The Prison Card Project has become a tradition at our Sunday School for the last several years. Before Christmas and Pascha, all the classes make cards for our fellow men and women in prison. Many inmates are Orthodox or Orthodox catechumens (they are learning about Orthodoxy and preparing to be baptized Orthodox), and the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) tends to their needs.
We help the children draw and write their cards, and we also ask parents for a donation of domestic stamps. We then mail everything to OCPM which collects and delivers the cards. We were inspired to do this project by the resource-rich website of Ms. Phyllis Meshel Onest, now retired Director of Religious Education at the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh.
So this year, we asked our students once again to make their Christmas cards. We created a black-and-white card template, using a Nativity icon by Athanasios Clark (courtesy of the Department of Religious Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese), which we printed on colored paper – we purposely chose yellow so the finished cards would loosely resemble the traditional golden background of an icon. The children colored the icon on the card cover and then wrote their wishes inside the card, decorating them with drawings.
We have included the card template in this webpage, in case you would like to use it for a similar project. If you choose to send cards to OCPM, please bear in mind that, for security reasons, the cards can only be hand-drawn or colored – any other materials, such as glue, glitter or stickers, are not permitted. Additionally, no personal details should appear on the cards (parish information, last names etc.), except the students’ first names. Finally, kindly note that OCPM asks for the cards to be mailed to them a few weeks before the actual feast, so they have time to sort and deliver them.
While the children are coloring the cards, they get to notice many of the icon details, so we have used this activity to complement a lesson on the Nativity icon. We are currently working on an extra special post about this topic, which we expect to have ready right before Christmas – so please stay tuned! Also, don’t forget to check out our other Christmas card-related post, DIY Orthodox Christmas cards.