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Thank you for visiting the Truth Be Told blog. Click here for our website with videos and information on programs. Find out how to volunteer, donate, and attend a graduation.

The Power of Impact

Please stop for a moment to ask the following 3 questions: Who has or is currently impacting you? What has or currently is impacting you? Who have you impacted or are currently impacting?

The concept of impact seems to be at the forefront of our nation. Thus, I thought it was fitting to write my first blog on it. Impact as a verb, is defined, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary as “having a strong effect on someone or something” or “to hit (something) with great force.” How true the definition is; at least for me. The synergy I experienced during my first 3 weeks with Truth-Be-Told (TBT) was meaningful and eye-opening!

I was deeply honored and humbled to listen to the stories of both incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. I was touched by their willingness to share openly with a complete stranger. They are acutely aware of the stigma, negativity, and judgment associated with incarceration. I witnessed their courage, strength, resilience, creativity, and talents in addition to their pain and sorrow. They owned the decisions they made that led to their sentences and began making amends with their pasts while sharing hopes for their futures. I also witnessed their gratitude and respect for the program facilitators who played a pivotal role in guiding them to speak their truths and reclaim who they are as women and human beings. Support both behind and beyond bars is pivotal for the women. They learn to trust and rely on each other. Successes are celebrated and challenges especially with re-entry are shared. The women possess a determination to succeed even when they experience frustration, disappointment, and struggles. I learned some will experience re-incarceration while others persevere like the graduate of the TBT program whose college graduation I attended. This is the impact TBT has on them and the impact they have on us.

On October 27th, TBT will hold its fundraiser. During this event we will be honoring co-founder Nathalie Sorrell for her instrumental, profound, and continual impact on the organization. Her desire to actively minister to women created the momentum that established TBT with her co-founders Carol Waid and Suzanne Armistead. The impact created, I believe, will resonate in the responses given if you ask individuals who served as respectful witnesses at graduations, the staff at the facilities in which the programs are held, and the program participants, themselves.

A friend posted to Facebook a photo that had a male wearing a graduation gown and cap holding a sign that read “California spends $9,100 per year to educate me.” Standing beside him is a female wearing an orange jumpsuit holding her sign that reads “California spends $62,300 per year to lock me up.” I wonder how much Texas spends on education and incarceration. According to TDCJ, as of March 2016, TX facilities are comprised of 11,631 (8.1%) female inmates. I wonder what the overall impact would be if the focus centered on education, empowerment, and successful re-entry for the incarcerated population. TBT has begun this work and seeks allies and supporters in continuing the impact.

In closing, please consider how you would like to be involved with TBT. Do you enjoy writing and want to be a blog member? Do you enjoy interacting with others in group formats and want to be a program facilitator? Do you enjoy serving on boards and want to be a board member? Do you enjoy sharing information and want to help bring awareness to TBT in our communities? Do you enjoy fundraising, marketing, and/or social media and want to help in these areas? Do you want to give? Do you know others who have the talents, desires, and passion to be involved? Your involvement, in whatever form, will be impactful. Thus, I invite you in joining TBT in creating a long-lasting and meaningful impact on the women we serve and the communities in which we are members.

I may be reached at rebeccaf@truth-be-told.org. Don’t forget to follow us on both Facebook and twitter @TruthBeToldnews.

Donna learns to tell her story

“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we will ever do.” ~ Brené Brown

Thank you for being a part of our Truth Be Told family! Your commitment to our work enables us to change the lives of incarcerated women, their families and their communities. We thank you for your generous contribution and encourage you to read the powerful statement of one of our graduates, so you can feel first-hand how your support impacts these women.

by Donna Norman

Almost five years ago, I was lost and broken. I was facing my freedom, and it was coming fast. I was so hurt and so angry with everyone and everything, but most of all myself. The choices I made cost me my freedom and the loss of everything that meant anything to me – including and most importantly, my children. I wasn’t ready for my freedom or to face the memories I had to go home to, memories I ran from for seven years. What if I made the same mistakes? What was my purpose going to be now? What did I really have to live for anymore?

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Then I saw the posters for the Truth Be Told class. I even knew some of the people who had taken the previous class. Everyone loved it and talked about how it made them feel. I didn’t want to open up to strangers, but I was still facing going home with no answers and a broken heart. I thought that this might be my last chance, so I signed up.

I was touched by how loving the women of Truth Be Told were; I just wasn’t ready to let them in. I was in Ms. Nathalie’s class, so I had to give a speech on my story. I was dreading it and even thought about dropping out, but that would leave me with my broken heart.

I asked myself, “What did I really have to lose by telling my story?” So I started working on it, piece by piece. Surprisingly, I started understanding myself by looking in from a third party perspective.

Then the day came for my speech. Ms Nathalie brought some Toastmasters in to critique our speeches, and one of them happened to be her husband [Jim Walsh]. I wasn’t comfortable with a man being there while I was so vulnerable, but I had already come this far. I stood up and started telling my story, although it took every piece of strength I had.

Ms. Nathalie’s husband then had the honor of judging my speech, but I feared he was really judging me. I could feel the defiance boiling up inside me, not wanting to hear a man tell me I’m not good enough after hearing me talk about all the other men who have hurt me in every way possible.

But to my utter disbelief, he stood up in front of me, looked me dead in my eyes, and apologized for everything those other men had done.

Hearing that touched me deep down in my soul. The wall I built so strong to keep everyone else out shattered and the tears wouldn’t stop. I wasn’t being judged… I was being heard.

donnaquiltThat was when the healing began. Truth Be Told gave me my life back. They helped me understand why I made the decisions I made, not blaming others but understanding them. They helped me change my thinking and be a better, stronger person.

I have been home for four years now. I use the tools I learned from Truth Be Told in my everyday life. Although things are hard at times, I haven’t failed or given up, because of what the women of Truth Be Told have given me…my truth. We are a true community of women. In my times of weakness I reach out to them, and they never let me down. I keep my three-year quilt close. Anytime that I need to feel supported I wrap it around me and I see all their smiling faces.

The world needs more selfless people like the facilitators with Truth Be Told. They are my angels.

~~~

Thank you so much, Donna, for sharing your beautiful story, and thank you, Jim Walsh, for being the kind and loving man that you are.

Readers, we thought you might want to see a poster that Truth Be Told used to invite women in prison to learn about and sign up for Talk To Me classes.

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April 16 workshop to benefit Truth Be Told

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April 16 workshop to benefit Truth Be Told
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Katie Ford

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to experience a Truth Be Told class? In April, Truth Be Told volunteer facilitators Katie Ford and Ginger McGilvray will host a day-long workshop inspired by the Talk to Me classes they lead in prison on behalf of Truth Be Told.

Body Stories, a workshop in authentic movement and expressive writing, is slated for Saturday, April 16, from 10 am to 3 pm, at the Still Waters Retreat Center. A portion of the workshop’s proceeds will be donated to Truth Be Told.

“We hosted the first Body Stories workshop in August last year, and the experience was downright magical for me,” says Katie. “It’s my dream to bring the restorative work we experience behind bars through Truth Be Told out here in the free world. Body Stories is part of that dream. One thing I’ve come to understand is that you don’t have to be incarcerated to benefit from doing this kind of work. Being human is the only prerequisite.”

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Ginger McGilvray

Body Stories offers four hours of guided practice in authentic movement and expressive writing. Each participant will receive a plantation paper journal and a pen. A healthy lunch will be served midday.

“We’re limiting this workshop to 20 participants to ensure quality instruction and depth of practice,” Katie says. “I encourage anyone who desires time for reflection and creativity in a beautiful, rural setting to join us. It’s an opportunity to invest in yourself while supporting a great organization.”

You can read what others have to say about Body Stories here. To register, visit www.iamkatieford.com.

Amplify Austin Is Over – Here’s How We Did

By Leigh Camp, Truth Be Told Volunteer

First, a huge thank you to each and every person who contributed to our Amplify Austin fundraising efforts this year. We’re still receiving checks in the mail, but it looks like the grand total will be around $23K — just shy of our goal of $25K.

We’re thrilled to have earned that level of support from our community. Your efforts are making a difference in the lives of women both behind and beyond bars.

If you missed the chance to donate during Amplify, don’t worry — we accept donations all year long! Donate now to help us make a positive impact on our community.

Here are some words from a few Truth Be Told graduates to give you a fuller illustration of the powerful, positive changes your donations make possible.

Karen I“I never knew that people you never knew could feel like family until [Truth Be Told]. My own relations didn’t ever feel like family. There is an amazing power with these women. We have been through some of the worst and made some really bad choices, but we also rose up from that, and continue to every day. It’s all thanks to the love, dedication, faith, and the skills given to me in this program that I am alive and moving forward.”

Karen, released Oct. 16, 2015

 

 

ann williams (1)[Truth Be Told] helped me remember I was still a Human Being not just a Felon… The Love and Spiritual aspect of all of it gave me a Love of Service to all Women trying to better there lives and not return to Prison […] Truth Be Told saved my life in so many ways!!!”

Ann, released in 2003

 

 

Tory

“TBT changed my life for the better. I am a more open and upfront lady now. I am able to express my self like never before […] Because of TBT I am stronger more stable and more confident in me. A special thank you to Miss Carol and all the women who came to Lane Murray. You are our Angels.”

Tory, released June 22, 2015

 

 

 

Karen Cantrell_N&C

“It has been my greatest pleasure exploring the talents and abilities of women truth tellers who have impacted my life in such a beautiful way behind, and now beyond, bars. I have learned through the process and connection with powerful influential people that it’s not about how much I have, but about how much I give.”

Karen, released Oct. 30, 2014

Thank you again for all of your valuable support. Your donations give us the means to help these women change their lives. We’re so very grateful for that precious opportunity.

Amplify Austin 2016 Is March 8-9!

Save the date or — better yet — schedule your gift in advance.

Amplify Austin is an annual community-wide day of online giving. Truth Be Told is participating for the third year in a row and we’re asking for your help to make it our biggest fundraising success yet.

The event starts 6 p.m. March 8 and ends 6 p.m. March 9. We invite you to join us in our thrilling mission to raise $25,000 to support programs for women behind and beyond bars in just 24 short hours.

Here’s How Else You Can Help

In addition to making a donation, you can also support our efforts by telling your family and friends about the event.

For your convenience, we’re providing a short explanation of Truth Be Told’s mission and how to donate that we hope you’ll consider copying and pasting into an email or social media post:

I’m supporting Truth Be Told’s fundraising efforts during Amplify Austin. TBT has been providing transformational programs to incarcerated women for 16 years. Donate now to help women behind and beyond bars find healing through speaking their truth.

Please personalize your message in any way you wish! If you prefer to send a longer form message to your contacts, email Co-Founder and Program Director Carol Waid at carol@truth-be-told.org. Thank you in advance for helping us spread our reach.

Where 2015’s Do-Good Dollars Went

The generosity of last year’s donors empowered Truth Be Told to expand its impact in ways that make a significant difference in the lives of incarcerated women in our community:

  • writinghandsVolunteers spent 381 days in various correctional facilities, where they motivated 105 women to graduate from long form classes and inspired 692 additional incarcerated women in shorter programs.
  • Our organization obtained a scientific evaluation of its two long form programs which confirms the impact of these programs.
  • We’ve completed the lion’s share of work toward creating a written master curriculum for our core programming.
  • We launched an exciting new initiative to create a formal mentoring program. It will begin when an offender is still incarcerated and continue after release, giving graduates a solid support system upon leaving prison and a more concrete chance to remain beyond bars.

Where 2016’s Do-Good Dollars Are Going

Charitable donations raised in 2016 will be invested in projects which will help us grow and expand in ways that deliver an even greater positive impact for our community.

Our main goals are below — but this is by no means an exhaustive list. We’ve got a lot on the docket for this year and look forward to getting the resources we need to start rolling!

  • Hire a new part-time Executive Director.
  • Hire a part-time Volunteer Coordinator/Administrative Assistant.
  • Upgrade operational support for our volunteer facilitators.
  • Finalize work on a formal Mentoring Program.

Thank You for Making a Difference

We can’t ever say “thank you” enough. Your generosity contributes to the success of graduates like Rutanya and Dara, pictured below. In the photo, they were at an event sharing about how important their three-year-quilts are to them.

Graduates who stay involved in our Beyond Bars program three years after release are presented with a quilt lovingly handmade by Carol Waid’s parents. The quilt symbolizes our continued support in their journey beyond bars and celebrates their success.

Thank you for being a part of the work that makes moments like this possible.

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Rutanya and Dara are spreading the word to their own family and friends to raise money for Truth Be Told during Amplify Austin. Donate to their individual pages to help them reach their fundraising goals!

Photo Credit: Linda Valencia

 

2016 goals plus great job opportunity!

Dear Friends of Truth Be Told,

Happy 2016!!! Did you know that Truth Be Told is now 12 years old as a non-profit and that we have been offering programs for over 15 years? Over these years we have grown from one class that graduated 15 women, to now serving in 5 facilities, serving hundreds of women per year in our various programs. We could not step into our 16th year without your support.

2015 was a growing year for Truth Be Told and our organizational structure. We have grown through and with the challenges of turnover in leadership. Through these challenges, we have worked on our overall structure including how to improve our communication and interaction with our volunteers and facilitators. We have identified internal structural needs for the organization and the board. As a community, we spent time to set our immediate goals for 2016 and to strengthen our overall vision.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Carol Waid (Program Director), and our supporters, volunteers, facilitators, and board members, and let you know how much I appreciate the generous donations, contributions of time, and overall moral support you have provided to Truth Be Told. I also want to share with all of you the hard work the Board and Carol have put in toward identifying goals we want to work on for 2016. We need your help to successfully obtain these goals.

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From left, Joanne, Ginger, Linda, Carol, Donna, Peggy, and Nathalie

Our 2016 Goals

  1. Hire an Executive Director
  2. Hire a Volunteer Coordinator/Administrative Assistant
  3. Strengthen and Improve the Mentoring Program
  4. Prepare and Implement a Facilitator Manual and Training Program
  5. Have a fall event recognizing Nathalie Sorrell for her 15 years of dedication
  6. Host volunteer appreciation events and gatherings

Of course each and every one of these goals has its challenges, and we appreciate any input and assistance from our friends.

Amplify Austin

In addition to these goals we are going to be working on our fundraising efforts including our third annual participation in the Amplify Austin event on March 8th. We look forward to having a record number of Truth Be Told individual fundraising pages this year. If you had a page last year, please consider participating again this year and spreading the word to friends and family. If the Amplify Austin event is new to you, we hope you will consider setting up a page to help support our work with incarcerated women.

To learn more please email carol@truth-be-told.org.

Board Members and More

If you know anyone who may be interested in joining the Board we would love to hear from you.  Please email your interest to office@truth-be-told.org and include “Board Member Inquiry” in the subject line.

If you haven’t logged on and viewed our website www.truth-be-told.org, please check it out.  We have updated it and are continuously including events, blog posts, and inspirational stories from some of our graduates.

We look forward to hitting the ground running and look forward to all of you running with us. Thank you again for everything you do for Truth Be Told. I look forward to a very productive 2016! Please feel free to reach out to me at any time if you have any questions or concerns.

Best regards,

Autumn Schwartz
Chairman of the Board
Truth Be Told

New Year’s Reflections: Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going

 

by Carol Waid, Co-Founder and Director of Programs

What a whirlwind 2015 has been! We’ve been gifted with many precious, wonderful moments.

My, how we’ve grown!

Truth Be Told’s first class was led by Co-Founder Nathalie Sorrell in February of 2000. Nathalie’s original class had fifteen students. This year, we’ve held eight graduations with approximately 100 graduates from three different facilities: Bryan Federal Prison, Lane Murray Facility, and MTC Lockhart Facility. We are thrilled to have grown so significantly in such a short time!

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Teri, a graduate of Nathalie’s first class in 2000 who has stayed in touch, and Nathalie.

(Read more about our graduations in these past blog posts from Christina Wisdom, a facilitator in training, and Jardine Libaire, a respectful witness.)

And — we’ve gone nationwide!

On Oct. 13, Truth Be Told program graduate Dara Musick and volunteer facilitator Katie Ford gave a presentation at the 16th Biannual Adult and Juvenile Female Offenders Conference in Hartford, Conn. In their presentation, Dara and Katie spoke about Truth Be Told’s Talk to Me Series and the tools we call the 4 Cs: Community Building, Communication Skills, Creativity, and Caring for Self.

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Dara Musick and Katie Ford.

Being present at that conference — the only conference in the nation that focuses exclusively on programs and policies tailored for women and girls involved in the criminal justice system — was a huge honor for us. And we were so proud that one of our program graduates had the opportunity to share her story on such a grand scale.

Three quilts were awarded to women beyond bars.

Co-Founder Carol Waid’s parents Doyle and Peggy Chandler lovingly make quilts for our graduates who stay involved in our Beyond Bars program for three years after their release.

This year, we had the privilege of awarding three brave graduates with quilts: Donna, Brandi, and Niqua. Sending or delivering those quilts is Carol’s most joyous job responsibility. Our graduates work hard to earn those quilts. They fight against the odds and make tough decisions to stay on track.

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Donna receiving her quilt. 

After receiving her quilt, Donna said, “It means so much to me because it is a symbol of how far I have come and all the accomplishments I have made in the three years since I’ve been home. But most of all it is a symbol of the love and dedication and support of Truth Be Told.”

(Read more about Donna’s story.)

We held our last class of the year — plans for next year are in full swing!

We closed out the year with an Exploring Creativity Workshop at the Lane Murray Facility in Gatesville. Peggy Lamb led a group of women behind bars in a class called Writing Through Movement. Together we explored how to use creative movements and writing as a way to connect to earth, air, water, and fire. We laughed, we wiggled, and we strengthened our community. It was a precious night.

We’ll be back to prison on January 7 and January 14 to offer our Miracles in Human Program, and in late January we’ll bring our classes into six facilities. We have so much to be amazed by and grateful for. Thank you for your continued support of our efforts.

A very happy New Year to you all! May it be filled with laughter, love, good health, and wonderful times with family and friends.

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