By ROSELYN ELLISON
WHAT is the Boxing Day?
I used to think it is a fighting day but until on last Dec 26 when Dame Sandra Lau explained it at Kerevat Jail in East New Britain that, it’s a day to give boxes of gifts as blessings to the unfortunate.
It is a boxes day of gifts.
It is a heartfelt experience to see more than 400 plus prisoners received their gifts from Dame Sandra on last Dec 26 with a glimpse of hope and happiness in their hearts.
It is seems like we are taking this life for granted, while we are enjoying this freedom of living, others are growing older behind the bars with sun rises and sets on them behind the bars, year in and year out on them behind bars.
Though they have the same wishes and desire as everybody else’s but life didn’t allow them to fulfil because of some few mistakes they made in life.
Thank you Dame Sandra for inviting The National to be part of the team and teaching me this lesson in life, which now I understood the really meaning of giving.
That is more blessed to give than to receive and seeing prisoners smile is far more enriching than receiving a Christmas gift itself and that was the higest joy in life.
Dame Sandra who is also the Managing Director of the Tropicana Ltd said every year for the past 18 years, she has always looked forward to experiencing the joys of Christmas together with all prisoners and officers on every Boxing Day.
“It is a day I don’t take for granted, as what we achieve for the day is not all in a day’s work but it is a lot of effort not just from myself but months of prior planning from my devoted and wonderful staff at Tropicana Ltd led by Yen Fong and his boys,” said Dame Sandra.
“Not forgetting our generous suppliers, not just for the gifts they donate but also the generosity of their time to attend this meaningful event with me,” Dame Sandra said.
She furthermore stated that, this Box Day is not a usual visit, as she is joined by her daughter-Stephanie, niece-Sharon and niece in-law Trung who are all working for Tropicana Ltd in Kokopo.
“I am also thankful that my caring and generous husband John and my family are always supportive of the charitable work, I do as with this special occasion on Dec 26 (Boxing Day),” she said.
The other suppliers who also contributed to the occasion included BNG, Coca-Cola, Colgate, Globe, Home state, Guangzhou Yushun, IFC International, Jiangmen City Guanghui, JKT Lim, Laga, Lae Biscuit, National rice, Nestle, Pacific Industries, Panamex, Paradise Food, RD Tuna, SVS, Triregal and Unison.
Dame Sandra said she was very influenced by Fr David Cough who was the priest in charge of Kerevat Jail at that time.
Fr David’s sympathy and care towards the prison prisoners he worked with gave her a lot of emotions.
Through her first visit, meeting and talking to all prisoners first hand in 2002, she felt very upset and sorry.
“People here are human beings, just like every one of us they probably made a mistake, just like all of us. We all make mistakes, we all get it wrong, we all fail at something in life but they (prisoners) made the mistakes that cost them their freedom which is big price to pay.
I don’t condone the crimes the committed but I know what they need most is motivation to become better people.
“My heart goes out to the family members. The people we see here today, they are somebody’s lost loved ones. They are somebody’s sons, somebody’s father, somebody’s brother and somebody’s uncle,” Dame Sandra said.
Prison is not for punishment, prison is for repentance and rehabilitation which it gives a chance to change their ways, on how they think and do things, so that when they leave the prison, they become better people in their respective communities.
Through many years of visiting Kerevat Jail and Dame Sandra’s experience with all the prisoners whom she has a lot of faith for decided to help build the multipurpose hall for prisoners and officers to use.
The multipurpose hall stands 12 x 24 metres big, with insulated roofing, cemented and tiled floors and lots of ceiling fans to keep the hall cool and comfortable.
She said this is a special project that is very close to her heart and it has been a long-time planning with a lot of careful thoughts and consideration put into it.
Dame Sandra told the prisoners and officers that, when they use this hall, she wants them to believe there is hope, that they have choices, a second chance.
She told the prisoners, it is not an easy path and it will be the biggest challenge they will face.
The opening of the multipurpose hall was done by Dame Sandra and His Eminence Cardinal Sir John Ribat.
At the hall opening, ENB education advisor Alkan Mararang outlined plans between ENB division of education and Kerevat Jail for technical vocational education training (TVET) programs.
Mararang said the TVET training program is currently going on in the Kerevat Jail campus where the trainers from the Vunamami Farmers training centre (VFTC) are conducting the training for prisoners and officers.
Mararang explained that, they started the training program last year and started off with 10 trades with first group and this year is the second year for them to run this TVET training.
Mararang challenge the prisoners to make use of the skills and training their learnt from the TVET program when they go back home.
He told the prisoners, to use the skills they gained from the training for economic empowerment.
The multipurpose hall was constructed by prisoners who took carpentry, welding and electrical trades and was supervised by TVET trainers and officers.