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The Journey Home

Kay started her physical journey home when she was released from prison on July 5, 2013, but her spiritual journey was already well underway because of her commitment to seek out healing experiences while incarcerated. Kay enrolled in the Truth Be Told (TBT) Talk To Me – Movement class and then Discovery, where she wrote the poem below.

She attended every one of the TBT Exploring Creativity Workshops that she could and had a powerful opening experience when Sherry Gingras and the Djembabes brought drumming to the women in prison (described in this November 2013 post).

Kay_reduced imageWhen Kay was close to being released, she joined the TBT Let’s Get Real class for two semesters.

Our programs weren’t her only resource: her love of dogs made her the perfect match for PAWS in Prison.

Since being released, Kay has been active in our Beyond Bars Program, connecting and supporting other women, in spite of a busy life with a new job, new dog, new car, new home, and renewed life.

We love that Kay took the time to create a personal fundraising page for Truth Be Told during Amplify Austin 2014 and raised $500!

Kay, thank you for sharing your grace, your wisdom, and your story.

 

The Journey

By Kay R.

 

For so long, I’ve had this absolute longing to go home…

Even when I was home.

Did that mean I felt lost?

Did that mean I sought death?

Did that mean I yearned to be embraced by God?

Did that mean I slumped over in weariness and confusion?

Yep! You betcha!

 

Oh, I’m not talking about going home from this cell, the walls, and the razor wire —

the oppression.

Oh yea, I want out of here.

BUT – which way is home from here?

I’ve been searching; I’m still searching.

 

Could that path over yonder lead me back to home?

I wonder.

I’ll have to remove some of the many masks I’ve worn.

Some I’ll toss away forever.

Ah! Look! The core of me.

Wow! The spirit of all that I am lives.

 

The spark of my spirit flickers…just a little.

I’m shedding layers now.

I’m digging through the pain.

Whew! That really, really hurts.

I’m not sure I want to do this.

Now I’m shrinking, crumbling – fearful.

I scream: I can do this, determined.

Tumble down the walls and barriers

Courage, please take hold

 

There’s the hand of God

For once I grab it and hold on tight.

Look at me. I feel innocent and pure

Even in the midst of all my experience

I’m feeling my spirit begin to shine now

The glow heals me.

Smiling, I embrace the hearts of my circle of friends, boldly.

 

I am still growing, eager to evolve

I encompass resolution and acceptance

I am rejoicing in being me

I am celebrating being me

Dancing, twirling, laughing

I’ve found home. Hello, self! Welcome home.

A Life Revised

By Margie Stone

Margie&babyWhen I accepted the task of writing this entry for the blog, I was faced with attempting to write about the changes in my life without feeling like I was bragging. As I sat at my laptop and attempted the writing, I figured out that there was no way for me to complete it without bragging. So as you read this, forgive me if it sounds like I am bragging! A life revised is exactly what it says: my life has been revised, by the grace of God and the people He placed in my life — from the organizations that touched my life both inside and outside of prison to the profession that I am currently striving to succeed in and the family bonds that have been strengthened.

 

First, I would like to write about the organizations that touched me seven and a half years ago. That’s right, this is how long ago I was in prison. The few organizations that come to prison facilities do so in hopes of helping people like me find their way back to productive lives in society. I am here to say thank you for giving me a new set of eyes to those that were placed in the GEO Lockhart Unit.

Truth Be Told was one of those organizations. Through the understanding of the 4-Cs (communications, community, creativity, and self-care) and the continued care of the Beyond Bars Program, I have been able to find my way to a meaningful relationship with society. I am in a place where I am able to give back what they gave to me — support, understanding, respectful listening, and most of all a nonjudgmental attitude. I enjoy being able to return to the prison facilities with Truth Be Told as a graduate in support of others and to plant those seeds of hope for their own lives to be fruitful.

It was through my relationship with Truth Be Told that I was introduced to Conspire Theatre and their work in the criminal justice system. In July 2013, I was invited to participate in a workshop. Without realizing this was to be a performance, I accepted. It was probably the most rewarding event I ever participated in. The event grew into a yearlong series of requested performances for the citizens of Austin, and from that stemmed a public television special about incarcerated women. I have been fortunate and blessed with the task of planting the seeds of hope for people with loved ones struggling with addiction issues or incarcerated due to those issues.

Margie&lineupI have been successful in maintaining my sobriety, and I am proud of the five and a half years of living life on life’s terms. I completed an associate’s degree and received a license from the Texas Department of State and Health Services to practice as a Counselor Intern. As of this writing, I have completed the 4000 required hours of the internship, and I am studying to take the state board exam to become a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor. I hope to be able to reenroll into college in January to continue my education towards a bachelor’s degree in social work.

I currently work in the system that incarcerated me. I am a Substance Abuse Counselor Intern at a Substance Abuse Treatment Felony Punishment Facility for probationers that are in court-ordered treatment. The environment is a tough place to work, but I truly love my job. Working in this environment with this population inspires me to grow as much as the people I work with.

Margie&lineupThe bonds have always been intact with my family, but the trust was destroyed by the time I went to prison. Today, I can say I am accepted by my family as a person of my word. The trust has been restored, not by me telling them I changed but by living life as an example that I have changed.

I was able to spend the last living days with my dad and grandmother, may they rest in peace.

I am able to be here for my mom since she is alone.

I am able to spend time with my beautiful granddaughters and have been blessed with a handsome grandson who is two months old. I am the grandmother of 11, but I do not have the pleasure of spending time with all of them due to the miles between us. But I love them all!

Life sometimes throws a curve ball, but how one copes with what is thrown defines their character. My 28-year-old son was placed in prison this past summer. It broke my heart, but I will do the best I can to support him through the journey God has selected for him.

I have the opportunity to practice self-care. I was diagnosed with lower back issues and a pinched sciatic nerve that is causing paralysis in my left leg. I am able to understand the limitations of my body’s abilities, and I am receiving medical care. I refuse to believe that I am unable to continue the mission of spreading the seeds of hope to others. I will overcome.

This is the testimony of a life revised by the grace of God and the organizations that I have been blessed to be a part of. It is being able to be a part of those organizations that will continue to inspire me to live life on life’s terms.

Now I Become My Self: A new facilitator shares her many selves

by Hannah Miller

During the spring semester of 2014, I became a volunteer facilitator in training for Truth Be Told. I joined Carol Waid’s Talk to Me Circle class at Hilltop Prison in Gatesville, Texas. In one of our classes, we explored the reality that each of us has many different identifies, roles, and faces we wear. Some of these faces have hurt ourselves and others. Some of these faces are healing faces of wholeness.

Through creative writing and storytelling, we shared with one another the faces that we hide and the faces we celebrate. In speaking our truth, we began to let go of our shame and embrace the wisdom that comes from knowing all of our many selves. The following piece was my entry in The Book of Wisdom, which includes writing from each of the women in the class. At graduation, each woman receives two copies of the publication.

Now I Become My Self

by Facilitator in Training Hannah Miller

HannahMillerI am a woman of many faces—a woman of many selves. You may try to call these faces my masks, but I know them each to be equally as true, each an essential part of me. Just because these selves at times contradict one another doesn’t make me a hypocrite. It makes me a tapestry. These selves, sometimes harmoniously and sometimes acrimoniously, coexist and intermingle inside of me.

If you know me, you may only know one of these selves. If so, you have only seen a sliver of the real me.

  • Maybe you first met me as the Adventurer—paddling among glaciers in Alaska, sleeping in a hammock on the border of Guatemala, or climbing the steps of a Hindu temple in Indonesia.
  • Or perhaps you know me as the Achiever. The disciplined one, always in competition with myself, whether running a cross-country race, studying for a biology exam, or learning to play the piano.
  • At a certain time, you would have encountered me as the Warrior. Fighting for the lives of the invisible and the powerless, those awaiting the gurney or the death chamber.
  • If I am your daughter, you see me as stubborn, outspoken, capable, responsible, sensitive, and loyal.
  • If you are my child, you know me as strong but affectionate, grounded yet playful, loving and present.
  • As a friend, you call me Truth-Teller, Justice-Seeker, Spirit-Keeper, Old Soul. You know I am openhearted, quick to cry, and ever eager for intimacy.
  • At work, I am the Peacemaker, Reconciler, Calm One. An attorney paid to argue and advocate but at core made to mediate, to see the gray, to find a middle way.
  • And then there are the faces of me I hope you never see. The selves I would prefer to keep hidden. The Critic. The Challenger. The Ferocious One. Explosive, sharp-tongued, demanding, relentless, unforgiving.

But if I had my way, I would rather tell this story. It is a story about the parts of me that remain unseen. Not because they do not exist but because they have not yet been fully realized. Some of these unborn faces have been present from my very beginning but were forgotten and must be recovered. Others do not come to me naturally and must be learned. All of them, however, are present, latent, and waiting to be born. These are the parts of me I claim today. It is only through them that I begin to fully become my self.

Courageous, free, trusting, fearless, slow to anger. Risk-Taker, Woman of Gentleness, Woman of Compassion, Kind and Merciful One. If you meet her along the way, tell her I believe in her. I can already see glimpses of her beauty and wisdom.

My Prison Classmates

By Cis Dickson

Traveling through Gatesville, Texas, you see hectares of razor wire. My classmates are not traveling through. My ladies are locked-in, locked up, and a few are locked-and-loaded for parole.

In Truth Be Told, I am a Facilitator-in-Training. Think F-I-T. That’s me: trying to FIT in; wearing new outFITs each week to show my ladies; trying to FIT the eight-hour day (which includes four hours of round-trip driving from Austin to Gatesville) into my FIT lifestyle.

Oddly enough and truth be told, I FIT. My classmates have grown to love me as much as I love them. Which came first I cannot tell. I call them my mates because I am doing the class with them; same homework; same amount of speaking; same drills; same hokey-pokey. And then we shake it all about. Good way to end class and relieve ourselves of a busload of tension and heartache. We do this for 16 weeks. I do this for 16 weeks. After that I get to have Thanksgiving with my family, my kids, my grandkids. Then I have Christmas. I cannot bear to think of what they have after our classes end.

When I say to someone, “Well, I’m off to prison tomorrow,” they stare blankly at me.

They don’t ask questions. Could be I’ve seemed strange to my friends and family for years.

I may FIT in at the Lane Murray Unit more than I realize and FIT in less with my circle of non-criminals. Hmm!

My mates and I started off strangers in late July. Now we can’t wait to see each other; we laugh; we dance; we tell stories; we do impromptu speaking and some rehearsed speeches, and we think of hugging each other. At Lane Murray Unit, you must remember at least two things: don’t touch and don’t climb the fence. I have bruises on my arms each week from squeezing myself because I can’t squeeze my mates. We jump up and down when we see each other coming down the hall to the classroom. Since I’m much older, I have tears running down my legs with the joy of their smiling faces.

So it works like this….you hear a heartbreaking story; you have secret thoughts about the son-a-bitch who harmed this girl, but then you remember this is about healing, not revenge; you wipe your nose on your sleeve because no one in Lane Murray ever has Kleenex. EVAH!

One of my mates said to me last week when I was sporting a new outFIT, “Girl, where do you shop?” Another of my mates said when she was on “the outside” her life got so bad, even though the money she made from selling drugs was good, that she just stopped and prayed to God to get her out of hell. The next morning she was arrested. She laughed at how fast her prayers were answered. She’s too young to be there.

I hope we’ll all stay on the straight and narrow with the TBT tools we’ve learned.

Princess Warriors in Prison

Our recent Donor and Volunteer Campaign mailing included a card that has our Mission, Vision, and Values on one side. We recently learned that people want to hold on to the card because this Princess Warrior drawing by Donna, one of our program graduates, is on the other side.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 3.47.00 PM

Donna was released more than two years ago and continues to be part of the awesome community of graduates who participate in our Beyond Bars activities. Since we have shared her artwork recently, we wanted to hear about what she was experiencing when she created it in class, so Carol Waid interviewed her. Click to listen.

Listen to Donna describe how after being incarcerated for six years, she still felt lost and confused about the mistakes she made and why things turned out the way they did. Then she found a Truth Be Told class.

At first she was hesitant to face her pain rather than trying to block it out, but when the healing started she knew she was changed and finally ready to go home.

She did the drawing in response to Nathalie Sorrell’s speech about being a Princess Warrior no matter what your circumstances. The woman in the clock represents breaking free, a woman not defined by her past or being in prison.

Donna, thanks for sharing you gift and your story with us!

If you would like a Princess Warrior card, please contact us.

Transformational Donors

We love hearing graduates like Donna talk about their healing and transformation. Truth Be Told has been blessed with a small group of donors who have transformed our work and our organization by consistently contributing major financial support over the years.

Our Transformational Donors are:

Two of our Transformational Donors share why they donate.

I support Truth Be Told because I have witnessed the healing of women who were broken. I have seen for myself the transformational power of creating a community of respectful listeners as each one tells her story. I believe that a woman transformed can transform her family. I have seen TBT nurture and support this transformation. – Jim Walsh, Walsh, Anderson, Gallegos, Green and Trevino P.C. and “Law Dawg”

Why do I give? I give to see lives transformed. I heard Nathalie Sorrell’s story of why she felt compelled to work with women in prison. I thought, “Good for Nathalie!” A few months later Nathalie invited me to attend a graduation ceremony in the Lockhart prison. I was mildly curious about what she was doing. I received a firsthand experience of the powerful work she and Carol Waid created.  Although I did not feel compelled to actually work in the prison, I did feel moved to get involved. What moved me during that visit were the stories the women told. Each women told a story about how their life had been transformed by their work in the Truth Be Told curriculum. I wanted to be a part of something that transformed lives. My involvement is the giving of my financial resources. I want to see that as many women as possible will have access to Truth Be Told. – Bobby Miser, Rogers Benefit Group, Houston

Watch your mailbox or inbox for our Donor and Volunteer Drive letter or go online to help us reach our $25,000 goal for the campaign.

 

Listen to the Voice of Teri!

On our Donor Recognition page, we list donations in three categories called The Voices of Truth. The categories are named for women who were meaningful to the early development of Truth Be Told. The Voice of Teri category designates donors who have contributed $1,000–$4,999 in a year.

Why Teri? She was in the very first Talk To Me class and is still talking!

In February 2000, Nathalie Sorrell didn’t know what to expect when she created the posters announcing the new class in the GEO Lockhart prison. She certainly didn’t anticipate that 14 years later Truth Be Told would still be talking to Teri, a reluctant participant.

Carol Waid attended that class as a facilitator-in-training. In this audio recording, Carol asks Teri about that first class, and Teri credits divine intervention for getting her there. She didn’t like going to classes and was avoiding this one when something made her turn around in the hallway and walk towards it. She remembers an attraction to the name “Truth Be Told.” She didn’t like the first few classes, but something kept bringing her back. She didn’t want to tell her story or even remember her painful past, but hearing Carol’s story inspired her to take baby steps into the exercises.

Listen to Teri describe how the doors opened. 

Since being released, Teri has married. She is still clean and sober and feels more alive than ever. Teri has been at every fundraiser that featured graduates and never misses an opportunity to share the Truth Be Told story.

Keep on talking, Teri. We love to hear your voice!

For 2013, the Voice of Teri donors are:

  • Susan deGraffenried
  • Gathering Place Worship Center
  • Louise Morse
  • Red Bird Foundation
  • Charles and Betti Saunders Foundation (managed by Austin Community Foundation)
  • Donna Snyder
  • Diana Stangl

Below, a few of the Voice of Teri donors explain what prompted their support:

Paula D’Arcy is the president and founder of Red Bird Foundation as well as an author and speaker whose work seeks to further inner and worldwide peace.

Unless you’ve worked or volunteered in a prison, there aren’t words to capture the power and importance of the work done by Truth Be Told. Imagine women, most of whom have never had much of a chance in life, little education, separated from their children, low self-esteem, addictions, very low on hope…and then imagine a sincere transformation in their lives because of a program that delivers not only truth, but the means and encouragement to make different choices.

Imagine healing, education about what a woman can be (and how she can comport herself and care for her own body and for her children), the redemptive power of learning to tell your story — not as a victim, but as a radiant woman — beginning to believe that you have a meaningful place in this world because you’ve finally experienced someone believing in you — these are huge gifts anywhere, but inside a prison they are rare.

The work is raw, it is emotional, it is exhausting, and month after month the teachers show up and give everything they’ve got. It is the ultimate reaching a hand back into the dark to help someone else. Support for this work reaches far beyond the women fortunate enough to take these classes. Heart by heart, this is how we’ll all awaken.

Donna Snyder is retired from a career as an attorney, state government executive, and corporate officer. She serves on the Truth Be Told Board and as a certified Talk To Me facilitator in the GEO Lockhart prison.

It is a privilege and a gift to be with these women and witness the transformations which occur while they are in our classes. They are like new plants pushing through the dirt, opening to the sunlight and exploding with their unique gifts and different ways of being beautiful. Yes, they have often hurt others. However, in almost every case, their life stories are of sexual and/or physical abuse, usually at a very young age and usually by a trusted relative. In every story, they suffered their trauma in tortured silence, either because they were too afraid to speak or their voices were resolutely shut down. They deserve a chance to be heard. They deserve a chance to heal. Truth Be Told gives them a toolbox!

Louise Morse is a former member of the Truth Be Told Board.

After learning all I could about Truth Be Told, how it was started and grew into a highly successful program by changing the lives of women in prison and after prison, it became more important to me to be involved with the program than any other nonprofit project I had ever worked with. It was easy for me to redirect some of my funds to this program which had previously gone to other causes. Not only easy, but I was eager to do so as well as donate time to serving on their Board of Directors. I wholeheartedly and unequivocally support this program and feel grateful that I have finally found one that I absolutely must and will continue to care about in the future.

Watch your mailbox or inbox for our Donor and Volunteer Drive letter or go online to help us reach our $25,000 goal for the campaign.

“Recognizing Our Wonderful Donors”

Posted on

Since 2000, the faithful support of individuals and a few churches has allowed Truth Be Told to bring programs to thousands of incarcerated women. We have always been a primarily volunteer organization; so, we are fortunate that it hasn’t taken much prodding to convince our network of friends that helping women heal their lives, strengthen their families, and build safer communities is a worthy cause. Recently, we added grants from local foundations to that mix of support. Please check out our new webpage that recognizes many (but sadly not every one) of these wonderful contributors.

This is an extraordinary time in the evolution of our humble and fiercely passionate nonprofit. Increasing numbers of prison administrators are recognizing the importance of our work as unique and powerful. We are a little overwhelmed by the current interest of federal and state correctional facilities. If we had the organizational capacity, we could be serving twice as many women next year!

Our Need: In order to grow efficiently and effectively, we need to improve our facilitator training materials to reach volunteers outside Austin; format our curriculum so it can be shared with a wider audience; enhance our database to keep better track of participants, volunteers, and donors; and retain sufficient staff to manage all of these tasks.

Watch Your Inbox: For the first time ever, we are having a pledge and volunteer campaign. We mailed Donation and Volunteer Forms this week. We don’t have mailing addresses for some contacts, so they will receive an email instead. If we missed you altogether, you can go to our webpage to donate or volunteer.

 

Thank You, Thank You Tom Bentley

Recently, Tom Bentley advised us on how to become a more sustainable nonprofit and then, he made a generous donation! Tom has been a hi-tech entrepreneur and was design manager for the teams that built the first generations of laptops for Apple and Dell. This is how Tom explained his interest in Truth Be Told:

“I look for the same things in a nonprofit that I look for when designing or investing in hi-tech:

  1. An enthusiasm for the mission.
  2. Transformational to their customers.
  3. Effective with very few people.
  4. Scalable to very large numbers.

Truth Be Told has the first three handled with aplomb. I believe with increased funding, they can build the organization to scale effectively. I am grateful to support them in their fantastic work.”

 

Creative Ways to Contribute

Amazon Smiles AmazonSmile

Amazon just started a new charitable giving program. If you buy an eligible product at AmazonSmile, 0.5% of the cost is donated to an organization of your choice. Truth Be Told is a registered organization, so please choose us when you make a purchase. There is no additional cost to you. To shop at AmazonSmile simply start your regular Amazon shopping at smile.amazon.com.

 

Gone For Good   gone for good

We just got our first check from a donation made to Gone For Good by Sarah Sibert who says, “I highly recommend Gone for Good. I wish I had known about them before I took five car loads to another place. I sold my house and downsized. It was so nice that Gone for Good came and looked at what I was donating and carted it away. I didn’t have to deliver anything. I was very excited that my donation turned into dollars for Truth Be Told.”

 Gone For Good is a nonprofit with a simple but clever model to help other nonprofits. Individuals donate items of value that they no longer want. Gone for Good sells the items and donates the proceeds, less a handling fee, to the charity chosen by the individual, who in turn gets a tax deduction. Gone For Good has a booth at the Antique Marketplace, and they sell items online. They also organize and manage estate sales.

 

Thanks For All You Do

Thank you to our many wonderful donors, in-kind contributors, and volunteers, named and unnamed. Thank you for sharing this link and spreading the word about our mission whenever you can. You are both the foundation of Truth Be Told and the scaffolding for our future work. We can’t wait to meet the new folks who Donate and Get Involved.

 

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