Face-to-Face With Compassion

The Sycamore Tree Project is a powerful restorative justice program where victims and non-related perpetrators come face to face.

Some prisoners, for their own protection, are separated from the general prison population and we recently commenced a Sycamore Tree program with this group.

They are often the most despised and judged people in the prison system. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book “The Cost of Discipleship” contrasted judgement with love:

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating.

By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” 

Before we commenced a program with prisoners in the protected unit we were approached by a young lady, Mia*, who wanted to be a part of the Sycamore Tree program.

Now, as we near the completion of the program, she has written the following letter sharing her experience:

I am fortunate enough to be a part of the Sycamore Tree Project with the wonderful team at Prison Fellowship Australia – WA.

I had reservations about contacting Prison Fellowship regarding their restorative justice program, the Sycamore Tree Project.

My trauma counsellor strongly encouraged me though, believing it beneficial to meet prisoners currently serving time for crimes similar to what had been committed against me.

As a victim of ongoing childhood sexual and psychological abuse I have, despite my best efforts, struggled with severe mental health challenges all my life.

I was so desperate to be free of the crippling PTSD that had been with me all my life that I was willing to try anything – even if it meant entering a prison to meet with convicted paedophiles.

Each week I am amazed by the kindness, compassion and understanding the Sycamore Tree Project team demonstrate towards the prisoners in our group who, like me, are quite often struggling with complex childhood trauma.

The challenge with childhood trauma is that it affects every part of your life. Some days I struggle to eat, sleep and maintain the personal and professional relationships that are so important to me.

I have always been pro-active with my condition and have built quite the support team with my doctor, psychologist and trauma counsellor. I would not have made it this far without them.

Face to face with compassion

I have been in therapy for three years and while my clinical psychologist is an extremely talented woman, nothing will ever beat my involvement with the Sycamore Tree Project.

Being part of the Sycamore Tree Project has taken my experience of life to a whole new level. I have been given the opportunity to confront my deepest fears and the darkest parts of my past with the loving support of the project facilitators and even the prisoners.

As someone who does not identify as Christian, I have been accepted whole heartedly for who I am and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this fact.

I see each week the positive impact Prison Fellowship has on the prisoners who so desperately want – and deserve – another chance at life.

For me, the Sycamore Tree Project makes that second chance possible and I don’t think I could ever express how grateful I am for the opportunity to be part of the experience.


*Name has been changed.