Stories of Change

Plataforma NNAPEs is made up of ten members working in nine nations across Latin America and the Caribbean.

From invisible to speaking publicly

“My life…my life at the beginning was chaos.”

That’s the sentiment from Maria Felicia Encarnacion Ozuna, an 18-year-old in the Dominican Republic. Felicia, as she is known, is the child of an incarcerated parent. There are about two million children like Felicia across Latin America and the Caribbean. In order to make sure that the unique and acute needs of this vulnerable population are being served, CWS leads Plataforma NNAPEs, a regional coalition of organizations working to advocate for and otherwise serve children of incarcerated parents.

When Felicia was nine, her father was arrested and taken to jail. “A lot of conflicts started back then. I suffered from discrimination, bullying and rejection from society,” she says. Since that year, Felicia has participated in a number of programs offered by Caminante, the NNAPEs member in the Dominican Republic. “It partly helps me psychologically, since I no longer care what society says, because I know who I am. I know I’m not guilty of what my father did…I’m very proud of who I am; this project has given me the opportunity to give recognition to those who need it – to a lot of children that have gone through or are going through what I once experienced,” she says.

Among other things, her work with Caminante gave Felicia a platform to use her voice. CWS and NNAPEs made a video telling the stories of children of incarcerated parents in the Dominican Republic in 2015. Kharon Benson is an American filmmaker and photographer who has directed, filmed and produced a short documentary about his own father, who is serving a 25-year sentence at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York.

Kharon and CWS’s Luciano Cadoni interviewed Felicia as part of the video. “Kharon showed me his video that they use to promote the issue in the United States. That is how he tells his story through time, of what happened with his father who is incarcerated. He motivated me along with Luciano, and I did the video, which was very emotional because it was the first time I told my story to someone who didn’t discriminate against or judge me and gave me their support,” Felicia says.

“I felt good with myself because I vented things that I have saved for so many years, and I hadn’t told anyone. I was able to tell Kharon and Luciano and I felt good with myself,” she added.

Felicia has a message for you, too: “I want to thank every single person [who supports] CWS for having allowed the creation of this wonderful project called NNAPEs, which is very important for each one of us – for each of the children and youth who are like me and are going through the same situation of having an incarcerated parent.”