“Having a pen-pal gave me space. It allowed me to be myself, without being discriminated or rejected or judged.” – A prisoner in Spain

30th July is International Friendship Day—an occasion to remember that we are stronger together, and only by building bonds of trust and solidarity can we solve issues of intolerance, fear and violence.

Friendship is essential for our mental well-being: we need positive social interactions to not feel isolated, threatened and alone. Many prisoners abroad face these negative emotions—they are far away from family, may not understand the local language, or may encounter violence or solitary confinement whilst in prison.

Prisoners Abroad combats this by reaching out to British citizens in foreign prisons, letting them know that they are not alone. For those with no other friends or family, our newsletters, Christmas cards and updates are a lifeline—a friendly face amongst the hardships of incarceration. Our supporters know the importance of solidarity with prisoners, and share messages of friendship with those in detention. You can view a number of these in our Winter 2016 newsletter.

Our pen-pal scheme goes one step further to provide a human connection for those who need it the most. We use common interests to match prisoners with volunteers who are non-judgmental and committed to fostering a real friendship. The prisoners we support place tremendous value in this service and many write to us about the very real difference this friendship has made to their lives:

“Never in my life have I known such caring and kindness as that I have felt from Betty [pen-pal] and those at PA. Thank you so much—it helps me hold onto hope.”—A prisoner in the USA

We always welcome new volunteers, and the pen-pal scheme is one of the best ways you can help prisoners abroad. If you are ready to bring a friendly, tolerant attitude and support a prisoner in their darkest moment, find out more about becoming a pen-pal here.

For more about how offering friendship via our pen-pal scheme can transform a prisoner’s life, read this inspiring story about a bond between a mum in the UK and a man on death-row: a tale “that spans continents, oceans and decades”.