How it all began
In 1994, a Dutch lady Ellen Broerse started corresponding to one man in Bangkwang prison in Thailand. This one act has developed to embrace hundreds of prisoners in various Thai prisons. A team from Perth have been visiting Thailand since 1995 and they focused mainly on prisons in Bangkok and surrounding areas.
Many of the inmates both men and women came from developing countries such as Burma, Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos, Nepal and some African countries. The majority of them were serving Life sentences for drug related offenses. Their countries had no social security, so out of sheer despair they became drug mules in order to earn a quick dollar. Most of them were unemployed, hungry and hopeless and had nothing to lose. Now behind bars, they were very remorseful.
Through letters written by volunteers, the prisoners find renewed strength, hope and encouragement. They experience God’s love through people who care for and about them, where their own families had often abandoned and forsaken them.
Over many years volunteers from all over the world had written letters to men and women behind bars. If you are currently writing to a pen pal in prison, please continue to do so.
In Isaan, English is not widely spoken or read and we have had to adapt to the challenges this poses. In light of this fact, the onus of writing to prisoners have shifted to the local Thai Christian community. It is a great blessing to be able to receive a letter in your native tongue which is the case for many of the inmates.
If you can write in Thai and would like to have a pen friend, please contact our facilitator in Thailand.
2012 expansion to Isaan
This is the year a second team started visiting prisons in Thailand, this time in north-east Isaan. This area is not a popular tourist destination, mostly rural and impoverished but home to about 22 million people. The Australian team tries to visit annually. Every year brings new challenges to the prisons, the rules and the consequent impact that brings.
There are about 40 prisons in Isaan alone and they vary from provincial, central to high security prisons. Hope Behind Bars Inc were legally registered as a charity in Brisbane, Queensland and supports the Thai team that is operational in Isaan. The Thai team under leadership of Pastor Klom Kaenpudcha in partnership with Hope Church Udonthani, ministers to about 7 prisons and supports many released prisoners as they transition from prison to life after their release.