Two years after their first contact with Prisoners Abroad, a family member who decided to attend one of our family support groups tells us about the experience…

“I have been on the Prisoners Abroad mailing list for over two years now and often get their newsletter and invitations to family days. I have always thought that the meetings were too far away and that I wouldn’t actually get anything out of going, but how wrong I could be. The hardest part was deciding I would go and actually making the effort to go. With the support of a long-standing family friend who knows York very well, we both went to their meeting in September. What a revelation it was.

The informal meeting was chaired by a very friendly volunteer who explained that it was ‘our meeting’, an opportunity to meet others in a similar situation, who have loved ones serving jail sentences abroad. I felt it was such a tremendous relief to know that other people were in a similar situation to me. As people spoke about their situations it dawned on me that I am quite normal and all the feelings I have, and my husband have, are very normal under such terrible circumstances. People were very open and willing to share their personal experiences and I can only say that this has helped me tremendously. So much so that it encouraged me to attend the family day in Manchester, where once again I was able to meet and share my experiences with other families going through a similar situation.

If anyone, and I mean anyone, has received invitations to the support groups or family days I would definitely urge people to take the first step and go – I can only speak from my own experience and say how much I have benefited from speaking to others going through such terrible situations, as I am. Often when you hear others speak, whose situations are sometimes much worse than your own, it makes me realise that although the situation my husband and I are in is terribly painful, it will not be forever and it must and will get better. Above all what I took away from the meetings was that we are not along and there are others in similar situations to me.”

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.