For many years in Ottawa, The Salvation Army Barrhaven has been fulfilling its mission for humankind by helping “victims”. The victims in this story are the families and friends of those incarcerated in the many institutions in the Kingston area, men who are imprisoned for short terms of 2 years up to life sentences. The people we help are sons and daughters, wives, girlfriends, sisters, brothers and mothers. Many families are on low incomes, often missing the financial support of a husband or father.
The Salvation Army Barrhaven provides a much needed service — a full day’s return transportation from Ottawa to Kingston with a drop off and pickup at each individual prison. Our Correctional Visitation Assistance Program is a provided at no cost to the participants and the co-ordinator and drivers are volunteers.
Do you know these people who use the program? They could be your neighbour, fellow church goers, your colleague from work, the cashier at the supermarket. Some will take every opportunity to spend a day traveling and visiting and repeat the trip whenever possible.
When asked how long one of our program participants had been using this service, to my surprise she replied “ten years, and ten more to go”. Another participant, an elderly mother, faithfully and thankfully accepts every trip she is offered to follow her son from prison to prison as he moves from the heaviest security into medium security, and is looking forward to his day of release.
One of The Salvation Army Barrhaven’s volunteer drivers commented: “When the church bulletin was asking for drivers to take family members to institutions in Kingston, my husband and I thought, we could do that. But once again, in ministry it is more than just the action we do. We get to know people as we drive the van back and forth, and in the end, we are blessed. They touch our lives and affect us. It is a privilege to serve God by driving these families to visit their loved ones in prison. They are so appreciative and I am glad that The Salvation Army Barrhaven provides this service for them.”
This Correctional Visitation Assistance Program is not one that the general public is aware of, but for the group of families and friends involved it is an integral part of their lives.