Supporting the Children of Targeted Activists, Fall 2013

My most recent blogs have focused on possible new directions for the RFC. I also shared a lovely letter from a beneficiary family expressing their appreciation for aid for their young daughter. And they explained why, now that the crisis had passed for them, they chose to not request support this fall in the hopes that it would leave funds available for other families in more immediate need of assistance.

This is far from the first time that a family has chosen not to re-apply for grants so that resources will be available for others in more dire circumstances. We’re always profoundly touched by this evidence that so many of our beneficiary families share our sense of community and our belief that we are partners in our efforts to support the children of targeted activists.

We know that time alone does not heal the anguish children experience when parents are targeted for their efforts to bring about a more just and peaceful world. Several of the applications we received as part of our fall granting cycle made this abundantly clear. While many of the stories are difficult to read, I believe they are both an important reminder of how vital it is to support children after the immediate crisis has passed, and a validation of the RFC’s commitment to be a reliable source of support for children as long as they need our services.

Here are a few updates from families we’ve funded this fall:

  • Jada and Imani, now 13 and 15, were with their mother when she was beaten by cops at a peaceful protest. At the time, she was eight months pregnant with their brother, Rashid, now 11.  The children suffer from continued nightmares of being arrested, beaten or murdered by authorities, and their mother has permanent scar tissue which hampers her vision and has negatively impacted her ability to work. RFC grants will provide educational and extracurricular programs for these siblings.
  • Daniel, now two, was still nursing when he was separated from his soldier mom, who grew opposed to the Iraq war. As the first female Iraq war resister to flee to Canada, she became active in the war resisters movement there before she was deported to the U.S. and sentenced to almost a year behind bars.   His siblings, now three, nine and 11, also all suffer from the separation. Their mom is due to give birth later this month; an Attica Prison Visit grant will allow her Daniel, his siblings, and their father to travel thousands of miles from their home (and support system) to be near her. They plan to stay close by until she gives birth, at which point Daniel’s father will assume responsibility for the baby and the family will wait several months for the mom’s release before returning home. Additional RFC grants will help with childcare for the children while they await their mother’s return.
  • Raymond loves sports, but money has been tight for the family in the years since his father, an independent journalist, was fired and blacklisted for expressing progressive views and covering controversial topics.  In addition to causing financial hardship, his dad’s experience has negatively impacted his health. As Raymond’s dad explained in his application this fall, “One of the first stories I reported, the gassing of Lakota citizens on [the] Rosebud Reservation, exposed me several times to an outlawed nerve agent. The government sent agents to my home and filled it with poison gas. I was sickened and never fully recovered. Today I suffer from end stage heart failure, am waiting on a life saving heart transplant, and have been declared federally disabled." An RFC grant will allow Raymond to continue participating in the sports programs he loves as deals with what comes next.
  • Larissa’s father was a leader in the fight for human rights under the repressive dictatorship in their West African home country and was arrested, jailed, tortured. He received asylum in the U.S. but Larissa’s mom is still awaiting approval from immigration to join them. Now 11, Larissa has struggled without her mother, especially since her older sister left home and her father works long hours to try to support the family. RFC grants have allowed her to participate in an innovative after-school program at a local non-profit committed to “uniting youth from diverse racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds and building self-esteem and mutual respect through the circus arts.” As the director wrote in response to our most recent grant, “We have seen tremendous progress with [Larissa] over the last year.  She has really begun to develop as a more confident and engaged young woman. She participates in our program three days a week and is also a member of our performing troupe; in addition she participates in circus classes on Saturday morning throughout the school year.” Understanding the family’s precarious financial situation, the program has continued to encourage Larissa’s participation, offering her over $2,000 worth of classes this year without billing the family.  A grant from the RFC this fall will allow her to continue her instruction and will support this wonderful community resource.

As we consider these and other requests for our aid, we’re grateful to all of you for helping us keep our promise to be there for these children, their families and many more like them.

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