25 Nov, 2013
It’s nearing the end of a cold November into December and most people are wondering what the holidays will bring for them in terms of gifts from friends and family. However, December is also the time when charity directors buckle down and do what they can to reach out to very generous cheque-writing supporters in order to ensure that their charitable organizations survive in the following years. Getting past the awkwardness of having to rely on the kindness of others, it is a hard time for many of us who cannot procure the funds needed on our own. And so, it is a constant struggle to “glamour up” our own Montreal-Southwest Community Ministries (MSCM) in order to become “attractive” enough for people to know that their hard-earned money is going to the right place. For many, the definition of “right place” very well may not exactly be for prison visits and the ability to work with high risk offenders within the community, and in this sense it is that much more difficult to remain active.
A project to assist those released from prison to become well-reintegrated was seen as a need within the community and in 1999, MSCM was born. A year later, the MSCM Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) was born, and a year after that, Open Door was given the green light as well.
Let us tell you a little bit about MSCM, what exactly donations can do, and where funds are allocated. First and foremost, the fact that the work we do at MSCM almost guarantees a safer community is probably the best point we can stress. We are a non-profit and volunteer-driven English-speaking organization that uses the principles of restorative justice to build a safer community by accompanying and reintegrating those who have served time in a penitentiary. At MSCM we believe that when someone commits a crime and is sent to prison, a violation of community safety is always one of the primary concerns. We utilize the principles of restorative justice to “assist the reintegration of those who have been in prison.” When someone resorts to crime and in turn spends countless years of their life in consequence, it is extremely important that reintegration be part of their daily regimen as an ex-convict in order to enhance this community safety.
It really is a sight when someone who has committed a crime builds healthy and honest relationships with others in our community. In doing so, statistics show that they are much less likely to commit a crime again once they are reintegrated back into our community (we know for example that for one group of men using our services there is a 75% to 80% decrease in chances of recidivism). Moreover, the immense support they get from our volunteers helps them make better decisions for themselves and learn better behaviours. Your donations would go specifically to the staff who recruit, train, and aid volunteers working both in and out of prisons in Montreal. Donations also of course go to the rent costs of our offices, to fund our means of communication like phones and computers, as well as to the transportation needed to bring inmates to and from our various services such as Open Door. Due to the growing demand for our services (such as CoSA, Peer-to-Peer In-reach Program, and Open Door) to inmates, we require the funding to allow their expansion. It would also allow us even more access to inmates with regards to being able to make more visits to prisons. In these ways many healthy relationships are created and sustained, and our community has shown time and again how beneficial it is to have both volunteers and inmates involved with us.
Being a community chaplaincy as well, we are faith-based and that can be a comforting thing for some donors who also believe in the salvation one can receive with the understanding of the importance of faith. The Lord does not turn a blind eye to anyone, even if they reside in Federal Training Center (FTC), Montée Saint-François (B-16) or Ste- Anne-des-Plaines. It is also basing our fundamentals of aid on faith that allows us to do things that no amount of money can purchase. Take John, who was incarcerated and whose wife was about to give birth to their first child. It was only through the services of MSCM that a couple of trained volunteers were able to escort him to the hospital in time to be at her bedside when their son was born before returning him to the prison late at night – an experience that he probably could never have recovered from had he missed it. Many times we go beyond what is necessary simply because it makes someone feel that much more human.
Here at MSCM, we are not your run-of-the-mill conventional charitable organization. Although it is really important to fund cancer research and to give a helping hand in underdeveloped places of the world, what we do is much more focused in scope within our community, and it can be an amazing thing. It may sound clichéd, but inmates are also people just like us. The fact that they resorted to an unacceptable path does not mean that they have to be labelled as “social deviants” for the rest of their lives. Upon release from prison, all ex-inmates are just as vulnerable as stray kittens, even though they may not like to admit it. We ask them to extend their muscular and tattooed hands to us in order to finally take responsibility at a community level and help make a difference in their own lives and the lives of their neighbours.
Please keep MSCM in your minds over the holidays, as we ask that you extend your hearts to us as well. Our space, staff, and volunteers cannot survive that much longer without the generous support from people like you. Please help take responsibility for your community, or at the very least, include us in your prayers. A bit of ink from your pen and a few dollars from the bank is all that is needed from you in order to help make a difference in lives that are closer to you than you may think. We’ll do the rest.
Contributed by Mark (an MSCM volunteer)
You can make donations online using your credit card by going to CanadaHelps.org or by clicking the button on your right.
Please make sure you select MSCM in the drop down menu. Thank you & Happy Holidays!