As we move into Autumn, I’m reminded that until recently my work at this time of year focused on our fall granting cycle. I spent my days doing outreach to potential beneficiaries, connecting with current grantees, and helping new applicants understand our guidelines and application process.
I miss the intense conversations with our beneficiary families which often resulted from these efforts. Fortunately, many of our grant recipients update us on their progress, either on their own initiative or as part of their subsequent applications. In the past few weeks, we’ve received news from several grantees that indicates the important, in some cases transformative, impact of our support:
- An activist dad, currently incarcerated for his anti-NATO efforts, whose seven-year-old son received his first RFC grant this spring, sent the following as part of his request for a fall grant for his son: “My initial application [to the RFC] was for a summer camp for my son to attend near his home. It was an amazing opportunity for both of us because not only was he provided with a summer full of boat rides, fishing trips, swimming lessons, and new friendships but I felt the joy of being able to tell him over the phone that I could help make that happen for him. I often feel completely helpless and useless in this cage when it comes to my son, but my friends on various support committees and groups like the RFC help lift that daily burden in some ways by giving me the gift of hearing my son happy and excited about some new experience they provided. There are no words and no value adequate to place on that.”
- An environmental activist sentenced to more than two decades in prison wrote: “If it were not for the Fund’s assistance, [my family] would not have been able to see each other in the first, and most emotionally wrenching, years of my sentence. My children, now young adults, both encountered serious changes and challenges – and our separation made it so very difficult for me to be present and supportive in their lives. It meant everything to me to be able to hold them in my arms and to reassure them as much as I could that we’re still a family….Your organization is wonderful for the work you do helping families, communities (and the movements they are part of) transcend the barriers of concrete and razor wire. Thank you.”
While these two updates celebrate the impact of our grants, they also speak to the hardships faced by far too many families separated by the incarceration of their activist loved ones.
On a happier note, we heard from a remarkable young woman last week. She’s a 21-year-old targeted activist youth who was ostracized from her community and faced death threats for her advocacy for women’s rights and gender equality in her home country. At the age of 17 she chose to remove her veil and blog about her experience and the mistreatment of girls. There were severe repercussions: death threats, ostracism, and two confinements in mental asylums where she was given electroshock treatments to try to force her to conform.
Still, she refused to back down and eventually escaped to the U.S., where she is seeking asylum and continuing to advocate for herself and others. She wrote, “I am happy to say that I’ve taken the SATs and another exam which helped me get accepted to [a college] as a transfer student. I started my junior year this fall. I’m very, very happy, and so excited about all these new adventures… It is shocking how the same girl who spent most of her teenage years cooped up in a dark room in [my country] fantasizing about what a regular life would be like, can now go to school (in [the US] of all places) and write and draw and paint and swim and ride a bicycle and utilize every moment of my existence. It’s due to your help and support and that of so many people that this is now possible, so thank you.”
I’m so grateful to continue to be connected to these and other beneficiary families. They are at the core of our project and inspire us with their bravery, perseverance, and commitment to a more just and humane world.
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