Home » Education » Women Prison Education Ministry

Written by Kathy Bond
I love this image of St. Ann and Mary that powerfully promotes women’s education. I also feel a connection to Saint Ann, as one of the female prisons that I have worked in over the last four years is named after her. In my ministries with women’s health education, I have seen many doors open over the years. At times it was only a nudge like when Neves, a farmer in rural Paraiba, held a pencil for the first time during a women’s group in the late 90s. In the same space, another participant, Sueli, swung a door wide open when she increased her involvement in the community and eventually ran for city council.
Saint Ann and Mary also come to mind in my current ministry with prisoner moms and their newborns. This month, we finished our second group of five weekly workshops that include discussions on breastfeeding, care of newborns and prevention/treatment of postpartum depression, along with baby yoga and Shantala massage.
With the generous donations from donors, I was able to take professionalization course for teachers of Shantala massage and Baby Yoga. These elements were successful parts of the course as the mothers and babies loved the techniques, and were able to practice them in their cells between the group meetings.
Making a book of memories of milestones and letters to the babies and future caretakers was an important moment for the moms as they prepared for the difficult moment of separation when babies reach 6-8 months (due to the prison system policy).
At the end of each course, we complete an evaluation with all the participants. Karina, who was released with her son a month after the course ended, shared, “I am feeling happy to have my son with me but also sad that he is in a prison. But I hope to leave here with him and put in practice and share with other women everything that I learned in the course especially baby Shantala massage and healthy eating for my son and me. Thank you for coming to visit us in this place.”

Erik Cambier
Erik Cambier served as Maryknoll lay missioner for 25 years, in Tanzania, the United States, Venezuela and El Salvador.