RSS Feed

Category Archives: From the Founders & Board

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.

Advertisements

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.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 1.08.54 PM

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

Living Deeper and Freer: New class at Lane Murray Unit, Gatesville

by Carol Waid

We are grateful and humbled by the 225 people who contributed to Truth Be Told during Amplify Austin. You contributed more than $24,000 to delivering programs to incarcerated women who are hungry for change. Your participation supports our belief about community helping to change the world.

Community. Connection. Empathy. Compassion. Respect.

These nouns bring a community of women together, seeking a safe place to bring forth the TRUTH of who we really are. We meet in a sacred space each Thursday night, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., for a class called “Living Deeper & Freer.” Most of the women in this community have been in prison for over 10 years.

I have been going into prison for 15 years. I have never been incarcerated, but I have lived much of my life being incarcerated by my fears, stuck in stories of loss and tragedy, searching for a place that I felt like I fit.   I have met hundreds of women, who like me, were seeking a different way of living their lives, seeking a way to fit in, seeking a way to belong.

We find each other in our sacred space. How can a prison classroom become sacred, you may ask? You begin slowly with the idea. You set the intention, and the silence is held as we are serenaded by Karen Drucker’s song “Gentle With Myself.”   Closing your eyes and letting your walls soften is palpable. I often hear sniffles, because the gentleness of the music releases the tension of everyday life in prison.

We slowly, ever so gently, open our eyes, and the connectedness sets in, deeper each week. Each week we begin our community together in this way. This is much like the community that I belong to on Tuesdays in the “free world.” I consider the Tuesday space sacred too.

 

I feel the earth move in my weekly classes. Two weeks ago a woman shared about how in the last 16 years she had become desensitized. She shared an experience of seeing herself being unable to feel empathy. She knew what was missing, and she is readying herself to come back into the world this June. In three months she will walk out of the barbed wire world, she will step back into the “free world,” and she wants to not be desensitized.

This was exciting to me, because in the moment of her being aware of this, she was reconnecting with the true self.

Her discovery also was the story of the other 18 women, who said, “Girl, you are telling it.” They were so grateful that she was able to so beautifully articulate their own knowing from the years of their own incarceration. This caused a beautiful ripple of connection and a stronger community. That day was no different than the weeks that I have gone behind bars to be real with women.

Today I called a young woman who has been out of prison for 126 days. This is not her first time to be released to the free world, but it’s this time that is important. This time she really wants to be an active parent, and in the short time of her reentering she has had the same job. She has her daughter living with her and the son that she hadn’t seen in six years is spending weekends with her.

When we checked in she got real very quickly, because this is our practice in our classroom. We moved the small talk aside, and she shared what was really going on.

I talked to her for 10 minutes, and in that time I heard important truths. We ended connected, even though when we got off the phone she was weeping, because she was reminded of who she is.

Within three minutes, she texted this message,

“Thank u Ms. Carol. It’s almost spooky how right on time u were calling me. LOL. I luv u lots.”

What I believe is that in that 10 minutes she was reminded of the community that she built for herself behind bars, but it’s hard out here to stay connected. She works 12-hour shifts at her job, is raising a daughter, paying bills, and continuing to live her life in integrity.

As I said, I feel the earth move, and my heart responds in gratitude as I say thank you to Truth Be Told and how my life has changed because of it. I have found important work that I belong to – it is a purpose and it is a passion.

imagineTBT

 

 

Thank You for Empowering More Voices

In 2014 you helped us serve women in four prisons and our county jail.  Our semester-long prison programs graduated 152 women.  More than 200 women participated in jail classes.  Hundreds more attended holiday performances of God in Human Form and monthly Exploring Creativity Workshops. We were able to employ an executive director; revamp our website; upgrade our database and case management software; and engage in a program evaluation.  We received four grants and were inspired by your support during Amply Austin, our 2014 Pledge Drive and #GivingTuesday.

Sara Hickman, Sarah Alarcon, Greg Downing, Lynn Kindler, & Simcha Reader’s Group lifted eighty-six hearts with song, slam poetry, laughter, and story telling at the
GEO Lockhart Facility 14th annual God in Human Form Performance.

 

 

Dara Musick graduated with honors from ACC and as the recipient of the Presidential Student Achievement Award, gave an inspiring speech at commencement.  Dara continues to give back by sharing her story behind bars, bringing hope to women who have walked her walk. Read more about Dara.

 

 

 

Conspirare & Ruthie Foster lifted hearts and released healing tears in a most moving performance at the Travis County Correctional Facility.  Ninety women along with volunteers and staff, including Sheriff Hamilton, were inspired and left with glistening cheeks and humbled hearts.

 

 

To hear more empowered voices of the women we serve,
listen to Teri and Donna.

Please remember Truth Be Told as you consider your end of giving.

Why I Serve on The Truth Be Told Board

Amber Vazquez Bode, a Truth Be Told Board member, is featured in Moms I’d Like to Know, sharing her experience of being a criminal defense attorney and a mother.

AmberBode

By Amber Vazquez Bode

As a criminal defense attorney, I have been a party to hundreds and hundreds of people entering the prison system in Texas. Almost all of them have broken my heart, because I got to know them as a person, and I am acutely aware of what the prison system does to chip away at a person’s humanity.

When I was asked to serve on the Board of Truth Be Told and began to understand what TBT did, it felt like the other half of the equation to my professional life. It was like a light breaking through the darkness to see healing, strength, and growth emerge out of an otherwise depressing and soul-crushing situation.

It also confirmed what I have always believed: redemption is available to every human until we take our last breath. It is never too late to start over and begin a new life. No one is too bad, too broken, or too “systemized” to heal their heart.

One of the things that resonates the most with me is that TBT does not disqualify people based on their crime or how many times they have been in prison, like everything else in the system does.

I am a part of Truth Be Told not only because I want to make the world a safer place for me and my family, but because the work that we do helps heal entire families for generations and that is a value that cannot be measured.

I am humbled by each story of pain and triumph and inspired to face another day in the harsh and frequently unfair justice system within which I work. Our graduates are the embodiment of everything I strive to be, and I believe that my involvement has not only made me a better advocate, it has made ne a better person.

Creativity an essential tool in the development of Truth Be Told

By Nathalie Sorrell, Truth Be Told Co-Founder

When Carol Waid and I were creating Truth be Told classes in the first two years of our work behind bars in Lockhart prison, we knew we were offering these incarcerated women our primary tools for maintaining our own sanity and exceeding our various forms of discouragement when life presented us with difficulties. Our main tool was writing and talking, when those to whom we wrote and spoke were respectful listener/readers and authentic truth tellers themselves. Being in 12 Step programs provided us with a belief in a Higher Power that could support our life journey, as well as the example of others who had struggled, now choosing a more authentic lifestyle, and willing to talk and listen at a deeper level. We began thus to share, in the format of a public speaking class, which the warden at the prison had offered me a chance to create.

Soon the women wanted more and were greatly distressed when the Talk to Me class completed after “only” eight weeks of soul-searching honesty and sharing. They had formed a community of support behind bars where they’d never known it – and they wanted more. Carol and I began to add more writing exercises like we had done when we were friends, writing together in the Texspresso coffee shop at the Village shopping center. I had other personal growth exercises I’d used in my Lighthouse Enterprises workshops and when I was leading women’s retreats for various churches in Texas. Some were based on Wishcraft, Barbara Sher’s book about how to discover your heart’s desire and become a success by your own definition. Others were from Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, by Susan Jeffers, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. A primary book for me was Elizabeth O’Conner’s Our Many Selves, which is still a staple of our Discovery Classes. Soon, we had a six-week Discovery class planned for our graduates to attend, using exercises which we and friends and mentors had created or borrowed from workshops we’d attended.

The women in our classes felt rewarded for the intensely difficult work of delving into their past pain and shame-smeared life experiences, speaking them aloud to each other and even to audiences at graduations, when they knew that they were going to then be eligible to attend the creative Discovery classes. We promoted them by saying:

“Now that you’re no longer driven by or hiding from the past, you can begin to create a future for yourself. Now your past becomes the gift you can offer when your truth-telling is needed, to help others caught like you were, to create a safer community for everyone to grow.”

When our second group of women began with the deepest possible truth-telling by a young intense woman speaking the unspeakable trauma of being her father’s sexual plaything when she was a toddler, Carol and I realized we were into facilitation beyond our depth of training or life experience. After meeting with prison officials, and while creating our first prison pray-er team at the suggestion of Margaret Simpson, the idea arose of bringing into this class other facilitators who had creative gifts for dealing with trauma. One week was devoted to the creation of mandalas, which the facilitator had used to get her through the trauma of a miscarriage. Another week was given to a singer song-writer who used her writing to express how the trauma of her divorced father’s neglect played over into her adult love-life of choosing men who were unreliable in spite of their spoken words. And another program came from a woman who did bodywork for many women who’d endured many kinds of trauma. The participants showed a profound resilience emerging from their shared creativity. They then continued the class by staying within guidelines for 5-7 minute speeches for graduation (that didn’t include such intimate detail that they’d traumatize the audience.)

Carol and I saw that we needed to include opportunities for women in prison to experience the power of creativity beyond their commitment to our eight-week Talk to Me classes. Thus were born Truth Be Told’s Exploring Creativity workshops. Any creative person we met in our daily lives in Austin’s generative community was liable to find Carol and me standing in front of them after they had sung, played, painted, read their writing, danced, or performed in any way that inspired or evoked our attention. We’d be asking them:

“Would you be interested in going into the women’s prison with us and doing a two-hour creative workshop?”

It was amazing and gratifying to see that artists so often are wide open to sharing their talents and gifts with people who can’t afford to pay them. We couldn’t, and didn’t… but again and again, these performers and visual artists experienced the same thing we did: Their own passion and creativity was rewarded deeply as they satisfied the yearning women in prison have. Incarcerated women long for meaning, for role models, and for playful and courageous exploration of new ways of discovering and expressing their true selves.

Suzanne Armistead was invited in to lead an Exploring Creativity workshop, and as a dancer, became our passionate advocate for letting the women release and address their issues through movement as well as talk and writing. She had a lot of work to do with Carol and me as well … because although I’d awakened eight years before to my severe neglect of my own body’s need for my attention and respect – I was still far more comfortable with ignoring my physical desire for expression than giving in to it – especially in the groups or classes I facilitated.

So Truth be Told had three founders with great mutual respect for what the others had to offer and the willingness to go beyond our own comfort zones into innovative and challenging experiences with following each other’s leadership. As we facilitated classes and workshops together, we continued on our own path of personal and spiritual growth and learned many more creative forms of working through the inevitable conflicts and differences that occur in team leadership.

Creativity is an essential tool of the work we have been doing for the past 14 years. A new article in The Texas Tribune just came out expressing this primary truth that we’ve learned through our own experience. It is a joy to read, and I hope you’ll find time to go to this link soon, and see how once again, Truth be Told is doing something simply because it works for us that has great value on a far wider scale than we knew when we began this work in 2000.

What a joy to be part of this journey with so many authentic, growing women and men, beyond and behind bars, within and outside our organization. I will be thanking my Higher Power until the day I die for the fun and the growth I’ve experienced as a co-creator of the Talk to Me classes, Discovery classes, and Exploring Creativity workshops of Truth be Told.

Truth Be Told is Amplified and Grateful for Recent Blessings

This was our first year to participate in Amplify Austin and we had no idea what to expect.

We started with what we thought was an ambitious goal of $10,000. Our supporters spread the message, and we reached that goal before the 24-hour giving period began at 6 p.m. on March 20th. We set a new goal of $15,000. At 6 p.m. on March 21st, the official end of Amplify Austin, we had raised over $18,000. But the gifts kept coming…at 10:25 p.m. we closed the day with a total of $20,686.00 and have received a few more contributions since then.

1621983_10152208275633006_8496205_n

 We are humbled and inspired by the generosity of old friends and new supporters who were moved to give. We’ve also learned a few things. The $5,705,808 raised by I Live Here, I Give Here during Amplify proves they are on to something with the crowd-sourcing model that relies on networking through social media. We discovered that watching our total run-up on their live leader board during the giving period feels like hitting the mega jackpot on a giant slot machine. Our high number of donors, 250, and the many new names particularly encouraged us; they came from 19 states and Canada. The final lesson is that a personal appeal really makes a difference. We have Carol Waid to thank for beating the drum until we had 29 personal fundraising campaigns. More than three quarters of the funds we raised came from those pages. We are already strategizing for Amplify Austin 2015.

Staying with Our Joyful Theme of Abundance

Office Workers Clapping at Office PartyJourney, Imperfect Faith Community has been a faithful supporter of Truth Be Told and we are buoyed by their belief in our programs and the women we serve. Thank you Journey, IFC for the $1,000 we used as matching funds for Amplify Austin.

Each month, the University Catholic Center takes up what they call a “black bag collection” and sends it to a nonprofit. This is the second year they have chosen Truth Be Told as one of the recipients. Thank you University Catholic Center for your $591 donation that means so much to a nonprofit our size.

Note from Kathleen Littlepage, New Interim Executive Director

Kathleen Littlepage

Kathleen Littlepage

I have been facilitating a weekly Truth Be Told class at the Travis County jail in Del Valle for six years and have been the TBT program coordinator for that facility, which is officially known as the Travis County Correctional Complex (TCCC). In February, I decided to volunteer a little extra time to help TBT with administrative work. Carol Waid is the Director of Programs and has been the acting Executive Director and only paid TBT employee for two years. I had so much fun working with Carol on Amplify Austin and other projects that we wanted to find a way for me to stay on. The TBT Board agreed to contract with me to serve part-time as the Interim Executive Director.

I feel so lucky to be spending more time where my passion is and to be even more involved with the community that believes that incarcerated women can build new lives given the tools and support. This is a transitional time for TBT. We are focused on building our organizational capacity so that we can serve more women for a long time to come. That is why the first half of this message is about fundraising. In partnership with the Board, I will be working on diversifying and increasing our fundraising efforts to secure our future service.

Recently, it seems that TBT has been “discovered.” We receive a steady stream of inquiries from potential volunteers, correctional facilities, and other agencies and organizations with similar missions. This is in response to some presentations we made, and I believe it is also a result of the increasing public awareness of the value of rehabilitative programs for the large prison population. Over the last 14 years, TBT has had steady measured growth. We plan to continue that thoughtful path and discern the opportunities that are the best fit for our organization. I’ll be writing grant applications and looking for collaborations and partnerships. Please let me know if you have suggestions for beneficial connections or fundraising opportunities by contacting me at kathleen@truth-be-told.org.

Thank you!