A family member writes about her experience of the London Family Day

On Saturday 10th June 2017 I attended the London Family.  I attended the day with my mother and it was the first Family Day we have attended as we only became aware of Prisoners Abroad when our loved one was arrested abroad in March 2017. I was initially nervous about attending the Family Day as  I felt that it would make the situation all too real for me and I wasn't sure how I'd be able to manage all those emotions; but I'm really glad I went! It was really comforting to meet so many families in the same situation as ours.  That really helped my family with our feelings of isolation.  It was also really helpful to be able to say as little or as much we wanted about our situation and not have to worry about being judged.

Attending the family day also meant that we were able to meet and speak with the Prisoners Abroad team in a group and also in one to one sessions.  I really appreciate all that they've done for my loved one abroad so being able to put names to faces was fantastic.  The team were also able to give us a lot more information about the country our loved one is currently in which ease a lot of my worries and anxiety.  It was also great to learn a lot more about how Prisoners Abroad was founded and the various works they do.  I can't believe I wasn't aware that such a charity existed!

The theme of the Family Day was communication and there were some great talks given by a pen pal and a former family member.  The day progressed very well and I was glad that although there was a schedule, there was some freedom to step away from that if something was particularly helpful. There was absolutely no pressure to speak on your situation or contribute to any of the discussions if you didn't feel comfortable doing so.

During the latter part of the Family Day, we were given the opportunity to have a Q & A session with two case workers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).  Again it was great to be able to see the people who were representing the FCO and I found it beneficial to get some more information on the remit of the FCO and what Consular work actually entails.  When my family and I were initially contacted by the FCO about our loved one abroad, we believed they would ‘rescue’ him but that’s obviously not the reality of the situation.  Despite the many difficulties that we and our loved ones in prison are facing, we were really pleased to have the opportunity to ask questions directly to representatives of the FCO about the Consular service they provide to British citizens while in prison abroad.

Combating stigma helps reduce isolation.

Prisoners Abroad helps family members affected by a loved one’s imprisonment by providing one to one support as well as hosting family support groups around the country and arranging overseas visits.