We are so lucky in the UK – we have an extraordinary number and range of charities enabling you to match your giving to personal preference, whether it be children, health, animals, the environment, rescue services or emergency appeals. I used to have a rather scattergun approach and never felt personally involved with any charity until one of the patrons of Prisoners Abroad told me about its work and I decided that this would be the one to which I would make a lifelong commitment.

Why? For those new to the charity it’s important to state that its aims are simple – to support UK citizens imprisoned abroad irrespective of the nature of the crime for which they are imprisoned, rightly or wrongly. Many prisons abroad are not like those in the UK: in some, food, water and a place to lie down and sleep have to be bought. There may not be even basic hygiene, and violence can be rife. Add to that the fact that you may not be able to communicate with guards and other prisoners because you do not speak their language, and this gives some idea of what conditions may be like. You just have to think what it would be like for yourself, a family member or friend to be living like this to prompt the response “what can I do?”

Well, money is important. The fundraising dinner every year not only asks us to pledge our financial support, but gives us the opportunity to meet people now back in the UK who were helped by Prisoners Abroad. Hearing their accounts of prison life and how much the knowledge that there were people thinking about them and working on their behalf gave them the strength to survive the experience is a thought-provoking experience. The Christmas card scheme, where supporters write messages in cards which Prisoners Abroad forward to the 1,200 or so prisoners is of huge importance. I have been doing this for some years but had just to imagine the cards being received. Recently however, I had a long letter from someone contacting me via Prisoners Abroad which said how much the card had meant to him at a very lonely time. I hope to keep in contact with him as a pen pal.

By Jane, a supporter of Prisoners Abroad