The needs of children are vast and crucial to their growth and development into adults. One of the most important of these needs is education, as it unlocks abilities that would be otherwise untapped.
Giving these needs to children is a hard task, and to do so without ones partner is even more difficult; especially when that partner is the family’s main income provider. Many of these families are those of prisoners, who have been incarcerated for crimes ranging from murder to rape and even petty thievery.
“These children are challenged in many ways, having to deal with the stigma of being a child of a prisoner among other economic and social issues,” said Sr. Immaculate de Alwis, Founder of the Association of Friends of Prisoners’ Children.
Helping about 300 children across Sri Lanka to support them in their education the Association helps in the rehabilitation of prisoners starting with their children. The Patrons of this Association are Neela Marikkar, Shiromal Cooray and Sumithra Gunasekera.
Sr. de Alwis is a frequent presence at the Welikada Prison, right across the road from Welcome House, her base. She first started mobilising the Interact Club of St. Bridget’s Convent to sponsor 47 prisoners’ children.
Feeling that it was necessary for someone to help, she sent word through the Welfare Officers in the prison about a programme to help children from Grades 6 to 13. Every first Sunday of the New Year a small celebration is organised to promote precious family time, through playing and eating. At the end of the day, happy children leave with memories and “goody bags” filled with books, clothes and even a toy. Sr. Immaculate proudly says that one of their protégés is at the Kelaniya University and another has finished their education at the University of Moratuwa.