Holiday Card Drive 2022: how to get involved

Kia ora penpals and supporters!

This year, we’re holding our sixth annual Holiday Card Drive! We’ll be sending holiday cards to hundreds of incarcerated people all across Aotearoa. Christmas can be a very dark time in prison, and receiving a holiday card can make a world of difference.

As a community-led, volunteer-run organisation, we rely on the support of ordinary people to get this important mahi done. We don’t have big donors or government grants, but we do have the support of our incredible community.

We expect to send around 2,500 cards to 500 people in prison this year, with our projected running costs for 2022 looking to be around $6,000. Producing and posting cards to this many people costs a lot of money, so we rely on your support to ensure that these costs are covered. We will also be supporting the efforts of community coordinators all around the motu with financial assistance for venue hire and kai.

Every dollar counts, so please help us to run this important project.


Thanks from last year’s recipients

Every year we receive thank you messages from the recipients of our holiday cards, which clearly show how much of an impact the Holiday Card Drive has on incarcerated people who otherwise may not hear from anyone over Christmas. Here are some of the messages we received after last year’s drive:

I would like to send a massive thanks in regards to an envelope I got today with Christmas cards from the public and a nice letter from the PCN team. This was a nice surprise and super thoughtful and as being in prison at this time of year and not being at home with family it’s nice to get cards and letters as I texting and calling for granted on the outside. It took for me to become incarcerated to realise how much we take things for granted and how a simple letter can mean so much and lighten up someone’s day as this has for me =).

Kurt

Thank you for your thoughtful cards. They arrived on a bad day for me. Christmas is always depressing for me. I’ve seen 21 of them in here. I don’t suppose my family will send cards. They seem to have forgotten me at last. My ex-wife (remarried) likes to write. I had made up my mind to not write to her anymore but I wimped out. I miss my grandchildren (and great grandchildren). I’m 74. Two of my siblings have died. A sister is probably dying now of M.N.D. Your efforts to find me correspondents is much appreciated. Snail mail is my only link to the outside world now.

John

As Christmas is fast approaching I thought I would take this chance to wish everyone at the PCN a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
I have spent 17 months in custody so far and thanks to the pen pal network I have really come a long way in confidence, humility, as well as maintaining positive thinking and finding happiness in negative spaces.
Christmas is such a hard time to be in prison. Even more so when I am innocent of the crimes I’m accused of. Thank you for helping the men in prison who don’t have any family support networks.

Joshy

It’s Ben here. I would just like to thank everyone who sent me a card for Christmas.
For years my cell has been bland, dull and depressing. Until today. I received some cards that brightened my cell and life up. So thanks to all who sent me an xmas card, Etta, Holly, Henri, Bronwen and John and one with no name (tui on). Thank you all for being a light in a very dark tunnel. It’s nice to know someone still cares. I hope all your dreams and wishes come true next year. Best wishes and happy xmas and new year.
Ben
P.S Thanks to PCN for making me feel human again! Xxxooo

Ben

I would personally like to thank each and every one of you for what you do for every inmate that you help. Without people such as yourselves many of us would really struggle to make connections with people again. The ability that you have to help with making those connections enables many of us to then receive perspectives from such a wide variety of people. Many of whom some of us might just walk past in the street and never bat an eyelid at. It helps knowing that when we develop those friendships through writing, that the person receiving the letters is not judging us for what we have done. They are actually wanting to help us. Helping us to trust in people again.

Shane


You’re also welcome to write holiday cards to people in prison. If you would like to send cards, please post them to PO Box 5870, Victoria St West, Auckland 1142 before 1st December 2022. A list of names to address cards to will be available upon request in mid-November, but you can also address them vaguely (e.g. Kia ora e hoa ma, Dear friend, etc) so they can be sent to anyone.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We are unable to accept cards that have been glued together as some prisons refuse to hand on cards that have things glued to them. So if you make homemade cards, by all means make something incredible and creative, but just don’t stick anything to them!


Card-making events

This year, we will be holding four official card-writing events, as well as a number of community-led working bees all around the motu. These working bees will be an opportunity for people to come together, write holiday cards, kōrero and learn more about the negative impacts of prison, and meet other cool folks in their communities. Here’s the details:

Auckland

Sunday 4 December, Old Folks’ Association, 8 Gundry St, Auckland CBD, 10AM to 4PM

Wellington

Saturday 26 November, Newtown Community Centre, Level 2, 2A Green St, 11AM to 3PM

Christchurch

Sunday 27 November, Riccarton Community Centre, 199 Clarence St, 10:30AM to 3PM

Dunedin

Saturday 26 November, Otago Women’s Pioneer Hall, 362 Moray Place, 1PM to 3PM

Community events


We’re also inviting people to nominate their friends and whānau in New Zealand prisons to receive cards. If you know someone inside and you think they would appreciate some season’s greetings, please fill out this form and we will add them to our list of people to receive cards:


PCN is run and funded by People Against Prisons Aotearoa (PAPA). Funds raised for PCN will be held by PAPA and will only be used for PCN purposes.

fUNDRAISER BEANIES

Tēnā koutou,

Just in time for winter, one of our incarcerated pen pals has hand-crafted some beautiful woollen beanies for us to help raise funds for the Prisoner Correspondence Network Aotearoa!

All money raised will go towards our operational costs such as PO Box hire, site hosting, and printing and supplies for projects such as our annual Holiday Card Drive and our Take No Prisoners newsletter for incarcerated people.

Check out the auctions here:

https://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/Listing.aspx?id=2655784706

https://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/Listing.aspx?id=2655795741

https://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/Listing.aspx?id=2655806543

Ngā mihi nui,

The Team at PCN

Dear PCN: a letter from a penpal

This is a transcript of a letter we received recently. The original images are at the bottom.

Dear PCN,

How are you all doing during this lockdown?

I hope that you are all doing extremely well, keeping safe and finding plenty of fun things to do during this crazy time 🙂

I’m writing this letter to try thanking you for all your hard work…and for everything you’ve done for me…

I was in prison for 15 years.

I did ok in prison…as I can usually adapt to whichever environment that I’ve found myself in? But, that being said…I must say that prison is a terrible place full of injustice, victimization, bullying and abuse. It has an oppressive atmosphere, the cause of the loss of hope and even suicide by some that I had gotten to know during my many years in prison.

As I wrote…I did ok. But with the sentence I had there was little hope for me to attain my freedom due to the hidden agenda of the National Party…played out within prisons against prisoners in general.

One day during a unit meeting a fellow inmate stood up and spoke about a wonderful organisation called PCN…

He spoke about writing to them and receiving a reply from a kindhearted, non-judgemental person, that it touched him to the extent that he felt compelled to share this with everyone. Well…it captivated me…, I saw the true emotion which shone from him as he told his story.

After the meeting I approached him to ask ‘can anyone write to PCN?’

He said ‘yes’ and gave me a piece of paper with the details about writing an introductory letter. I took it back to my cell, and, that night I put pen to paper.

I poured my heart out into that letter, in a very open and honest  way, I laid my cards on the table for all to see…

For I wanted no secrets, or, unpleasant surprises for anyone that found it in their hearts to write to me.

The truth is that I didn’t expect to receive a reply…as the weeks passed…I began to suspect that I was right?

One afternoon as I got back into my unit after work, I was given two envelopes, each containing x3 letters from different people who had reached back to me!

It’s hard to explain to you how this made me feel…

And without first living for more than 12 years behind bars…

It would be difficult to understand the depth of emotion that those letters brought forth from a place deep inside me, a place where I had locked away any feelings to keep myself safe and sane in what I can only describe as a soul destroying environment…PRISON.

That night I began to read the words written by truly kind hearted and caring people…

I am a strong man, (I had to be to survive my lag), but I will admit that the kindness in those letters brought tears to my eyes.

To converse with people about real world issues again, was like a soothing balm to me. In prison the range of topics available to discuss…are limited to say the least.

This insular, closed, self feeding, septic and quite frankly ugly range found in prison…helps to create the problem of prisoners becoming institutionalised and less able to easily reintegrate back into society again upon their release.

I instantly recognised how these new contacts of mine, would play their part in helping me to avoid becoming lost in the internal prison politics.

They would help me to continue keeping my focus on the real world.

Not only that, I found the people to be very interesting!

A common denominator I found in them was that each one, in their own way was trying to make this a better society, and, inturn a better world for us all to live in.

Over time I was privileged to hear about their fight against an unjust system. I heard about these very brave and strong people putting themselves on the line to fight for what they believe in.

They set an example for me to emulate.

I was very impressed as I saw that they were not just blindly fighting against the ‘faceless’ oppressors…, they were instead, well informed, educated and enlightened. In my heart I was there beside them as they protested…, as they marched…, as they gained in understanding and as they grew…so too did I.

Two of my pen pals became approved visitors of mine…and they came to my prison to meet me in person.

I could write a whole letter just to tell you about these first two meetings…but, instead I think that I will just say that these experiences touched my heart in a way that will live with me always. (One of them went on to come and visit me once a month for the next two years that I remained in prison!)

My pen pals not only gave me light through sharing their life’s ups and downs with me…, they also used to send me, (& discuss), everything from their latest research into medical physics…to postgraduate papers on Islamic art and architecture and global warming. I was sent research and papers on PTSD and psychopathy…, (the last helped me to see the true cost of my past poor decisions…, which in turn helped to facilitate change in me). They all helped me to become better educated and enlightened. This has helped me to cement the changes that I had made within myself.

Thus, creating a better, more well balanced individual to be released back into society.

They too were there with me as I continued along the long, hard road that I was on, as I continued the fight to gain my freedom.

With their advice, support and genuine care…, they kept me strong and kept me going through some truly rough times.

Thank you.

 

These next words are for all the pen pals who have reached out to those individuals whom have found themselves in prison…

You are all important and very special people!

You bring your light and hope into a very dark place. You lift the people you reach…to new heights, and you give them back a normality that they had had to leave behind at the prison gates. You helped these to become better educated and better informed, this inturn helps some to break the vicious cycles that they’ve found themselves living through over and over again…

You have brought love to some people whom have never before experienced this life affirming force…

They say that the most precious gift one human can give another…is time. As we only have a finite amount found in between our birth and our deaths…every moment is precious.

So for you all to be giving of this, the most precious of life’s commodities…to those in prison…well…
I can only, from the deepest most true place in my heart…,
Thank you for everything you do!
Be proud, you are making a difference.
Thank you pen pals 🙂

So yes, dear dear PCN,

Thank you for what you do and for what you’ve done for me personally. You have made the world of difference to my life, both inside…and now outside of prison.

My future looks bright now…and I owe this prediction in no small part to you. You do a truly special thing for those whom you reach…, keep up the amazing work that you’re doing…it really saves lives. Know that you are saving lives!

I’ve tried to support your cause from inside prison…my written prose, my art, (I think that my PCN snail mail snail has graced your twitter account and fundraising page… 🙂 and my reaper and little rat reaper was in your first newsletter booklet…)

I’ve made a donation saved up from my prison wage of .40c PH…what you truly do is worthwhile…, and I believe that the worthwhile things in life are worth fighting for…and are worth the hard work needed to make them possible.

So, when I physically can, I intend to continue to support PAPA and in turn PCN from the outside of prison…in any way that promotes your cause.

On that note I’ll leave this letter with these words…

 

A kind person does kind things.
Kind things are what makes this a better world for us all.
(We all want that right?!)
So, take the time to be kind to someone each day.
Don’t let the negativity of a few…
Outweigh the positivity found inside you.
Even a simple smile can travel far…
Yet needs no passport.
Voldamort didn’t understand…
Love is true power.
Be powerful 🙂

Thank you for all your love,

Alex*

 

PS…,

(Chris, Zo, Kerry, Stephen & Sofia) Thank you for everything that you did…and still do for me. We shared highs…& lows…throughout it all, you stuck by me, and I love you all for it. May life give to you everything you’ve given me…tenfold! You will all, always share a special place in my heart.

I am a free man today from your help…so I give you my word that I will always do my very best to help make this a better place for us all to live in.

I owe you all…everything!!

Thank you dear ones!

 

Much love and respect,
Alex

 

*All names have been changed for anonymity

 

    

 

The NZ pen pal programme making prisoners’ days ‘a million times better’

“The Prisoner Correspondence Network (PCN) is the only prisoner pen pal network in NZ. It’s only been going since 2016, and currently has around 100 volunteers.”

If you are thinking of becoming a pen pal to an incarcerated person, just message or email us at pcnaotearoa@gmail.com and we’ll sign you up to the mailing list. It’s a good thing to do!

Check out the video and news article by Newshub here.

Christmas card drive 2016: feedback

Thank you again to everyone who participated in the Christmas card drive for prisoners last year! We’re starting to get some thank you letters in and people really appreciated their cards. Here’s a thank you from one prisoner:

To the team at the Prisoner Correspondence Network. Being an openly out Gay Man I found prison life to be a little daunting, depressing and a little bit of a scary place to be but worst of all I felt alone. But since making contact with you guys at PCN you have given me the support and strength to become a stronger person and to be proud of who I am and stand tall with my head held high and thank you soo much for help. Also I thank you for introducing me to the penpals that have been writing to me, I truly believe through you I have made some great friends for life. Thank you to everyone who sent me christmas cards that meant so much to me. Wishing you the best for 2017. With love JL.

Here’s a second thank you letter:

I just want to say a huge THANK YOU for all the wonderful xmas cards I received today. It’s made a very tough and upsetting week a little brighter! I loved the handmade ones, they are all talented and amazing. Could you please thank all the people for me? I never knew people cared that much. It’s made my xmas a little bit brighter.
Thank you again, from LD

And a third!

To PCN
Today I received a bunch of christmas cards from you guys
OMG!!
Thank you so so much it made my day. You guys are the best.

Thanks

You’ve really helped us make Christmas special for our penpals on the inside. Have a big THANK YOU from us as well!