Lock and Key

Lock and Key

Zambia

When we see human beings treated in a way you wouldn’t treat an animal, then something should stir in our hearts and make us respond in practical ways to try and relieve that suffering.

Meet the team who are working in one of the most heart-rending environments possible, transforming the conditions of Zambia’s prisons from the inside out.

When Paul Cowley, Head of Alpha for Prisons, visited a prison in Lusaka – Zambia’s capital city — last year, the terrible conditions moved him to tears. However, his vision to change conditions for the better was recently made a reality thanks to strategic thinking and partnership with the government.

Lusaka Central Prison was originally built for 200 people, but when Paul and a group of Alpha partners visited in September 2012 there were more than 1,200 men and 100 women incarcerated in the prison.

They met with the prison chaplain, who told them the prisoners were desperately in need of basic supplies – underwear and sanitary needs for the women, as well as blankets and mattresses.

Paul returned to the UK and started an appeal, returning to Lusaka two months later with 300 mattresses, 300 blankets, thirty boxes of medical soap, two sewing machines and nearly 600 pairs of underwear.

Accompanied by David Thomson, Chair of Alpha Zambia, and Father Frank Hakoola, Alpha Zambia Director, Paul also arranged a meeting with the Vice President of Zambia, Dr Guy Scott, to discuss the deteriorating conditions within the prison.

The Zambian government were keen to work in partnership with Alpha to improve conditions, resulting in ninety-eight women with children and eight very old women being released from the prison.

Reflecting on the achievement, Paul said: ‘When we see human beings treated in a way you wouldn’t treat an animal, then something should stir in our hearts and make us respond in practical ways to try and relieve that suffering.’

‘I could never have imagined that by meeting the Vice-President and doing what we could do, it would end with the freedom of more than 100 captives from that prison.’

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Sheela's Story

Sheela's Story

The idea of running Alpha in the workplace honestly stemmed from a practical reason – late working hours were a barrier to my colleagues being able to attend Alpha at church. It made sense to bring Alpha to the workplace for those who were interested to give it a go.

I remember feeling quite nervous and unsure the first time we ran it back in 2014. I didn’t know what to expect or if anyone would even turn up! ‘Ye of little faith’ I remember a friend saying to me when we ended up with a solid group of about 20 in that first round. Since then, we’ve run Alpha four times - sometimes with larger groups, sometimes with smaller groups - but each experience has never failed to be just as amazing.

The most interesting aspect for me about running Alpha in our workplace was the immediate connection that people made from having something fundamental in common – where they work. There was little need for breaking the ice and discussions took off from day 1 with guests feeling comfortable sharing their thoughts and perspectives.

Alpha in the workplace complements what the church is doing by reaching out to a community that might not have been able to be reached. So many of us know that being out there in the corporate world trying to make it in the great rat race can get tiring and it’s only a matter of time before one begins to ask “Is there more to life that this?” – which is a question that was on the minds of our guests when they came. Alpha provided that safe space for conversations that might not have taken place otherwise.

The most memorable account from a guest for me comes from a guy who had attended our first ever run of Alpha. Post-Alpha, he told us that while was hesitant initially about the whole idea, eventually the weekly sessions became a place of refuge for him in the busyness of work. He said that it was a truly unexpected experience - “Work is what I had associated with stress and a lack of peace but through Alpha, work became a place I found hope, peace and faith.”

It’s not smooth sailing all the time but it is stories like this and many more of that nature that remind me that even if it’s for one person each round, it’s still worth it. And I’d just love to encourage anyone who’s thinking about it to just give it a go! The training and material make the process really simple to get started. Your adventure of a lifetime in running Alpha is just around the corner… trust me, it’s worth it!

Work is what I had associated with stress and a lack of peace but through Alpha, work became a place I found hope, peace and faith.
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