Join our next Volunteer Training: May 1-2!

Families that serve together grow together!

 

This is the second of our new series highlighting our volunteers who have invited their family members to join them in loving service with The Freedom to Choose Project (FTC). Anthony Albright, his mom Gerry, his former wife Jude, and his girlfriend Robin Sol Lieberman are all FTC volunteers!  

Here is what they have to share about their experience…

Anthony

How did you first hear about The Freedom to Choose Project and what prompted you to become involved? 
I saw a short documentary about FTC while I was participating in the Spiritual Psychology Masters Program at The University of Santa Monica (USM). I felt called to share the awesome skill set I was learning with folks who could not attend the school. My understanding of what I was learning at USM had already been substantially bolstered by sharing it with people in my life. Going into the prison would give me the opportunity to work with even more people.

What was your first volunteer experience like?  What did you take away from that experience? 
My first experience was amazing. The other volunteers were awesome. I knew a lot of them from USM. I felt very welcome and appreciative of the years of experience that a lot of them had. The way they all came together to get things done was fantastic. The incarcerated participants who had participated in past workshops were just as welcoming as the volunteers. This was not charity; it was being part of a group of people who were working on themselves and assisting others in doing the same; it just happened to be in a prison. Everybody got the chance to be the sharer, facilitator and observer. The lack of hierarchy was fantastic in this setting (and any other). Several people, new to the skill set, said it was the first time they ever felt really heard. Before the first day was complete, I knew I would participate in these workshops as often as I could.

How has this experience volunteering together affected your relationships with the family members you serve with? 
Having my Mom, Jude and Robin learn the same skills I had been working on, elevated and opened up all those already great relationships substantially. Understanding that we all have a choice in how we respond to any given stimulus is priceless, especially in the close relationships. Learning how to really listen to each other and not take it personally is pure gold.

Mom told me she loved it. It was awesome to share that experience with her. We speak about it often. I loved seeing the giant smile on her face and seeing her make so many new friends.

Jude and I were married for seven years (divorced for 23), have two kids, and we have been running our company together for decades. There is a lot of history. The skills we learned helped us dig through old hurts, clear them away and grow closer as a family. Jude has participated in several workshops and has been great to work with inside and outside prison.

Robin and I met at an FTC volunteer training. We have been together over three excellent years now. Our relationship was built, from the beginning, on a rock-solid foundation of effective communication and fearless love. I would not have been able to participate in the relationship the way I do without having years of experience in honing my listen skills, discarding judgements and truly expressing gratitude. Robin is a master.

If you would have told my 20-year-old self that I would one day be on a stage teaching “self-help” in a prison with my Mom, my Ex-Wife and my Girlfriend in the audience, I would have thought you were insane.

 

Gerry Albright (Anthony’s mom)

How did you first hear about The Freedom to Choose Project and what prompted you to become involved? 
From my son Anthony.

What was your first volunteer experience like? What did you take away from that experience? 
I have only volunteered once. It was an amazing experience and I am sorry that I did not get a chance to participate again. Meeting the participants was a real eye opener and I learned a lot about them and myself.

How has this experience volunteering together affected your relationships with the family members you serve with? 
It brought us closer.

 

Jude Albright (Anthony’s former wife)

Robin, Anthony & Jude

How did you first hear about The Freedom to Choose Project and what prompted you to become involved? 
I heard about FTC through Anthony. He had attended USM and then started doing the FTC workshops. He also took me to some benefits, where I got to meet this ridiculously nice and happy group of people. I wanted some of that! I also spoke with Patricia and a few other women who had been on the Inside and were out because of FTC (their words). I felt a call to join.

What was your first volunteer experience like? What did you take away from that experience? 
My first experience was at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF). I was so scared and nervous. I wasn’t scared of the people, I was scared I wouldn’t be good at it! 

When I walked into the gym, all these beautiful, smiling faces greeted me and welcomed me and I immediately relaxed. They were all so interested in finding out who Anthony’s ex-wife was and how we were able to be close friends. The statement that you will end up in the trio you need to be in, was so true that day. I was right where I needed to be. When a woman got up and shared how much I helped her, I was blown away because she had helped me so much. I learned about triggers that day and a lot about judgements. Those ideas have germinated in my mind and have pushed me to do a lot more internal work.

How has this experience volunteering together affected your relationships with the family members you serve with? 
Anthony and I are already really close, but I think we have real communication now. I feel like when we speak to each other, it is our hearts speaking to each other. I don’t mean that on a romantic level, just that it’s from our true selves. We also resolve any conflicts we have quickly and easily. I feel like I am able to give him the benefit of doubt because I know him so much better now.

 

Robin Sol Lieberman (Anthony’s girlfriend)

Anthony & Robin

How did you first hear about The Freedom to Choose Project and what prompted you to become involved? 
USM graduate, Wendy Newman, and I attended a live filming of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday at UCLA’s Royce Hall together. During a break, I told her about my interest in doing more Prison Service Work after having one of the most heart-opening moments of my life sharing my book with a Leadership Class in an Ohio State women’s prison. She told me about her good friends, Bonnie and David, who ran a non-profit called The Freedom To Choose Project. She put me in touch with Bonnie via email and the rest is history!

What was your first volunteer experience like? What did you take away from that experience? 
I served it with my best friend, Marcia Hale (it was her first time too.) It was outstanding to get to share vulnerable truths with people whom I would most likely never get to cross paths with in my life outside of prison. I remember the intensity of both pain and love. I remember loving into the pain and having my pain loved into. I remember experiencing a great leveling…an arrival…a meeting “in one accord.” It blew me away. The mere feat of organizing so many people, the love and care, and desire to create healing together will live as a vibrant memory in me forever.

How has this experience volunteering together affected your relationships with the family members you serve with? 
Well, there’s the real biggie: I met my Man, Anthony Albright, at FTC! Yep, our strong, ever growing relationship is a by-product of this outstanding organization. It drew us to it like moths to a flame, but instead of getting incinerated in it, we started flying together around it. We use our FTC tools regularly as a means of navigating our personal relationship. Sometimes, Jude (Anthony’s ex-wife), Anthony, and I will go on walks together exploring the tools. And when we catch ourselves missing the mark on active listening or gossiping, we have a shared language to use to course correct together. As far as Mama Albright is concerned, I think it’s downright awesome she is up for the adventure! We, too, now have a shared language together, held in the larger Family that is the FTC Family! What a Boon.

 

 

Donna Kall (FTC volunteer since 2004)