Do the crime, children do time

Prison Fellowship Tauranga volunteers Graham Harris, Peter Haywood and Ian Bateman.

It was his first trip away from his hometown and the boy was hanging on like grim death wondering where the heck he was going.

Graham Harris remembers the fear in the boy’s eyes as Prison Fellowship Tauranga transferred the first group of children of prisoners to the Hunua Ranges, where they set up camp for about a week.

“I remember sitting with this young fella, telling him about the old days when they used to light fires by rubbing two bits of wood together,” says Graham, who is Prison Fellowship Tauranga’s past chairman. “So he gets a couple of bits of wood and tries to make them hot and he’d come back to me and ask: ‘Do you think it’s getting hot yet?’”

On the last day of camp, Graham says the boy’s mood had changed dramatically.

“Days later that young fellas was just over the moon, his eyes were bright and he’d had an amazing time.

“We stopped at Waihi on the way home to have something to eat and I leaned over the table and asked what he liked about camp and he yacked them off. So I said: ‘Well what was the worst thing?’ and he sat and looked at me for it seemed like five minutes and in the end he said: ‘Nothing’.”

Until 18-months ago, the camp at Hunua Ranges was that young man’s first trip away from his hometown as part of Prison Fellowship Tauranga’s Family Care camps, which recently received a $4000 grant from Acorn Foundation.

The Family Care camps offer subsidised camps at the Hunua Ranges, Totara Springs, Raglan and Waihi for children of prisoners to build their confidence and self-esteem.

The children chosen are from the Angel Tree Programme which provides Christmas gifts to prisoners’ children.

The organisation has sponsored a little more than 20 children to attend the camps so far, since they were introduced to the agency almost two years ago.

It’s a life changing experience for most of these children. “They’d never get out of town before,” says Graham.

“It’s quite amazing and the effect is quite remarkable. After all, these children haven’t done the crime.”

Prison Fellowship is a national Christian community agency that’s professionally led, but volunteer enabled. It’s committed to the spiritual, moral, social and physical wellbeing of prisoners, ex-prisoners, their families, crime victims and people who serve the criminal justice system. Volunteers regularly visit the prisons to provide care, bible studies and share their knowledge in art, culture, recreational and life skills.

For more information, visit www.pfnz.org.nz