CCWP started Family Visiting Day in 2005 when we realized how many women were not getting regular visits from their families because of the difficulties involved with transportation to the prisons. In 2005, we brought families from the Bay Area but this year we expanded the event to include a bus from Los Angeles. We spent several months raising money, getting donations of food, collecting names and information from families who were interested in participating, researching chartered bus companies and working on dozens of other details to make it all possible. Some families were picked up by volunteers and some got to the meeting places on their own. There were packets of information which included descriptions of CCWP?s programs for each family, as well as healthy snacks, and crayons, paper and flash cards for the kids to pass the time on the long bus ride there. Although everyone was sleepy because of the early hour, you could feel the excitement running up and down the aisles!
One major accomplishment was that all the family members who came on the trip were able to get in to visit, which is a big hurdle to cross given the many rules and regulations which need to be followed. Friends Outside staff who run trailers on the prison grounds graciously hosted the CCWP volunteers and staff while the families were inside visiting. They even prepared special gift bags for the children. After the visit was over, both buses drove to the Merced Hometown Buffet where we all had the opportunity to share stories and pictures of the visit while eating a delicious, all-you-can-eat dinner. Afterward, we all had a chance to introduce ourselves and say a little about our experiences that day. Then family members completed a short survey before getting back on the buses to head for home.
Here are some of the things which family members shared in response to the question ?What did participating in Family Visiting Day mean to you??
-Hard times kept me from visiting on my own as I usually do, so this visit kept me in touch with my loved one without a long absence.
-Fue un dia muy especial porque la pase muy feliz con mi hija!
-It is a wonderful thing you are doing for the families and the women prisoners ? the looks on the faces of my grandchildren when they saw their mother was heart warming and something you never forget ? and it would not be possible without the bus trip.
-It was very nice visiting my daughter and meeting new people.
-It meant a lot to me because I got to hug and kiss my auntie.
-Fue un regalo de ustedes!
The main thing that people wanted to change for the future was to do Family Visiting Day more than once a year!