We started supporting Luke several years ago, when he was detained and imprisoned in eastern Europe. Luke is a father, and has two young children called Jess and Lilly*. He wrote us this letter to tell us how much our 'Keeping in Touch with the Children' materials helped him to maintain vital family ties with them, despite their physical separation.

Keeping in touch with your children should be the most natural and easy thing for a parent. However, that has not been the case for me. That’s because during the last few years, I have been detained in a prison in eastern Europe and separated from my family.

Initially, I became so engrossed in trying to protect my daughters from the reality of one of their parents being in prison, that I forgot how to be me - just dad.

There were also the practical issues of being where I am. I only have 20 minutes to phone each day, and just preparing for that call is stressful enough. What will I ask? What will I say? Nothing happens where I am.

I have loads of questions, but very little time. I found myself trying to find out so much about my daughters’ days or weeks that I was just asking a series of closed questions - questions that only require a one word response like ‘yes’ or ‘no‘. This wasn’t fair on myself or my daughters.

When I read about the “Keeping in Touch with the Children” resource, I wrote to Prisoners Abroad and was sent the introductory pack straight away. If I tell you that communication with my daughters turned from night to day, I wouldn’t be exaggerating!

The help that the resource has given, not just to me, but also my daughters, has been immense.

The day I received everything, I picked out the ‘Conversation Questions’ sheet, and used it for the call that evening. Immediately, I could hear the change in my daughters’ voices: interested, relaxed - a real conversation.

One of the conversation questions I used was: ‘what would your dream job be?' My older daughter used to say she wanted to be an astronaut, but now she told me she wanted to be a farmer. On asking if I could work on her farm, she eagerly said ‘yes’. But what would I do on the farm, I asked. ‘Oh, you can pick up all the animal poo dad!’ My daughter softened the blow of my impending new career by telling me I could brush all the bunny rabbits at the end of the day. I said I didn’t think the bunny rabbits would want me to brush them, as I’d probably smell of poo after a hard day’s work.

Both of us couldn’t stop laughing at this. We were laughing so hard, tears were rolling down my face.

One simple, interesting question, and I had the daughter I knew on the other end of the phone, and she had the funny and happy dad back with her - just for that moment. In over two years, I hadn’t laughed that much, or felt as happy as I did then.

*The names of Luke, Jess and Lilly have been changed.

Being offered a lifeline can change everything. 

Prisoners Abroad translates human rights law into practical life-saving actions by providing prisoners access to vitamins and essential food, emergency medical care, freepost envelopes to keep in touch with home and books and magazines to help sustain mental health.

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