Prison ministry focuses on health and dignity

posted in: Health care, Peru 0

Carolina was a Peruvian woman who inadvertently got involved in the drug trade. Like many women, Carolina got married and had three children with the dream of raising a happy and healthy family. Working conditions and opportunities were not good for the family, and they moved to Spain in search of a better life. Unfortunately, the new environment was not what the family expected—employment was not plentiful. Carolina naively accepted a job to travel to Peru to deliver a suitcase with unknown merchandise. At the airport, the police stopped her with the package of illegal contents and took her to the Chorrillos Annex Prison for Women in Lima, Peru.

Sister Lilma Calsin Collazos ministers as the coordinator of the health ministry at the Chorrillos Annex Prison for Women in Lima, Peru.
Sister Lilma Calsin Collazos ministers as the coordinator of the health ministry at the Chorrillos Annex Prison for Women in Lima, Peru.

Carolina’s story

Two months later, Carolina realized that she was pregnant and requested the jail provide medical attention. The prison had no health services and she did not have money for transportation to the state hospital. Through her ministry at the Chorrillos prison, Sister Lilma Calsin Collazos, CSC, was able to cover the transportation costs and get Carolina necessary healthcare. Sadly, the baby did not survive because of a tumor in Carolina’s stomach.

The same day Carolina lost her son, the doctors discovered she had cancer, but did not tell her about the illness. For days she agonized with severe stomach pain and was told to rest and take painkillers for the discomfort. While trying to get her medical attention, Sister Lilma discovered that Carolina was terminally ill.

Sister Lilma and her volunteers began the humanitarian pardon process to return Carolina to Spain to be with family in her final days. After much effort the pardon was obtained, but Carolina died before boarding the plane—she never had the chance to say goodbye to loved ones.

Prison ministry journey

Providing care for women in prison like Carolina is the focus of Sister Lilma’s work as coordinator of the health ministry at the Chorrillos Annex Prison for Women for the past three years. Sister Lilma and three volunteers assess and manage the health care needs of each prisoner, providing basic health services to the women and their minor children.

“The main help [the women] need is to be recognized and valued as women, mothers and friends. The self-esteem of the women is very low, and they are mistreated in prison, [and experience] trampling on their dignity. Through the comprehensive health care service that we offer to the prison population, we [help] them recognize themselves as persons loved by God who are capable of achieving in life because they are creative and strong,” said Sister Lilma of her ministry.

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