinating Chaplain from Blundeston shared the following words from a prisoner there: “I am sending you my utmost thanks for the gift you bought my son. This is the first time I have ever heard of Angel Tree and I cannot express enough how fantastic it is. I can know that no matter how far away I am from him at this special time of the year he has been remembered by his Daddy.”
“Helping Angel Tree to happen here has been amazing – some of the stories behind the names and addresses are heartbreaking and it’s good to know we’re able to do something that can make a real difference to families at this time of year,”
said Sybil Martin
, one of the Mothers’ Union Angel Tree co-ordinators.
Pictured: some of the Angels who wrapped up the 69 parcels, including the three co-ordinators Daphne, Elisabeth and Sybil.