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A lesson in gratitude

Stories in the Dendermonde Prison

- Heating is not working very well, I am afraid - says one of the mums, trying to warm herself up at one of the radiators.

(Thank you Mum, and all other Mums, for breaking the ice by talking to us and smiling, when we join your visiting hours - precious time for you, your partners and your kids).

This time we are reading stories in the prison of Dendermonde.

It takes a while before we are through the formalities, it's not sure if we will be able to bring the camera in, but finally all gets sorted and we can take pictures. I am happy.

(Thank you Caro, Elien, volunteers and all prison stuff for being so supportive ad hoc, "where there's a will, there's a way", we feel welcome.)

First - coffee.

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We install ourselves on the mattresses, cozy on the ground, kids are full of energy and curious, quickly come to take a look at our magical "butai" box (this wooden theatre we use for kamishibai stories).

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They not only carefully listen but they want to read as well. The invisible border between Verhalenweverij (us) and the audience (them) melts quickly. Now it's our joint reading moment. Together.

(Thank you all fantastic kids for your enthusiasm, funny questions, honest comments - "this is really not a good drawing" and for helping us with the stories. Thanks for dragging your mums and dads to our corner, they wouldn't dare without you.)

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This time we saw more of the prison itself. Rows of cells, walls, doors. It is a hallucinant thought, that these guys see only that for X years. My human-being mind demands "plants, green, nature, colours!"

A walk to the toilet, along dark corridor with cells, gives me an adrenaline rush.

As always - time flies and before we notice, families are asked to say goodbye. Last hugs, whispering, waving hands. It's such an emotional moment.

I have to think about our evenings at home, three of us (+ our dog Chepito) in the sofa, watching movies together, teasing each other, having long, Sunday breakfasts...

(Thank you Dads for talking to us and for sharing with us your priceless visiting time. We cannot imagine how it must feel not to kiss your kid goodnight every evening. We can see how proud you are watching your son reading kamishibai, and how proud the kids are drawing hearts for you "I love you dad").

On the way back home, I am happy I can sit for an hour on the train, stare through the window and give myself time to place all those feelings and emotions. It impacted me more than I thought it would.

We didn't say "good bye" to the kids, we said "see you next time" and I so do hope there will be next time soon.