Visit to La Macaza
13 Nov, 2013
On a recent Saturday, the school-bus, bringing Montreal volunteers arrives in front of the metal fence, with the unwelcoming gate locked, as the group begin to approach, shivering in the cold wind. Several others, who have driven to join the group, also join us. Only five may enter at a time, we are told, the thought of which seems to increase the cold of the wind. Some return to wait inside the bus as the slow process begins. When, at last, all are inside, having passed through the metal detectors and other impersonal formalities, we are finally ready for the real reason for our visit. A contrast awaits us!
We walk to approach the chapel and in the entrance, eager inmates are lined up to greet us, so happy and appreciative to make human contact. My first thought at this moment seems always to return to how small an effort it has taken for me to come here, while, for these men, who have no other visitors, this occasion is of such importance. They’ll remember for many months, the names of volunteers and what they had talked about and the sense of being respected as we move around the room socializing. Some will recognize those they have met on previous visits, but many will be new arrivals at the pen. The meal and snacks are served by the inmates’ organizing group, who have planned every detail. Even the food, prepared by the cafeteria, has been paid for by the inmates who participate. The couple of hours pass by quickly and time for the volunteers to leave soon arrives. There are fond goodbyes as all, inmates and visitors alike, appreciate the warmth of the new as well as the well-established friendships they’ve enjoyed on this cold day.