Gathering our Strength

(Guest blog by Jenn Meeropol, RFC Associate Director)

It’s been a very busy few weeks at the RFC. My father has been on the road (to Portland, OR for a successful RFC party and then to Paris for international anti-death penalty work). Meanwhile, the postmark deadline for fall applications is today (October 13th) so I’ve been busy fielding inquiries from potential new and current beneficiary families.

While I always enjoy the opportunity to catch up with our beneficiary families and connect with new applicants via phone or email, it can be discouraging to hear these families’ updates, which too often include lost jobs, foreclosures, additional targeting or continued challenges and in some cases trauma, that their children are experiencing. This week in particular has brought several stories from new applicants about torture and police abuse. As much as we want to know about these circumstances so we can offer support, it can be overwhelming to hear about so much suffering.

I’ve found myself needing to take a moment to focus on some of the positives of our work; when I do, one of the first things that comes to mind is the recent Carry It Forward Gathering. Just about two months after the Gathering, I still find myself energized by both the event and the feedback we’ve received from participants and their families (learn more about the RFC Gathering programs here).

The mother of a participant emailed me: “The weekend [of the Gathering] was so great. What [my son] texted his father stands out – ‘This is the most exciting, interesting weekend I have ever had.’ I really want to thank you for this experience. I think it opened him up…. What also happened as a result is [my son] realized he did not know as much as he could/should about his father. He asked questions and his father opened up and addressed them. It was really moving….. Thank you and the RFC so much.”

Another participant told us “It was an absolute honor to meet all of you this past couple of days. You are all True Heroes and getting to know you all and the things you and your families have overcome was an absolute privilege. And I made some great friends in a short time. Cheers to you all!"

Finally, a young man who attended the Gathering shared that “There is a very powerful emotional benefit of meeting other people like you; other people with similar stories…It feeds on itself and there’s a kinship there. I think it’s really positive and really important that we all get to meet each other…The help that we get in isolation is significantly magnified when we all come together and talk about the help that we’ve gotten.”

In a nutshell, that’s what Gatherings (and RFC grants) are all about: combating the isolation that targeted activists and their families too often experience and letting them know that they are not alone. As we review the fall applications and hear too many stories of repression and suffering, it helps to remember that music lessons and therapy and summer camp and bringing people together to share their experiences does help. Thank you to the entire RFC community for making this possible.

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