rUganda is a beautiful country. To quote the Lonely Planet: “Uganda is Africa condensed, with the best of everything the continent has to offer packed into one small but stunning destination.”
When you are planning your trip to Uganda it might be difficult to decide where to go. Do you want to hang out with the mountain gorillas, or would you rather do some white-water rafting at the source of the Nile? Difficult choices…. And then there is the practical side of travelling. Do you have all the necessary documents to travel to Uganda? What is the exchange rate for the Ugandan Shilling, and how much do you need for your transport, food and beer? Any trip requires preparation. Luckily, preparing for your trip is easy. There are loads of books and websites that can help. The only thing you need to do is make some time.
Meanwhile, there are other people who are not so lucky. Like you, they need to decide where to go, find out how to get there and how to pay for it. Time is not the issue. They have plenty of time. They face different problems.
Grace was a prisoner in the maximum security prison in Kampala. After having served four years of his six year sentence, a prison warden came to the prison tailoring workshop where Grace was busy sewing a pair of trousers. The warden spoke to the instructor in charge and escorted Grace to the reception office, where the chief of reception was waiting to discharge him. Since Grace had expected to stay on for two more years, he attended the prison discharge process in disbelief. "Mr. Grace", the chief said smiling at Grace: "you will go out at 10 AM. Go back, have a bath, a haircut at the barbers, and change".
It was 10 o'clock when Grace appeared with one plastic bag, containing all of his belongings. He was led to the office of the Deputy Officer-in-Charge. The Deputy was a man of great humour, he counselled Grace about the challenges of a recently acquired liberty and begged never to see him back again. He gave Grace a UGX 5000,- (± €1,40) note and assured that it would transport him out of the city to the comfort of his relatives.
When Grace came out of the last gate of the massive encampment, he could hardly handle the amount of light that hit his retina and he had to hold back for a minute before moving down the hill, to the astonishment of the guards who were waving goodbye to him.
At the taxi stop, Grace seemed so ignorant about life outside prison. He looked old fashioned and his fellow passengers seemed strange to him. After a 30 minute drive Grace's taxi (public transport mini-bus) pulls up at the old taxi park, from where after a few inquiries he locates the taxi stage for the Kiira town council. The conductor charges him UGX 2000,- (± €0,60)to the last stop, his home.
Grace was astonished to experience a disappointing homecoming. The re-union was very painful as Grace's mother had died, his wife had remarried and his father had sold his share of the family land. All these changes had been kept from him, because there was now a common consensus among Grace's relatives that he would die in prison and, having brought shame upon the clan, he was not worthy of their consideration.
With nowhere to go to, Grace had only the option of going to live with another former prisoner, who owned a small bar in the slum of Kireka along Jinja Road, Kampala. From here he went into hard drinking and now has trouble looking after himself.
This is a true story. Grace wanted to narrate this painful process of re-entry into the community and believes that successful rehabilitation and reintegration is not possible without a collective effort from both Governmental and Non-Governmental bodies.
Product of Prison
Product of Prison (POP) is a Dutch non-profit organisation that aims to assist prisoners in Uganda with their successful rehabilitation and reintegration by giving them the skills and opportunities necessary to rebuild their lives and to return to their communities. POP’s vision is a prison service in which the human rights of prisoners are respected, prisoners are treated in a humane and compassionate manner and their time in detention is used to prepare them for life outside of prison.
By acquiring vocational skills, knowledge and work experience during their time in prison, prisoners are better equipped to set up income generating activities and to avoid recidivism after release. Through the sale of prison products and services, POP wants to raise awareness of the lives of prisoners in developing countries and to strengthen prisoners’ connection with society. POP provides prisoners with payment for their products and services to give them the financial means to improve their living conditions in prison, to contribute to their families and to facilitate their re-entry into the community. POP aspires to empower prisoners, to restore a sense of humanity and to build self-esteem and self-confidence.
With your support POP can fully concentrate on setting up rehabilitative projects in prisons to provide prisoners with the skills to become self-reliant and to develop a positive and productive lifestyle after prison.