Beneficiary Guest Post: Retreat, Come Forth

My name is Jacob Rivas, I’m a graduate of Oberlin College and a proud grant recipient of the Rosenberg Fund For Children. I’d like to share my story to thank the RFC for everything they’ve done for me and recognize what they continue to do for others.

Financially speaking, the RFC allowed me to attend a school well beyond my means. The laptop my first grant allowed me to buy my freshman year, the books they paid for and the guidance they offered would’ve been enough to leave me forever thankful. There is something to be said for fitting in, and as a low-income student at a prestigious college, that meant not setting further barriers between me and my peers. At every opportunity, The Rosenberg Fund offered what they could in order to help me adapt and fit into this vastly new environment. My education is something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, and without the RFC it might not have been possible.

But the money isn’t how the RFC changed my life in the most pronounced way. The Carry it Forward Retreat (Gathering) I attended was a turning point in my life – the  first time I met people who I felt could understand what growing up in my household felt like [ learn more about RFC Gatherings here]. As the child of an exiled political prisoner, I faced challenges I kept private, knowing that those around me could never fully understand the complexities of the past and present I was experiencing, or the burden that accompanied that history. Until the Gathering, I felt different from everyone else my entire life, and knowing what I do now, I realize that limited me in ways I couldn’t see.

I learned that I wasn’t alone at all. In fact at the Carry It Forward Retreat I met a person with such idiosyncratic similarities we formed a close friendship, which stands to this day. The commonalities were uncanny, to the point where we both played the same niche sport (rugby) at our respective competitive liberal arts colleges (Oberlin and Swarthmore). It was like meeting a slightly better educated and more relaxed version of me and it was a revelation.

It’s hard to grow up under many circumstances, but the RFC Gatherings offer grantees the opportunity to truly be themselves and hold nothing back out of shame or fear of judgment. At Oberlin, I found myself in a community of people who fought with rhetoric, but had no idea what direct persecution could do to a family or how different it is to serve a sentence as opposed to reading about someone else’s incarceration. In addition to the friendship and solidarity, the Gathering retreat I attended gave me faith that the next generation is bright and caring, ready to make changes in all sorts of ways ranging from direct action to pursuing high degrees and influencing the world with their minds. The RFC beneficiaries I met are all good people.

The Rosenberg Fund for Children cares for the forgotten victims of persecution, those who aren’t in the paper but still slotted to live under surveillance and set backs. I am proud to call other grant recipients my friends, and prouder still to continue my support both in writing and in spirit for what the Meeropols have worked so hard to build. Thank you to everyone—including donors, volunteers, and staff—who have helped me and so many others on our journeys.

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