• January 9, 2009

Hannah, former volunteer in Chile

The Heart’s Home in Valparaiso, Chili, 2009.

Hannah S. was in mis­sion in Chile until November 2009. In the fol­lowing letter, she shares with us her feel­ings on this expe­ri­ence among the most wounded.

We also visit the prison every week along with some others from the local parish. I usu­ally go to the women’s sec­tion. It is really an eye opening expe­ri­ence. There are people there for every sort of offence and of every age. You can see the suf­fering and lack of dig­nity quite clearly there, but there is a lot of laughing and friend­ship as well. I look for­ward to get­ting to know them better, one-on-one. We also hope to do some small crafts and drawing with them as many have told us there is nothing to do during the day. Some have the option of having jobs inside the prison, but in the sec­tion we vis­ited, the women do not work. They have less priv­i­leges because they do not have good behavior.

Every time I visit, I talk to a woman in her twen­ties, known as “Pelu”. She is loud and acts kind of like a teenager like many of our friends there. She has been there for two years and has at least five to go. She talks very fast in the prison-ver­sion of Spanish and I have to con­cen­trate hard to under­stand. She tells me about her three chil­dren who are staying with rel­a­tives while she is there. She also describes what life is like in the prison and what the guards are like. Last week she gave me a bracelet, like a little kid: “This is for you to remember Pelu”. I am always amazed at how open our friends are, to share their thoughts and lives with us, espe­cially the people in the prison.

For me, I do not like to show my weak­nesses and fail­ings to other people, but these people teach me that we need each other and no one is per­fect. They are so wel­coming and hopeful too. Despite their suf­fering I notice a kind of hope in the prison-they know that the others are in the same sit­u­a­tion and they seem to always hold on to a better future. In fact, there is clearly hope for many of them. One of our friends in the men’s sec­tion, Caceli, who we often visit and drink maté with, is now allowed free week­ends due to good con­duct. It is in an effort to slowly assim­i­late into normal society again. This last week was his first time out of the prison in 18 years!-Incredible.

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