Judith Carr talks with passion about her connection to Aboriginal people from her past. Her background as a museum tour guide, as well as the relationships she formed with the Aboriginal children in her primary school classroom, have given her an intimate knowledge of Aboriginal culture.
Retired now, Judith has been deeply involved for four years in leading a group of people from diverse backgrounds, who have a heart to use their creative talents to benefit those in need and to fellowship with one another. Those who are able to, meet weekly. While those who for various reasons are not able to physically be with the group, stay involved by creating their contributions from home.
Prison Fellowship Australia State Manager for SA and NT, Ian Townsend, was invited to talk to the craft group (known as the Friendship Centre), and out of that developed a beautiful connection and the idea that the group could impact the lives of the children of inmates in the Alice Springs prison.
Along with a group known as Women of Worth led by Di Berry, the Friendship Centre group meaningfully support Prison Fellowship volunteers in NT who care for the children of prisoners in Alice Springs. Part of this caring is assisting children (and their family members) to access the prison to visit a parent/family member. A weekly bus service to the prison is provided by Prison Fellowship volunteers. On arriving at the prison, volunteers help these families to fulfill all the requirements for eligibility to enter the prison. That eligibility could be refused because of something as seemingly insignificant as not having shoes on their feet.
An awareness of the need for some basic clothing motivated the Friendship Centre craft group to channel their incredible creativity and skills into making amazing items of clothing such as shorts, jumpers and skirts for children of all ages, which are distributed to the families of prisoners in Alice Springs. This has led to the realization that the beautiful dressed dolls and toys that the group makes can become a meaningful addition to the Prison Fellowship Australia Angel Tree outreach at Christmas. Angel Tree gives an inmate the opportunity to request a special gift to be given to his or her child. This gift is either purchased by or donated to, Prison Fellowship.
When I asked Judith why the Angel Tree outreach was so important, she explained the mutual importance was to both the giver and those receiving. For many of the craft group members, finding a way to bring happiness to these children brings with it not only the joy of creativity, but also meaning and purpose. Letting a child who is living with the pain and struggles of having a parent in prison know that someone cares and has thought about them… brings a reciprocal joy to the giver, of having made a difference.
With the additional difficulties of a year that has brought so much isolation, the gifts in 2020 through the Angel Tree program and the contributions of the craft group, will be more meaningful than ever. That special, lovingly created toy, can be the tangible reminder for a child that someone has thought of them; that someone knows; and that someone cares.
And perhaps this encapsulates the fullness of the message of Christ to each one of us at Christmas…