A social initiative of the Adventist Church served about 300 people who went to visit family members imprisoned in Vila Velha State Penitentiary II, in Greater Vitória, Espírito Santo, Brazil. The “Love Fair” took place on March 5, 2023, in the external area of the prison unit, which is intended for the male public, with legal, pastoral, aesthetic, health, and educational services for children.
Organized by the Prison Ministry of the Associação Sul Espírito Santense (ASES), the administrative headquarters of the Adventist Church for the southern region of Espírito Santo, and the Social Institute of Citizenship and Health (ISCS), this is the second edition of the Love Fair held in the state penitentiary. The services took place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., with family members arriving for the inmates’ visit. The team of volunteers invited the people, who were welcomed with a breakfast.
“Talking to the penitentiary administration, we realized that there is a lack of assistance for the prisoners’ families on visiting days,” explains Pastor Romário Silva, who spearheaded the initiative. “Many come from the interior or other states, arrive tired, hungry, and with their emotions shaken. They are wives, mothers with children, and family members who, while waiting for the visitation time or when leaving, received little care and attention. The fair happens to bring a little relief to people who go through this moment.”
People check their blood pressure and sugar levels. [Photo: South American Division]
The Love Fair provided free foot massages. [Photo: South American Division]
The Love Fair began with a morning breakfast. [Photo: South American Division].
Participants also were able to get haircuts. [Photo: South American Division].
Loving Service to Others
Of the 300 people who attended this Sunday, almost half agreed to have pastoral care or receive a visit from Adventist volunteers afterwards. Among the services at the Love Fair, there were relaxing massage services, blood pressure and glucose screening, eyebrow cleaning, haircuts and beard maintenance, manicures, pedicures, questions answered by lawyers, moments of pastoral counseling, and games with the inmates’ children. In all, 52 ISCS volunteers participated in the initiative, which was organized by the institute’s social team leader, Agnor Barbosa.
“We regularly participate in social actions and health fairs organized by the Adventist Church, but this one was very special because we serve a public that needs attention,” highlights Juliano Coutinho, ISCS president. “In this initiative, we were able to bring a group of lawyers who had access to the internet and were able to give advice to people on the spot. It was a very special morning, not only for those who received the service itself, but for us volunteers as well.”
V.R.* was one of the participants of the Love Fair. She went to accompany her husband on his son’s visit. She says many times, she doesn’t have a real (Brazilian currency) to buy food, so the breakfast was a blessing.
“I come to accompany my spouse every two weeks here, and often, I don’t have a [reais] to buy a snack while I wait for the two-hour visit. This fair was a blessing, I had a snack, got a haircut, chatted and hugged—a real refreshment for the soul,” says V.R.
Another participant was A.D.,* who went with her two children to visit her husband. “I only saw this fair when I was leaving, but I had time to check my blood pressure and glucose levels, and everything was okay, thank God. I hope this initiative always happens because the attention I received in those few minutes was very important. We come out of there devastated, and to have someone to take care of us and listen to us is comforting,” she highlights.
*Only their initials are used to preserve their identity.