Outreach initiative reached out to visiting family of inmates at state prison.
An outreach initiative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church benefited 300 people visiting their relatives imprisoned at the Vila Velha II State Prison in Vitória, Espírito Santo, Brazil. The Love Fair, as it was named, took place on March 5 outside the prison.
Services included legal advice, pastoral counseling, aesthetics and grooming, health advice, and pedagogical support for children, organizers said.
Organized by the prison ministries department of the Southern Espírito Santo Association (ASES) and the Social Institute of Citizenship and Health (ISCS), the fair was held for the second time just outside the state penitentiary. Services were provided from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.. The team of volunteers on site invited the people, who were greeted with breakfast.
“After talking to the prison administration, we realized that there is a lack of assistance for the inmates’ families on visit days,” initiative coordinator Romário Silva said. “Many come from the countryside or from other states and arrive tired, hungry, and emotionally shaken. They are wives, mothers with children, and family members who, while waiting for the visiting hours to start or on their way out, received a little bit of affection and care. Our fair seeks to bring some relief to the people who are going through such an ordeal.”
Showing Practical Love
Out of the 300 visitors who came to the fair, nearly half agreed to receive pastoral care or a visit from Adventist volunteers later. Visitors to the fair could choose among various services, including relaxing massage, blood pressure and glucose check-ups, eyebrow cleaning, haircuts and beard trimmings, manicure and pedicure, free consultation with lawyers, and pastoral counseling. Volunteers also organized games and playing time with some of the inmates’ children.
Overall, 52 volunteers participated in the initiative, organized by ISCS social outreach coordinator Agnor Barbosa.
ISCS president Juliano Coutinho said that the institute is accustomed to participating in social outreach initiatives and health fairs organized by the Adventist Church. This one was very special, he said, because they were serving a group in dire need. “For this specific initiative, we included a group of lawyers who had access to the internet and could provide free consultations on the spot,” Coutinho said. “It was a very special morning, not only for those who benefited from the service but for us as volunteers as well.”
V.R.* was one of the participants who benefited from the Love Fair. She was accompanying her husband on a visit to his son. “I often skip breakfast because I don’t have money, so receiving this breakfast was a blessing,” she said.
“I come to accompany my husband biweekly here,” V.R. added, “and I often don’t have a penny to buy a snack while I wait. The fair was a blessing.”
A.D., another participant, arrived with her two children to visit her husband. “I only saw the fair when I was leaving, but I was able to check my blood pressure and glucose levels,” she said. “The care I received was amazing. At a moment when we feel sad and dejected, having someone to attend to our needs and listen is extremely comforting.”
The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site.
*For safety reasons, only initials of the inmates’ relatives are used.