This is my very first opinion piece ever in my life it’s not perfect but it’s from my heart i really hope you enjoy it and please give me your feed back and thoughts.
The faces we meet and fight hard to forget
You don’t realise how big the world is or how not that significant you are until you have to live alone, I moved to East London late last year with the hope that me and my dad could strengthen our relationship as he had asked me to move in with him.
What seemed like a great idea and having idolised my dad for the longest time you know him being this super educated MA Law Graduate and all I was looking forward to learning and being scolded by him academically.
I received a call while I was working for the Department of Correctional Services that I had received the internship in East London I was so excited apart from escaping the antagonizing feeling of having to face prisoners and their dreaded stories which became the theme song of my life, while I lent them an ear and provided comfort as they expressed to me how dearly they longed for their families. I was looking forward to spending time with daddy.
I had committed myself to these men who had caused heart aches to many families but a small part of me felt sorry for them, not because they were paying for their crimes. In life every action has a reaction but I pitied them, attending school was their only escape from the bounding prison gates and the not so pleasant smell that lingered through the prison corridors.
A few of the inmates would actually come close to me as close as I allowed them in my space, some would smell me and say I smelt like a flower and others would sit opposite me and just stare at me for hours and hours till the bell rang for them to return to their cells.
There was one inmate in particular who I grew really fond of (not that kind of fond) the brotherly type, I wanted to give him a hug and tell him that everything is going to be okay. He was an immigrant from Burundi he often told me stories from his country about how they killed his entire family and how he hitched hiked his way down to South Africa only to be sucked into the morbid world of drugs and violence which led to his arrest.
He would sit and draw me at first I found this rather intrusive but it was a way of connecting with him. The greatest lesson I learned from being around inmates was that we really have a broken society. These men whom most are fathers and were finical providers for their families were rotting in prison while their children are being raised by their mothers or grandmothers.
What really stood out for me was their longing for the outside world, I can recall one of the inmates who constantly spoke about how he longed for the smell of the ocean and the fresh, energetic ocean breeze which would brush against his face as he ran after his sons on the beach.
These stories I will treasure, these stories make me appreciate the fact that I can go to the beach anytime I want to and have the fresh ocean breeze brush my face as I run after the dogs.
These men carried loneliness, their lives had been handed over for however long they had to serve their sentence. They don’t have control over what they eat, where they roam and when they can see their entire families again.
Being given the opportunity to leave the Department I was so excited as much as helping these men out and offering them some sound advice or just the occasional smile and a chit chat. I would ask them to tell me about their families where they lived, give me a guided tour of their childhoods and what brought them to the point of committing the crimes they were incarcerated for.
When I tell people that I spent almost two months working at the prison school they would react with, “oh wow that must have been so horrible!” or the occasional remark “you are brave are you okay? I was indeed okay but I worried about the impact I made in theses men’s lives if it was ever enough.
I had put together a portfolio for one of the inmates who was an artists he was so thankful he was near breaking down into tears, so glad he didn’t do that, I’m not sure if I could handle a six foot tall emotional inmate. I gave him a hug and a pat on the shoulder. To be honest being surrounded by inmates was the most exhausting and frightening not to mention emotionally draining duty I have ever had to do in my life.
You don’t usually expect a positive remark from someone who has spent what I consider a great deal of time with criminals, while I may not agree with the certain policies implemented by the Department of Correctional services (I had a mouthful of complaints from the inmates). I decided to see this experience as a positive one.
It has given me the opportunity to serve my community and to be exposed to a world I would not have ever thought off, it has given me the opportunity to love and to provide comfort to men who are still mapping out their path in this world.
Sitting down with some of the inmates who were due to be released and coming up with various activities they could do once they were finally free, also got me thinking about what I would do if I was locked up for years in a cell and what my first meal would be and whom I would want to see first.
These experiences really make me appreciate what I have, I left the prison gates looking forward to a fresh start with daddy and I never stopped praying for the men that I left behind. I wonder what they are doing and how well they performed during their exams. I can’t follow up as this will be detrimental to my safety.