The first Christmas present ever
Salvation Army prison chaplains around Australia regularly visit men’s and women’s prisons to talk with inmates, run multi-faith chapel services and provide encouragement, support and a listening ear. They also regularly deliver copies of Salvos Magazine and, at special times of the year such as Christmas, give out gift hampers, toiletry packs and small gifts.
Major Alison Platt is a Salvation Army officer and prison chaplain based in Victoria.
Her role includes running Positive Lifestyle Programs in three settings, assisting women preparing for release from prison with vouchers and wraparound support for housing and rehabilitation, sitting with women to watch online funerals of their loved ones, comforting women who miss their children and posting birthday gifts to these children.
After chapel services, Alison also sits with the women to play board games, bead necklaces and have deep discussions. They also drink the popular caramel coffee together.
“It is a space away from the harshness of jail,” she says. “I find this ministry very rewarding as I can meet women at times when they really need compassion and care. It’s a privilege to listen and to do what I can to help. It’s an opportunity to find a safe space and show the women that they are worthy of love. To help them forgive themselves. To share Jesus’ love with them in a real way.”
Alison recently received the letter below from a woman who received a Salvos Christmas gift hamper while she was in prison:
Life in jail is harder than you think. It’s not just the lack of freedom, but so much more. Trauma goes on, even when you are an inmate. With so many people there are bound to be issues.
There was only one day that changed the whole mood in the jail. The wave of gratitude, happiness and the ripple of excitement could literally be felt when we received our Christmas hampers!
Every single inmate received a hamper, and the feeling of being thought about by strangers who took time to put the hampers together, is priceless. We only have access to limited toiletries which are not the best quality.
Our sense of smell is fine-tuned as we are not allowed perfume. So, when staff wear perfume or aftershave, we notice it more. Getting handmade soaps which were scented is like winning the lottery. Having freshly washed hair or body wash that leaves a trail of flower scents is amazing.
You don’t realise how much joy it brings to us having a calendar, new shampoos, a new toothbrush, a comb or brush, skin care, chocolates, hair ties, socks and all the other items in our hampers. Not every person has supportive family and friends, so getting a Christmas gift such as the hamper is the only thing they get and believe me, it is cherished.
There is a memory I will hold forever of an inmate who cried when she got her hamper. I asked her why she was so upset, and she told me her life had been spent in the foster system, youth justice and now adult corrections. This was the first Christmas present she had received in her 19 years.
So, please remember that what you are doing for inmates is so important to us and we are so grateful for your time and compassion. It makes us feel a little bit more human in a very harsh environment.
So thanks for making us all smile at least for one day.